Ask Me Anythings
July 21, 2021

Andrew MacAdam, Global Field Director of Microsoft for Startups

Andrew MacAdam is the Global Field Director in Microsoft for Startups based out of Ireland. Andrew’s team is responsible for engaging startups to identify, support and develop to maximise the opportunity of leveraging success by engaging with Microsoft. Microsoft for Startups is focused on enabling startups to be successful at every stage of their journey by providing help, guidance and expertise when needed. By giving visibility to under-represented founders and regions, the Startups team is also focused on developing startup ecosystems to be more reflective of the world in which we live.

Andrew has 15 years’ experience in the Telecoms and Tech industry, in leadership roles in Sales, Digital Marketing, Strategy and Customer Success. He has worked with thousands of startups in the last 10 years in advisory, support and business development to accelerate their growth and success. He holds an International MBA through Henley College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from Sheffield University.

Andrew’s home is Greystones, Ireland, and is married with 2 children. He is a voracious reader, a keen photographer, and passionate about sports having been a season ticket holder for Leinster Rugby since 2001.

What is your favourite knowledge sharing resource for startups? Maybe it's a particular inspirational book you have read? Or a startup community?

This is both the easiest and hardest question to answer since I LOVE reading and learning - probably one of the most personally transforming reads for me was "Growth Mindset" by Carol Dweck - this completely opened my mind to recognising the power of curiosity and not having to have all the answers - seems so obvious now! Now this is just one of the MANY that I love... so I created a little reading list a while ago for a presentation I do called "Adaptable" - basically it is a presentation on tools, ideas and frameworks that I have found to be really useful when startups are going through many different phases. Here is a link and would love to hear from you around what book YOU recommend!!AhL93smonLUEkK0i8PykU9mG2gqf9A?e=Xqxmsj

What are the major challenges currently facing Startups and what is Microsoft doing to help remediate those challenges?

This is a really interesting question since there are so many variables when answering this; maturity, location, sector are the 3 that come to mind initially. Also when asking about "what is Microsoft doing", there is so much that happens in different geographies that is not programmatic, that I cannot pretend to know it all. That being said, from the Microsoft for Startups team, I would say it is possible to group these under a number of buckets  - 1) Funding 2) Building a team (inclusion and talent are critical) 3) Building the solution (both technical and feedback) 4) Access to customers 5) growing and scaling. Regarding funding - we work with PE/VC plus all local country grant schemes - ultimately I always focus on trying to get startups to generate as much revenue and leverage as much "free money" (I know it is not really free...but I hope you know what I mean) before going for funding. We have been working a lot with Swoop (Andrea Reynolds is the Founder and CEO and is AMAZING) on helping startups make the right choice in funding. in terms of inclusion, check out the book "Inclusion" by Perrine Farque; setting the tone from the start about how you build your team, aligned to the Core Values is critical. There is no doubt that if this is new to you, then it takes longer. We are running sessions this week on how to hire: We are also running sessions on how inclusive teams are more successful:

When you were running digital sales and marketing, what were the key metrics you tracked and how did you optimise the website for conversions?

Key metrics I was interested in from a commercial perspective was all around spend vs conversion against all the different types of customers (new, upgrades, contract, PAYG etc). It was an interesting time since when i first joined the Online team, the spend was tiny on digital in comparison to the rest of the media - in 2 years, I got them to increase by 10x what they were spending as I was able to show teh value of what we were doing (i moved the online sales from <2% to over 18% in the same period). The other part I was really interested in was PAID, vs EARNED vs OWNED - this was interesting to understand how we were using everything available to really get to grips with impact as well. One book that i wish I had had when I was in that role was "Traction" by Gabriel Weinberg - this opens up your mind to all the channels that you might use and helps you quantify the impact.

How does Microsoft work with AR/VR startups - any success stories? And what’s Microsoft’s vision for the space?

As I am sure you have seen, the Hololens has been a really exciting innovation over the last couple of years - I also know that it has been really challenging to get hands on the latest version of it! We have a large research team based in Switzerland that are specifically focused on the AR/MR space as well. I have worked with many startups in this space and this is one of the reasons why Microsoft for Startups is in place - startups (like you I am sure!) are creating solutions that we will never focus on, adding huge value to so many of our customers that if we can find a way of supporting you, then we can enable you to get access to customers and the customers to access the tech that helps them solve their problems!

I would love to get  advice on scaling up a customer success/business development team for a start-up? Key things to look out for in terms of structure and growth, and what to look for in candidates?

It is the initial conundrum of in-house vs partners? The former is definitely if you know you can sustain, the latter is great for testing (capacity, capabilities etc). Also, interesting that you have customer success and BD almost grouped together? Was that intentional, i.e. do you see them as the same team? Key things to look out for 1) UNCONSCIOUS BIAS!!! I cannot stress this enough (thus the capitalisation...sorry). You need to remove this from the recruitment process - remember you are recruiting sales people... so that will mean that they will be selling to you. This is tough on the unconscious bias side - one book to help you through this is "Sales Acceleration Formula". It is written by Mark Roberge - who was one of the originals in HubSpot - and it breaks down all the stages of building a sales team. Customer Success is critical for getting utilisation up and churn down - but is it critical at this point? Great onboarding, linked to strong customer care and listening to your customers, might mean that you dont need this yet. So much of this comes down to the stage you are at.

Microsoft is pioneering accessibility in its digital offerings in a huge way. Are accessibility decisions taken only in Microsoft's US offices or in the Irish offices too? If its the latter, would also love to know the processes through which accessibility is addressed here in Ireland.

A question that is really close to my heart as I was the Accessibility Lead on the Diversity and Inclusion Council in Ireland. I am proud to say that yes, there is work carried out all around the world on accessibility capability in Microsoft products and solutions. The process is still very much a global process, even though teams are based locally, since within Microsoft we do try to solve for the larger problems. Most importantly from my side, this is why we are also focused on working with companies in the Startups team that are developing solutions in this space; some names that you might recognise like Mobility Mojo, Access Earth and Soapbox Labs.

I was wondering what your number one piece of advice for someone while they’re making up their mind at such an early stage in their career.

What problem are you solving and why do you want to set up a company to do this? I hear it time and again that being a Founder is a very lonely place at times, but if you are clear on your why and it is aligned with your beliefs and values, then when you are working another 16 hour day, not seeing your friends and working weekends, you are still energised to do the job. The "problem you are solving" is also critical because a lot of people think of "great ideas" but they dont know the audience that is going to pay for it. I have seen in other threads that "the mom test" is a favourite in the group (and rightly so!!) and Rob talks all about being really clear on the problem you are trying to solve and having meetings to "break your business model". Honestly, that book is a must read before you start as it will really set you up to make sure that you have asked not only customers, but yourself the right questions before you start.

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