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Microsoft Program Sparking Start-Ups

BizSpark program offers start-up software makers access to Microsoft's tools, products, licenses and tech support.

Hundreds of start-ups have signed up and more than 1,000 have expressed interest in Microsoft's new effort -- called BizSpark -- to seed them with assorted tools, technologies and connections.

Through BizSpark, launched last month, Microsoft will offer fledgling commercial software makers with access to a spate of Microsoft's development tools, server products, production licenses and technical support. Included in the program is a three-year, professional subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network, whose members have access to tools and platform technologies for building, testing and maintaining applications built on the Microsoft platform, including Visual Studio and .NET Framework.

Among the servers Microsoft is including in the program are Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center. The company says that it plans to add Microsoft Dynamics CRM to that list shortly. Microsoft is additionally including in the program access to its new cloud-services technologies, which include the Live Framework and the new community technology preview of Windows Azure, the recently launched cloud-based version of Windows that's now available for testing.

Shared Success
To qualify for the BizSpark program, companies must have been in business for fewer than three years, must be actively engaged in the development of a software-based product or service that's a core piece of their business model, and must have less than $1 million in revenue.

BizSpark participants will also have access to a range of the company's network partners worldwide, including incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters. Microsoft says that access comes with a key, though intangible, benefit: visibility. The investor list Microsoft is promoting includes the National Venture Capital Association and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE).

"We want to invest in these start-ups on the front-end of their business life and remove any barriers to making the choice to use our technology, and then share in their success over time," says Dan'l Lewin, VP of Microsoft's Strategic and Emerging Business Development Group.

The Next Generation of Start-Ups
Lewin characterizes the BizSpark program as the culmination of work that began about seven years ago with the release of .NET Framework and the rebuilding of Microsoft's developer division.

"We started working in more of a high-touch way with venture-backed businesses in the U.S.," he says. "Then three or four years ago we started to scale that abroad."

The BizSpark announcement comes on the heels of the company's launch of its new cloud-computing services, and according to Lewin, the timing was no coincidence. "We picked the PDC [Microsoft Professional Developers Conference] as our milestone," he says. "We very much want the next-generation start-up developer community to have access to that set of services."

Among the first network partners to sign up for the program was TiE, a non-profit group. Headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., with 52 chapters worldwide, TiE fosters entrepreneurship through mentoring, networking and education. Microsoft is one of the global sponsors of the organization.

"We're thrilled that our members will be able to have access to Microsoft's development tools and deployment platform," says Miloni Shah, manager of finance and administration at TiE. "This gives us a very nice way to give something tangible to the community.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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