Igniting change: Microsoft’s Black and African American partner growth initiative

As Vice President, US Channel Sales, I’m passionate about creating pathways for Black excellence through partnership and innovation within the Black and African American community. As Black History month comes to a close, I’d like to share additional information regarding our effort to ignite, grow, and invest specifically in this community through Microsoft’s Black and African American partner growth initiative.

Recently, we launched the Black and African American partner growth initiative to:

  • Expand the diversity of thought leadership and innovation within the Microsoft Partner Network by attracting Black and African American-owned tech partners.
  • Support and nurture Black and African American-owned partners through the Microsoft Partner Network.

I’m delighted to see the positive momentum this initiative has ignited in our ecosystem, like our collaboration with the Black Channel Partner Alliance, and we’re just getting started.

As part of this initiative, we’re making human-assisted guidance more readily available through the cloud enablement desk and high-value, go-to-market resources, while also providing access to experts and leaders within Microsoft, and more. These resources are specifically packaged to help participants engage with the ecosystem and drive sustainable growth.

How did we get here?

This effort stems from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s vision which he laid out in a letter early last summer. Under Satya’s guidance, we’re enacting one piece of this multi-year, sustained effort to address racial injustice while diversifying our ecosystem.

As Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, recently shared, we are pursuing the collective opportunity we have across our partner ecosystem and “designing innovative solutions and services on technology that can be trusted, and built with inclusion in mind, is crucial to that effort.”

Underrepresentation: a problem beyond our ecosystem

Throughout the tech industry, Black and African American tech innovators and entrepreneurs​ remain severely underrepresented and​ underfunded. In 2019, only 1% of venture capital funding was granted to Black-founded tech companies. We are​ committed to accelerating the growth of this​ segment that has long been underrepresented. By unlocking the best of the​ Microsoft Partner Network, we also hope to generate more opportunities for growth and development of the Black and African American tech and business community. According to the IDC, Microsoft partners produce $9.58 in revenue for every $1 that Microsoft generates. Partnership is just a stepping stone.

Promoting change in the Microsoft Partner Network

Continued​ innovation will be enhanced with the inclusion and​ advancement of our Black and African American partners. The Black and African American partner growth initiative takes a three-pronged approach to addressing this within the Microsoft partner ecosystem:

  • COMMUNITY: Microsoft has made a commitment to grow the representation of Black and African American-owned partners in the Microsoft Partner Network by 20% over the next three years.
  • PARTNERSHIP: We believe that by partnering and leveraging our expansive ecosystem and platform we can support new and existing to accelerate their financial growth and enhance development of their business acumen. We will accomplish this by offering training programs covering financial management, technology solutions, and go-to-market readiness.
  • ACCESS TO CAPITAL: We recognize that access to capital is a challenge for any startup or tech innovator. We recently launched a $20 million program that leverages our balance sheet, and we are working with our partner financial institutions to deploy an additional $50 million to support new and existing Black and African American partners within our ecosystem.

Backing up our words with actions

We believe everyone throughout the ecosystem plays a role in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment – from Microsoft employees to partners.

One way Microsoft is demonstrating our commitment to a comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion is by actively recruiting new partners and building foundational awareness throughout the community. We have been piloting this initiative to understand how we can best support our partners on their journey – as we move into March, we will use what we’ve learned from our pilot for bigger programmatic impact.

Reaching the Black and African American partner community is critical to the success of this initiative. We are collaborating with members of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) community—including members of the Black Channel Partner Alliance—who continue to provide feedback, support, and insights for this initiative. We are also actively connecting with Black and African American tech communities to drive awareness of the Microsoft Partner Network and this program. Together, with the help of our Microsoft partner community, we can make sure Black and African American partners learn about this initiative and have the opportunity to participate.

How to engage

We’re going to continue to work hard to increase representation and diversification within our ecosystem and every Microsoft partner can play a role. Learn more about the Black and African American partner growth initiative and register on the Microsoft partner website at aka.ms/partnergrowth. Do you know a company who would be a good candidate for this initiative? Send them this link and help us spread the word. Together, we can ensure our Microsoft partner community reflects diverse perspectives as we strive to address racial injustice and pursue an inclusive economy.