I manage the BizSpark program in New Zealand. BizSpark was created by Microsoft to help foster innovation and to invest in the future of the industry, while also gives startups an entry point to become a Microsoft partner.
There are a few different ways in which we help the startups on the program, both on technical and non-technical perspectives. On the technical side there are A LOT of benefits, and these technical benefits are what I am covering in this post. You can pick and choose which benefits you take advantage of.
Most these benefits are tied to an MSDN Ultimate Subscription that you receive on signing up. MSDN Subscriptions are how Microsoft provide you with the tools, platforms, and services you need to successfully develop and test your applications.
How do I get my MSDN Subscription and the benefits?
First thing is to get accepted into BizSpark – your startup needs to be:
- Less than 5 years old
- Creating software or an online solutions that will eventually be the main source of revenue for the company (i.e., no pure software consulting or services companies)
- Making less than US$1 million in revenue per year
- Privately held
If you fit that criteria and are not in the program yet, apply here! One tip: make sure you have a website, and make sure to add as much detail as possible in the Company Description field so we can review it properly.
Once you’ve been accepted, you will receive a ‘Welcome to BizSpark!’ email that tells you how to get MSDN: you sign in to your My BizSpark on the BizSpark Website and login with the same Microsoft Account that you used to sign up for BizSpark, click on ‘Get your free software’ link, and then choose ‘Download Microsoft Software (via MSDN)’.
Once the enrolment process is complete you can download software and get product keys, access Windows Azure, get Technical Support and subscribe to the MSDN Magazine. (there is a short processing period and it may take up to 6 hours before your subscription is activated).
After your subscription is activated, rock up to the MSDN Subscriptions page, sign in with the same Microsoft Account you used for the BizSpark application (the little Sign In link on the top right), and you’re good to go.
If you click on the My Account tab: woa! it’s all there! See the links for Software download, technical incidents, Windows Store developer account, Windows phone developer account, Windows Azure, discounted MSDN Magazine, and others:
Let’s break some of these down.
The MSDN Ultimate subscription provides the startups access to software downloads (over 11 terabytes of Microsoft products) for developer and testing purposes. This includes most of what you can think of: Windows 8 (and older), Windows Server 2012 (and older), Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate (and others), Team Foundation Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, etc.
It’s worth noting that BizSpark also gives startups with some server production licenses too! See the list on the BizSpark FAQ page.
It is hard to find a startup that won’t take advantage of Windows Azure – do you need to host a website (in your language of choice, of any size, from small to huge)? Do you need hosting for your complex multi-tiered Software-As-a-Service website solution? Are you looking for one or a network of Windows Server or Linux VMs to run any type of workload on? Need access to databases, cloud storage, big data, media services? Are you building a mobile solution that cuts across multiple platforms? Then Azure has the offering for you.
The Windows Azure page has a nice summary table of the benefits – just look at the MSDN Ultimate subscription column.
The Windows Azure ricing, billing and metering details page will explain how each service is metered, and if you are within the monthly benefits mentioned above you won’t have any charges.
It requires a credit card or debit card for sign-up, but for all new subscriptions there is a $0 Spending Limit so you do not accidentally exceed the monthly benefit mentioned above while developing or testing. If you use more in a month than the above amounts, you will exceed your $0 Spending Limit; you won’t get charged but your service will be disabled for that month. If you choose to turn off your Spending Limit in case you’re hosting production and wouldn't like your services to be disable if you go over, any usage each month in excess of the monthly benefit will be charged at the standard Pay-As-You-Go Rates.
With all this said, you can run quite a lot of stuff on your subscription before reaching the limit, so get cracking!
For some examples of local startups and ISVs running on Azure have a look at our ‘New Zealand Windows Azure Application Showcase’:
Windows Store and Windows Phone Developer Accounts
With the great adoption that Windows 8 and Windows Phone are having, creating apps for them should be high on your list of platforms to support! Just think of the over 690 million Windows 7 users that have now started moving to Windows 8!
Windows Store apps is a new type of app that is sold in the Windows Store and runs on Windows 8 devices. To publish an app to its marketplace you require a Windows Store developer account. And you know it: through MSDN you get a registration code that you can use when signing up as a Windows Store developer which will make your first year free.
Windows Phone apps follows the same story – to publish an app to its marketplace you require a Windows Phone developer account, and you also get a code for it from MSDN applies to your first year.
Microsoft Partner Network Benefits!
When you sign up to BizSpark you are also in the Microsoft Partner Network. There are some extra requirements and different programs, but it is certainly worth checking them out.
There is plenty more to the BizSpark program which you will learn about while you are in it, but I hope to have covered the main technical benefits here. Make sure you sign up for BizSpark and then utilize the benefits it gives you; or if you are in BizSpark already review the benefits you have and use them.
There are also plenty of non-technical support, from partner offers, to local contacts like me, opportunities to enter local and international competitions, and other opportunities as they come about (see my post about how TranscribeMe went to Demo Asia).