Microsoft has changed the name of its venture capital (VC) fund from Microsoft Ventures to M12, two years after its official launch.
The Microsoft Ventures name actually predates the VC arm by a few years, and it was used as an overarching term for Microsoft’s accelerator programs, which did include some seed-funding initiatives. That part of the company was renamed Microsoft ScaleUp when Microsoft Ventures was spun out into a venture funding firm, and it appears this has caused some confusion over the years. Indeed, Microsoft Ventures — as with most VC firms — takes equity in startups that it invests in, whereas Microsoft’s accelerator programs don’t.
It’s difficult to imagine too many startups being confused about the nature of Microsoft Ventures’ investments, as the clue is sort of in its name — and it seems unlikely that many startups would confuse the Microsoft Ventures of today with the accelerator program that existed several years ago. But apparently confusion still exits.
“Entrepreneurs still face confusion on the appropriate interface at Microsoft for their unique needs, whether that is equity funding, platform support, or a myriad of other important items,” noted Nagraj Kashyap, corporate VP at M12. “Our name change gives us an opportunity to be clear about how we work with startups — we invest in them in exchange for equity.”
So what’s the story behind the new M12 name? Well, the “M” stands for Microsoft and the “12” represents the number of letters in the word “entrepreneur.”
“Our name change highlights our ongoing commitment to the innovators and entrepreneurs whose companies we’re so proud to support,” added Kashyap.
Microsoft Ventures has invested in more than 50 startups over the past couple of years, with artificial intelligence a particular area of focus in recent times. Microsoft Ventures also launched a $3.5 million AI contest for startups last year.
In addition to alleviating any long-standing confusion, the name change could give Microsoft’s VC subsidiary a punchier and edgier sound while eliminating any obvious reference to the dusty old corporation that makes Windows, Word, and PowerPoint. This is something of a trend, too — Google’s parent company Alphabet rebranded Google Ventures a few years back, removing the “Google” and making it simply “GV.” And late last year Nokia Growth Partners — a standalone investment vehicle that’s funded by Nokia — changed its name to NGP Capital.