Sometimes All You Need Is A Boost

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By Betsy Aoki (Senior Program/Product Manager, Bing) As a woman in a startup, you are likely familiar with the rollercoaster ups and downs of funding, ongoing tug-a-war with the competition and the stress of pushing out the next release. There, the only defense against your own caffeine-amped angst is your sense of humor and the just-as-crazy team (you got to be, right?) working diligently alongside you.

Having been part of a startup in Seattle, I’m no stranger to that ride -- which is also how I know that sometimes all you need is a little boost to get over that next hill. To that end, I’ve been keen on fostering more female tech entrepreneurs through the Bing Booster program -- a startup initiative Bing launched this fall to help connect the tech disruptors of tomorrow with the resources they need to succeed.

As part of this program, Bing is sponsoring Women 2.0 PITCH -- a competition taking place in Silicon Valley on Feb. 14. There, selected female entrepreneur finalists will pitch a panel of VCs for the opportunity to receive feedback, mentoring and money to take their company to the next level. Bing has kicked in fees for the first 100 applicants in hopes that it will remove the barrier for entry and encourage more female entrepreneurs to apply. We’re pleased to see that so many have already taken advantage of the free slots and encourage potential applicants to act fast before the rest are claimed before the extended deadline of December 7, 2011.

While we paid special attention to female entrepreneurs by sponsoring Women 2.0 PITCH, we know that all tech startups could likely use a helping hand in the early stages. The Bing Booster program targets three tech hubs -- San Francisco, New York City and Boston – in order to connect with local startups on the ground.

Being more local means we can work with incubators to fine-tune what resources we bring in -- like networking with venture capitalists, mentors and fun things like the startup booster kits: solar phone charger, water bottle, information about free software through the Microsoft Bizspark program and the infamous Nerf guns (a big hit with students at Stanford’s accelerator, StartX).

To date, we’ve been able to provide: how-to-get-investment insights from Shasta Ventures and Intel Capital, Bing engineering and SEO help, networking and promotional events, and office hours with local PR firms to give startups some tips for how to promote themselves via the press. If you are ever in Boston, which is my city, you can find me at Voltage Coffee in Kendall Square -- feel free to come by and suggest stuff you want to see!

For those who don’t live in those three areas, check out the Bing Booster blog for startup interviews, tips, recaps of meet-ups and events we sponsor, technology news, and even comic relief to break up the daily grind. Startups that register on the site will receive occasional updates on special events and select opportunities, such as if we find we have spare booth space at a conference we think better suited for a startup than Bing, funding launch parties, or other situational promotions. We’re open to new ideas so let us know what you think!

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Betsy Aoki is profiled in Fast Company, Mary Jo Foley of CNET called her a “Microsoft Woman to Watch” for launching Microsoft’s corporate blogging platforms, the Live QnA consumer question-and-answer site, and the Xbox Live Indie Games platform. Lured to marketing for Bing, she devised social media strategies and launched REDU, a Webby-winning campaign site for education reform. Her current Bing projects include community outreach to startups. Follow her on Twitter at @baoki.