Microsoft <3 Startups

One of the drivers of a successful economy is a holistic and supportive startup ecosystem that drives employment, revenue and spurs creativity. It is quite clear that technology, design and entrepreneurship provide the right mix to facilitate the next tide to spur up the economy. At Microsoft, we recognize the need of support in this system. Welcome to Microsoft BizSpark - We <3 Startups!

You think you have an idea. You think you have that product in mind that will revolutionize the next gen. You have developed the minimal viable product and are waiting for the validation and support to take the next step. How many of you have been through this or are going through this? At this stage, few things are key:

  • the right support (mentorship)
  • the right investments ($$)
  • the right network (customer access)

At Microsoft, we acknowledge the need and have crafted this program called BizSpark around these key requirements. The BizSpark program is available to any startups building a technological software product, is less than five years old and has revenues less than a million dollars. Through this program the startup has access to free softwares such as office, visual studio and more, cloud hosting credits to the tune of $750 / month for 3 years which translates to $27,000 (USD) in value for the lifetime of the account. What is more is that you get support too through local resources in the field and finally we help in co-marketing initiatives. After all, we help and want you to grow and be successful.

Starting July 2015, Microsoft announced partnerships with over 150 accelerators across 47 countries. The BizSpark Plus program is being offered through these accelerators to the startups. This essentially aligns with what a startup really needs.

  • The right support through mentorship from illustrious mentors associated with the accelerators with in depth industry knowledge and experience. Through the association with BizSpark Plus, you get additional personalized technical guidance too from local resources.
  • The right investments – access to VC and angel investors through the accelerators. In association with BizSpark Plus, you get $120,000 worth of Azure credits which translates to $10,000/month for a year. This is ideal for any technological company who have high hosting or cloud service requirements who are ready to scale.
  • The right network: The biggest advantage that a startup has by being a part of accelerators is the access to the large network that an accelerator has. The network may include alumni, investors, angels, perspective clients and more. Again, through the BizSpark Plus program too, a startup gets direct access to the wide network of partners, alumni and startups in the same program, not to mention the potential access to some relevant customers in the enterprise and consumer space too.

Essentially, The BizSpark Plus offer is a win-win situation for startups, accelerators and Microsoft. Now that I have given the premise of what the program entails, let me dig in a little deeper.

In Canada, we announced partnerships with 6 accelerators that include: Mars (Toronto), Highline(Toronto, Vancouver), The Next 36 (Toronto), Velocity (Kitchner), L-Spark (Ottawa) and FounderFuel (Montreal). Any startups belonging to an active cohort to any of these partners are eligible for BizSpark Plus. To break it down, what a startup gets through the BizSpark Plus program is:

  • $120,000 (USD) in Azure credits for 1 year
    • $10,000 (USD) / month in Azure credits is ideal for startups that are just about to go live, in production and scaling to reach out to their customers. Startups in Machine Learning, Analytics, Big Data also have very high computational needs and can take advantage of the free Azure credits. Moreover Azure is an open platform and integrates beautifully with open source, hence it takes care of all your infrastructure, data services and computational needs. Through this offer, every dollar that you save on cloud computing costs means more money for you to spend elsewhere for hiring developers, investing in marketing or acquiring new customers.
  • Office 365 – upto 5 seats for 1 year
    • This is the full office license that is granted to startups which they can use for their productivity and collaboration needs. However, this may apply to startups only with new account setups rather than startups with current subscriptions.
  • Bing Ads – $250 (USD) of Ad credits
    • We want to make it easier for you to reach out to your customers. Providing Bing Ads is a new feature that has been introduced and we are welcome to feedback to see how it works best for our startups.
  • Microsoft Translator services – 250m characters/mo valued at $27k(USD)/year
    • We understand that as our partners scale and go global, one of the key requirements are language translation services to localize content and services. Again, this is a new addition to the product and we are confident that it will be a huge value add to our partners. The Translator Services team in Microsoft is ambitious and is willing to put some skin in the game to win developers.

If you are a startup and you are wondering how to claim these services, you can get started with BizSpark for free anytime and if you think you are ready to scale through BizSpark Plus, reach out to us through one of our partner accelerators and we will get you on boarded ASAP, because we understand how important it is for you to get to market quick. The following video describes how some partners have benefited from BizSpark Plus:

Finally, in short and simple if you want to know what you can do with BizSpark, you can refer to the BizSpark Guide or even see the following video which briefly touches on how to use BizSpark:

Ultimately, the idea that we are trying to convey here is that we, at Microsoft, love startups. We want to help you grow and would want to grow with you – not to make a clichéd statement as ‘We want to grow old with you’ – bit much I  d say, but the sentiments do hold :-).

If you have any further questions or any doubts about BizSpark or Azure or about how we can help/support you, please feel free to reach out to me @AdarshaDatta, will be more than happy to help you.

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