Microsoft is giving startup software companies an early holiday gift by offering access to Microsoft software and development tools, marketing and technical support, and industry experts.
Microsoft launched its BizSpark program to help early-stage companies that need software and server products -- such as Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server Enterprise -- but don't yet have the capital to purchase it. Microsoft also launched BizSpark DB, a Web site where it will promote startups working on innovative software, the company announced at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
The software behemoth said there are no upfront costs to join the program, but companies need to first meet eligibility requirements: They must have a software-based product or service, be in business less than three years, be privately held, and have less than $1 million in revenue.
"Entrepreneurs play a vital role in driving innovation and creating the kinds of new jobs that are essential to sustainable economic growth," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "Microsoft BizSpark is an exciting way for us to help provide business startups with the development tools, advice and exposure they need. We look forward to working with organizations and development agencies around the globe to foster entrepreneurship and help new companies succeed."
Much To Gain
Those who agree to join the program will have access to a three-year Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Professional subscription; access to new cloud technologies, including Azure and Live Framework; and access to a group of supporters from the National Venture Capital Association, the Indus Entrepreneurs, and the European Business Angel Network.
Companies first need to contact a BizSpark Network partner -- there are 300 -- to get a code to join the program. Entrepreneurs are asked to choose from a list of network partners based on their location preference. Once a list is generated, a Microsoft Champ is made available to help the entrepreneur decide which partner to choose.
The program is available in Chinese, Portuguese, French, German, Korean, Spanish and Russian.
One entrepreneur, Markus Frind, featured on BizSpark DB, said not taking advantage of the program is "stupid" because the software is free and the program can dramatically decrease business costs. Frind runs the Canadian-based company Plentyoffish.com, a free online dating Web site.
Once a company exits the program, it must pay a fee of $100, but is allowed to keep licenses for all the development and design tools, according to Microsoft. Receiving updates to tools and the development platform, however, does not come without the company renewing its MSDN subscription.
"With three years to get their business going without worrying about software costs, we hope these young companies can concentrate on what we all want -- building successful and sustainable businesses," said Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development at Microsoft.