Microsoft launches BizSpark to boost Azure

The BizSpark program for entrepreneurs provides software and services to Web startups

Looking to boost Web-based ventures and its new Windows Azure cloud services platform, Microsoft on Wednesday is announcing Microsoft BizSpark, a program providing software and services to startups.

"The cornerstone [of the program] is to get into the hands of the startup community all of our development tools and servers required to build Web-based solutions," said Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development at Microsoft. Participants around the globe also gain visibility and marketing, Lewin said.

BizSpark will be leveraged as an opportunity to boost the Azure platform, with participants having access to the Azure Services Platform CTP (Community Technology Preview) introduced last week.

"We expect many of them will be taking advantage of cloud services," as part of their company creation, Lewin said.

Participants also can access the CTP of Live Framework, which handles user data and application resources within Azure Services Platform. Live Mesh technologies for data synchronization also are part Azure Services Platform.

Additionally, participants building hosted software can leverage Microsoft software, such as Windows Server, the SQL Server database,the BizTalk Server business process management platform, and the SharePoint Server platform for collaboration. Participants also can access the company's Visual Studio development environment. They also will be able to use open-source tools or server technologies such as the PHP language. Startups pay just a $100 exit fee when leaving the program after three years.

Startups will be nominated for participation in the program by organizations like venture capitalists, government agencies, and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). A global network of organizations like TiE and the National Venture Capital Association will offer guidance and resources for startups.

At TiE, Suran Dutia, CEO of TiE Global, expressed hope that the program could foster the kind of entrepreneurship that could help overcome the current climate of economic malaise.

"The reason why we have embraced this program, and we're very, very excited about it to be candid with you, is since our singular mission is to advance entrepreneurship, we feel that we have a unique opportunity to help accomplish [TiE's] mission through this program," Dutia said. He added he would like to see thousands of entrepreneurs created through BizSpark.

A participant in the program lauded the resource access. "We get access to these high-profile [people] for free," which is a boost for a startup without a lot of resources, said Nick Ganju, CTO at ZocDoc, which offers an online service for booking doctor and dentist appointments. ZocDoc, though, has not yet considered whether it will host its technology on a cloud system like Microsoft's Azure platform.

The criteria for being in the program are being a private company, in business fewer than three years, and less than $1 million in revenue when entering the program, Lewin said.

BizSpark information was slated to be available at this Web page.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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