The most common reaction I get when I tell people what I do ("work with VCs and startups to help them get business relationships going with Microsoft") is amazement. Not surprise - that would be just raised eyebrows - I usually see something between slightly open mouths and the full slack jaw ;)
But no, really, it's true. I've worked at 5 startups - my first was NetStudio, started by an ex-Microsoft Office Program Manager, and my last was Ofoto. NetStudio was crushed by Microsoft (remember "PhotoDraw"?) and Ofoto was acquired by Kodak. They were both significant experiences for me. In moving to Microsoft, I saw an opportunity to help "do the right thing" for other startups - provide transparency into the plans of the world's largest software company in order to help the world's smallest software companies succeed.
And we are wearing it on our sleeve. Dan'l Lewin, the head of the Emerging Business team and Microsoft's senior exec in Silicon Valley, was just featured in AlwaysOn. Cliff Reeves (my manager) and Don Dodge (my teammate) are actively talking about what they really think and do, and how to get in touch with them. We invest in startups with our hearts and minds, and work hard to make the ones we focus on to succeed; we invest with marketing programs, customer introductions, and product group relationships. We stay away from investing through direct equity stakes because we've seen that this can be destructive to growing markets. We are passionate about startups.
Rick Segal pokes some fun at the whole idea but I think in his heart he really likes us ;)
I'm in the process of defining a program to make it much easier to launch & run Software as a Service companies - more entries on this to come - but if you have structured thoughts on what would make a difference to the SaaS ecosystem I welcome your comments and emails.