BizSpark launches start-ups into the cloud

We're seeing more and more programs aimed at supporting start-up businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators who jump into new technologies; and Microsoft's now jumping into the fray with BizSpark. Venture capitalists put together funds to foster iPhone app development. Google has its $10 million Google Android Developer Challenge. HP's jumped in with a contest for apps developed to promote its TouchSmart touchscreen computer.

Microsoft's BizSpark is a bit different from all of these. Its aim is to enable new products and applications to be developed on Microsoft technologies, and to create a community place to connect innovators with potential funding sources and other technology or service partners. It's the entrepreneurial equivalent of Apple putting Macintoshes into schools, but this goes directly to the entrepreneurial community.

What do you get for joining BizSpark? Software, and lots of it, for three years -- all for $100, which you pay at the end of the term. Now that's what I call low start-up costs. Bravo! Here's what's included:

Software -- development tools, platform technologies and production licenses

All the software included in the Microsoft® Visual Studio® Team System Team Suite (VSTS) with MSDN® Premium subscription

Expression® Studio Version 2

VSTS Team Foundation Server (standard edition)

Production use rights to host a "software as a service" solution (developed during participation in the BizSpark program, on any platform) over the Internet, with regard to products including:

  • Microsoft Windows Server® (all versions up to and including Enterprise)
  • Microsoft SQL Server® (all versions)
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server
  • Microsoft System Center
  • Microsoft BizTalk® Server
  • Microsoft Dynamics® CRM (coming soon)

In addition to the core program offering, BizSpark start-ups will be eligible for other Microsoft offerings, such as

  • Microsoft AzureTM Services Platform

Notice the focus is on "software as a service": production use of Microsoft's technologies. That's a key to what Microsoft is trying to accomplish here -- creating a bigger and bigger portfolio of applications for the cloud. Another benefit of the program is visibility. Depending on the stage of your start-up, that can be very helpful, at least for making some initial connections; but most start-ups learn (especially if it's their first rodeo) that raising money and managing that end of the business can become a much bigger portion of their efforts than they expect. Not much Microsoft can do about that, I suppose.

One of the companies I'm involved in is a potential for joining this program. It might be interesting to participate and share some of those experiences here. We'll see what develops with that, so stay tuned.

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