IBM Offers Incentives To Startups Developing Smarter Planet Apps

Under the "Global Entrepreneur" initiative IBM is offering startups, particularly those building software for vertical industries, free use of cloud-based IBM software, the opportunity to work with IBM scientists, and access to IBM's DeveloperWorks social networking community portal.

"We're looking for startups with aligned initiatives around the Smarter Planet program," said Drew Clark, director of strategy for the IBM venture Capital Group. "We're looking for the next set of great applications."

Smarter Planet is IBM's effort to develop technologies and process management capabilities that add instrumentation and intelligence to electric power grids, traffic management systems, "green" buildings and other business, government and civic infrastructure.

IBM sees vertical industries as providing most of the growth opportunities for its software portfolio, including its business intelligence tools, DB2 database, Tivoli Maximo asset management and WebSphere middleware products, Clark said. The vendor is particularly searching for startups that are developing applications in transportation, water and energy management, healthcare, telecommunications, government and retail, he said.

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Startups that want to participate have to sign up through IBM's PartnerWorld Web site and then follow the links for the Global Entrepreneur program. Clark said there are no charges or subscription fees and said the program is open to venture-funded startups and those in earlier "pre-funding" stages. Participants must be privately held, in business less than three years and actively developing technologies for the Smarter Planet initiative.

Free access to IBM software through a cloud-computing environment is perhaps the biggest benefit of the program. Startups will be able to work with the IBM software, including the company's industry frameworks targeted toward specific vertical markets, to help develop their own applications.

"Almost the entire IBM software portfolio will be available to the startups," Clark said.

Global Entrepreneur program participants can work with IBM scientists and technicians -- the company has 3,000 people in eight labs around the world -- and IBM project managers. They can attend SmartCamp mentoring and networking workshops and tap into the DeveloperWorks community of 8 million third-party developers and IT professionals.

IBM unveiled the program this week at an IBM venture capital forum in Bangalore, India. The company is working with 22 industry and technology associations to identify candidates for the new program, including the Mass Tech Leadership Council, SD Forum and TiE Silicon Valley in the U.S.; the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs in the U.K.; the India Angel Network and the Israeli Venture Association.