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M12 announces $4 million for female-founded startups

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M12, Microsoft’s corporate venture fund, announced a new competition for female-led enterprise technology solutions startups where two teams have the chance to win $2 million in funding each.

Microsoft and M12, formerly known as Microsoft Ventures, made the announcement via a blog post.

The Female Founders Competition is an attempt by Microsoft to feed more VC dollars toward “high potential” female entrepreneurs.

“Women make up nearly 40 percent of our investment team,” reads the blog post. “(T)hese efforts are not yet reflected in our portfolio, where only about 8 percent of our founders are women.”
The funding will be provided through a partnership between M12, EQT Ventures, and SVB Financial Group.

Startups interested in applying need to have at least one female founder and have raised less than $4 million in funding, through equity or debt financing. During the live pitch process where 10 teams are selected, applicants are to present their idea “as a solution that is solving a critical business problem.”

The competition is open across Europe, Israel, and North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico). Applications are open until September 30 this year.

“We formed M12 to make smart bets on innovative people and their ideas, and the Female Founders Competition is an extension of that mandate,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft, in an M12 press release on the competition. “This isn’t about checking a box; it’s an opportunity to remind the VC community that investing in women is more than just good values, it’s good business.”

Lisa Cumming
Author: Lisa Cumming

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Investing in digital resiliency

A new index from IDC shows growth in cloud, collaboration, and security investment.

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Is your business digitally resilient? 

IDC’s new Digital Resiliency Investment Index is a look at the progress of organizations in their investment towards digital resilience. This is especially important now with this year’s digital transformation acceleration.

Results from the initial index show an overall steady increase in investment toward resiliency. 

Organizations have placed priority in cloud, collaborative, and digital transformation projects. Thanks to the pandemic-related shift to work-from-home and the aforementioned increase in cloud adoption, significant investments have been made in security.

According to IDC prediction, investment toward digital resiliency will increase in 2021, in tandem with economic recovery.

In terms of geography, digital resiliency investment had the fastest growth in the Asia/Pacific region. While US investment increased in October, Europe’s had a slight decline in the same period — as the continent was experiencing a significant surge in COVID cases and restrictions. 

Background

Two factors make up the index:

  • Digital Core Investments, described by IDC as “spending on the core components of digital resiliency: cloud, security, collaborative support for remote workers, and digital transformation projects.”
  • Digital Innovation Investments, which are “measured using a monthly survey of enterprises on their current and anticipated IT investment focus, including how much new or reallocated spending is targeted at digital resiliency and business acceleration versus crisis response measures.”  

“Digital resiliency refers to an organization’s ability to rapidly adapt to business disruptions by leveraging digital capabilities to not only restore business operations, but also capitalize on the changed conditions,” explains Stephen Minton, VP in IDC’s Customer Insights & Analysis group. 

Organizational success in the midst of a global pandemic has largely hinged on the ability to react quickly to change, he says. The difference between rapid adaptation and simply responding to disruption? A plan.

“Investments in digital capabilities not only enable an organization to adapt to the current crisis but also to capitalize on the changed conditions.”

Looking ahead

“The next several months may put increased pressure on some organizations to respond to second waves of COVID infections and economic lockdowns, which will be reflected in our monthly surveys throughout the winter,” adds Minton. 

“What we have learned already this year is that the organizations which were among the early adopters of cloud, digital, and collaborative technologies were best-positioned for a crisis no one could have predicted.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Digital transformation for economic recovery

“With the right steps and actions, businesses and governments can take the crisis as an opportunity to build for the future,” explain two World Bank economists.

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Digital transformation is having a moment. 

Over and over, widespread reports and surveys show that — in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — DX efforts have accelerated. “Business-savvy CIOs who deploy highly adaptive strategies and technology to rapidly respond to the impact on their firm’s operations and customers will lead from the front,” explains Forrester’s recent Predictions 2021 report.

Can the momentum keep going? How can DX be leveraged so everyone can be better off, post-COVID? 

As two World Bank economists argue in Harvard Business Review, “technological advancements were already changing the world over the past two decades,” and that in the midst of threats from automation and offshoring, it’s important to realize that tech can act as a job creator for economic recovery. 

