Microsoft Offers Start-ups Free Software Tools


The program provides start-up software companies with access to the company's current full-featured development tools, server products and production licenses of server products with no up-front costs and minimal requirements, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said. (In the fine print on its Web site, Microsoft said that "as a demonstration of Microsoft's commitment to start-up success, a program fee of $100 is payable on exit from the program rather than up front when joining)."

Companies qualify for the program if they are in business for less than three years and have less than $1 million in revenue.

The program is broken into six divisions: business applications; collaboration; consumer; enterprise infrastructure; mobility; and online content and service.

BizSpark comes with a three-year Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Professional subscription; MSDN allows developers to download development tools that are needed to build, test and maintain an application on the Microsoft platform, including Microsoft Visual Studio and the Microsoft .NET Framework.

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For start-ups building hosted software, BizSpark includes production licenses for application hosting and management servers, including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center, with Microsoft Dynamics CRM to be added in the near future.

The program also provides a global network of hosting partners that offer discounted hosting services to start-ups that want to take their businesses or products online. Start-ups will also be profiled and promoted on the BizSparkDB, Microsoft's online directory of start-ups, where Microsoft said it will promote "promising" start-ups every day.

Additionally, Microsoft said that the program will also offer market visibility in the form of BizSpark Network Partners. Members of the partnership program include: economic development agencies; university incubators; hosters; investors, such as The National Venture Capital Association and The Indus Entrepreneurs. These BizSpark Network Partners provide guidance, mentorship and resources to help drive start-up success.

In addition to the core BizSpark offerings, start-ups can use other Microsoft offerings, such as Microsoft cloud services technologies. This includes access to the community technology preview (CTP) of the Azure Services Platform and access to the community technical preview (CTP) of the Live Framework.

Microsoft also promises to make sure that BizSpark members are notified of all programs that might specifically appeal to start-ups, such as the Microsoft Web Platform Installer and Microsoft Web Application Installer.

At the end of their three-year run, start-ups can keep the perpetual licenses for all the development and design tools. To receive updates to the tools and the development platform, the start-up has to renew its MSDN subscription, Microsoft said.

Microsoft said that the program could provide deliverance from the current difficulties facing the tech sector and the economy as a whole.

"Microsoft has been committed to helping developers succeed from day one—our first product was BASIC," said Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president for Strategic and Emerging Business Development, in a statement. "Developers are the engine that drives the software economy, which in turn creates value for society at large. The more we see innovation, new partners and new software companies coming into the market, the healthier the software economy is as a whole."