Mumbai: Deshpande Foundation, founded by philanthropist Gururaj Deshpande, which focuses on building an ecosystem for innovative social businesses, and Microsoft Ventures announced their partnership last week to launch Sandbox Startups, a Hubli-based incubator.

The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday, formalizing the three-year collaboration.

Sandbox Startups will focus on mentoring and providing support to start-ups in tier-II and tier-III cities in India.

“Small cities lack adequate support system for start-ups and they do not have access to requisite training and mentoring. The incubator will provide entrepreneurs in tier two and three cities a platform to validate business ideas, sharpen business acumen, develop products and launch solutions for the market," Naveen Jha, chief executive officer, Deshpande Foundation, said in a statement.

“The objective of this partnership is to work in an inclusive manner to ensure that all relevant stakeholders, such as early-stage entrepreneurs, academia, students, the venture capital community, mentors, advisors, high net worth individuals and corporates, are active participants in the innovation ecosystem," he added.

Through this partnership, Deshpande Foundation is also launching a new skill development programme to ensure access to technology training.

Deshpande Foundation, which has operations in US and Canada, currently runs various programmes to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in three regions in India: North Karnataka, Nizamabad in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.

Rajinish Menon, director, Microsoft Ventures in India, said: “Indian start-ups from across the country are building products that are addressing global and local challenges. As the culture of innovation spreads, it’s fascinating to see the kind of problems that start-ups from smaller towns are trying to solve. Our partnership with Deshpande Foundation aims to engage with entrepreneurs from smaller towns at every stage of their journey from ideation to maturity. At Microsoft, we are extremely excited to help incubators roll out products and raise capital to fund their growth, eventually benefiting India’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem. And this specific endeavour is aimed at entrepreneurs from smaller towns which have a less mature ecosystem to nurture them."

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