According to Federica Saliola (Lead Economist in the Jobs Group of the World Bank and co-Director of the World Development Report 2019) Asif Islam (Senior Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region of the World Bank Group), “to reshape technology as a job creator, it’s important to understand what, exactly, the current wave of technology is changing, and how policymakers and businesses can adapt to it.”

Where we were

The economists laid out three foundational truths about the pre-COVID state of technology:

  1. It has always been a disruptor. Tech has been “challenging the traditional boundaries of firms, changing global value chains and the geography of jobs.”
  2. As tech evolved, there have been massive changes in what skills are needed by a successful workforce. “The premium for skills that cannot be replaced by robots has been increasing,” they explain. What are these in-demand skills? Critical thinking and socio-behavioral skills, for starters, as well as adaptable skills. This leads to point three.
  3. Thanks to tech, the very nature of work has been changing over the last few years. The standard of permanent and full-time work has given way to a gig economy.

What’s next?

Simply put, “it is likely that the pandemic will reinforce these pre-existing trends and increase the urgency of corresponding policy responses,” explain Saliola and Islam.

Digital-first companies are thriving, the gig economy certainly isn’t going anywhere, and “firms may also have more incentive to invest in automation and reshore production to shield against value chain disruption.”

The aforementioned barrage of surveys and reports showing the acceleration of DX efforts reported on the mostly-successful shift to work-from-home. Saliola and Islam reference World Bank and World Economic Forum reports that show (unsurprisingly) positions and organizations that have put WFH measures in place are more prevalent in wealthier countries and regions, and that women and young people are more likely to hold positions where WFH isn’t feasible. 

Ultimately, Saliola and Islam explain, organizations and governments have to turn to policy to ensure that digital transformation can lead to a more successful economic recovery.

What does this look like? Reskilling and upskilling on the part of businesses, and “incentives and regulations to infrastructure projects and taxation” for governments. 

It’s similar to the approach of the recent OECD report showing that DX is critical for recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean — but on a global scale. 

“Technology can be a boon to society if businesses and governments prepare and adapt,” they write. “With the right steps and actions, businesses and governments can take the crisis as an opportunity to build for the future.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Microsoft makes significant DX investment in Greece

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Microsoft has made a substantial digital transformation investment in Greece, creating an initiative called “GR for GRowth.”

The initiative — announced on October 5 — is a technology commitment that will help create new opportunities for growth in the country. One part of the overall initiative will be the construction of new datacenters that will establish a Microsoft Cloud region in the country. 

These datacenters bring Microsoft’s total global footprint of cloud regions to 63.

As a support measure, Microsoft is also planning to skill approximately 100,000 people in the country in digital technologies by 2025.

At the announcement, Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis said:

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of Greece will position the country among the digital leaders of Europe. A Microsoft datacenter region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy. At the same time, it is a long-term investment and a vote of confidence in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling 100,000 citizens will empower today and tomorrow’s Greek workforce.”

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft added:

“By a substantial margin, this is the largest investment Microsoft has made in Greece in the 28 years we have been operating here. In part, this reflects confidence that our world-leading datacenter technology can help enable innovation and growth across Greece’s economy. In addition, this large investment reflects our optimism about Greece’s future, its forward-leaning government, and the country’s ongoing economic recovery.”

The impact on Greece

For companies, startups, and institutions in Greece, this announcement means they’ll be able to harness the power of cloud computing — keeping in mind cybersecurity, data residency, and compliance standards, as explained in the company’s press release.

While many companies in Greece are using Microsoft’s cloud, a number of others have committed to signing on once they’ll be available from the forthcoming region.

As previously noted, to support the digital transformation of public and private organizations, Microsoft aims to upskill an estimated 100,000 public sector, business and IT professionals, educators, and students.

This aspect of the overall initiative will take place over the next five years via online and physical courses and workshops.

A cultural celebration 

One interesting role Microsoft’s cloud services will play is in highlighting and preserving Greece’s culture.

The company’s AI for Cultural Heritage program will collaborate with the Ministry of Culture and Sports to bring to life the Ancient City of Olympia. Available in 2021, visitors will be able to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site as if they were there 3,000 years ago.  

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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