Microsoft has been helping partners across Europe secure public funding since 2005 and in the past year has had a special focus on helping BizSpark Startups do the same.
More than $500m has been granted to partner companies in over 20 countries, for them to invest in R&D and innovation, in skills and new jobs. Grants are a great way for young companies to fund their growth in the early days but the process is often complex and time-consuming. This is where we come in.
France is a great example
Through Microsoft-assisted grants services we have seen over 560 startups supported since 2006 to the value of 2-3 million euros per year. Add to this the benefits of BizSpark (access to software, support and visibility) then it becomes a powerful formula for boosting their chances of success.
All this might give the false impression that securing public funds in France is easy.
“Not at all,” says Sylvain Poisson, a Paris-based grant consultant working with Microsoft. “Many startups are not even aware of the grants potentially available to them and, even when they are, they are deterred by the complexity and length of the application process. That’s where we can help, identifying the funding for which they are most likely to be eligible and second, helping them through the application process.”
French startups can apply for tax exemption against salaries paid of typically 20-30% for a maximum of eight years. On a regional or state level, there are also a multitude of other grants that can be applied for and used to support specific projects such as R&D, overseas expansion, training and recruitment. In the first year 50% of the amount spent on R&D is tax-deductible, then 40% in year 2 and 30% thereafter. So which companies in France benefitted?
Take for example Nimble Apps, a French start-up and BizSpark member that provides online applications designed to simplify the management of business workflows using embedded analytical tools. “With our advice, Nimble Apps has been able to secure a tax credit of 100,000 Euros.”
POHLM is a highly innovative startup that specializes in online video games, recently awarded a grant by the Centre National de la Cinématographie to develop video games for the film industry.
Microsoft has an 89% success rate of helping startups win public funding in France
But as Sylvain is keen to point out: “We follow companies very carefully. We won’t waste anyone’s time if we think that they do not have the right business case, attitude and likelihood to succeed. We want to support innovative, energetic and focused startups that want to stand on their own feet, but need a bit of a ‘leg up’ in their early years.”
So what lessons does Sylvain think that other countries can take away from the French experience?
“My advice to BizSpark startups is to use the services of a third party – such as Microsoft’s grant engine powered by Econet – to improve their chances of finding and securing funding. My advice to grant providers and advisors is that there is a need to communicate more clearly what public funds are available (nationally and regionally).
As we are seeing through BizSpark – which now numbers over 12,500 start-ups in Europe (one third of our global membership) – there is a new generation of young startups and entrepreneurs emerging, with some exciting ideas and huge enthusiasm. They have the potential to be the business leaders of tomorrow, so it is in everyone’s interest to give them all the help we can.”
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