Startup culture emerging at Microsoft

Discover 3 ways Microsoft is acting like a startup


Kurt Berglund, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Stanford, and first came to Microsoft in 2006. He worked on Windows Presentation Foundation before moving to an operating systems incubation team. Then he wanted the experience of working for a startup and left for a new venture, Mobilisafe, in Sept. 2011. Kurt was the company’s first non-founder. The company performed well; Kurt learned a lot and yet, he made the bold decision to walk away from unvested options.

He was approached to work on a startup project back at Microsoft, with a focus on education, an area he’s passionate about, so he decided to come back. He talked to other startups before returning, and even received offers, but turned those down. He also spoke with friends and recruiters at Google and Facebook, but those companies didn’t feel like the right fit for him. With Microsoft, he found the complete package.

Kurt was one of five employees, from across all different parts of the company, who sat down to talk with Janet Tu at The Seattle Times for her story that ran last week: “Startup culture stirring at Microsoft.

Kurt’s drive to see things happen quickly is being realized here at Microsoft, right now, on his small startup team.

“I’m looking for sophisticated and mature engineering practices and to make a difference, not be another part of the machine,” Kurt explained. “At Microsoft, I met with the people running the team and they got me incredibly excited about the project and made it a much more personal experience.”

We can’t talk about what he’s working on yet. But he told me this: His team is exploring opportunities to use Microsoft technologies to make digital learning experiences more broadly accessible and exciting.

Kurt chose Microsoft over other offers for four key reasons:

  • People: “I know the people here are top tier. This is a great place to learn.”
  • Passion: “It’s most important to follow your passion and work on a great team.”
  • Responsibility: “I’m challenged and pushed to do great things and get out of my comfort zone.”
  • Impact: “We have the potential to make a big impact, given the breadth and resources of Microsoft. It is easier as a full-time employee, than outside the company, to see all the teams that aren’t public that are paving brave new paths.”

Three tangible examples of HOW Kurt says Microsoft is acting like a startup:

  • Team structure: “The structure of this team is exactly what you’d see at a startup, the percentage of engineers, sales and marketing, customer analysis and research. Your Venture Capitalist is a VP at Microsoft.”
  • Collaboration: “We’re a small team all in the same room, working on everything together. The ability you get at Microsoft is greater partnerships. In the outside world, you have to establish trust to work with a partner. Here you have that trust already built in. Since you’re in the same company, people are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help you.”
  • Review cycles: “Product review cycles are much shorter. It is what I experienced at a startup, very short, fail fast model. Get it out and figure out if it’s going to work – sooner than later.”

Why Kurt is excited to come to work every day:

“I have the ability to dream really big here! My goal is to build products that have a positive impact on the world. Microsoft, and my current team, is the best place I saw to make that happen.”

Kurt’s team is hiring! Here are a couple roles to check out:

Inside the JobsBlog you will also find Guy’s story on his startup experience at Microsoft. And my earlier posts on this culture shift trend: Microsoft is often misunderstood and Changing the conversation at Microsoft.

You can read the full Seattle Times story here: “Startup culture stirring at Microsoft.

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