Microsoft is giving away free software to early-stage web start-up companies, as part of a worldwide programme called BizSpark. Essentially BizSpark aims to help startups get off the ground by providing production licences and technical support for several Microsoft products.
Privately held companies and individuals building software-based products or services, which have been in business for less than three years and have less than US$1 million in revenue are qualified to join the programme. The licences are free for the first three years, after which the startups must start to pay.
As well as helping startups, the programme gives Microsoft a way to promote the use of its software at a time when open-source alternatives have matured, and as rivals such as Google and Salesforce.com are promoting their cloud platforms for building web applications.
Kevin Ackhurst, Microsoft New Zealand managing director, says the programme will provide local startups with development tools, advice and international exposure. Incubators NZ, New Zealand Software Associatin, Angel Association New Zealand and Mindscape will provide guidance and mentoring to the startups joining the program.
Dr David Skilling, CEO, New Zealand Institute, says a strong software industry will supplement New Zealand’s historical strengths in these areas of pastoral sector and tourism.
He says this growth is in line with the strengthening of the weightless economy, and will eliminate the tyranny of distance for New Zealand companies. With these companies, he says, “You just need a phone line, smart people and a business model.”
Rod Drury, CEO of Xero, says when Xero was started more than two years ago it had an option to take open source, but stuck to Microsoft. He says what was much more important was the access to the Microsoft ecosystem and the skills developed over the years through its various training programmes.
His message for start-ups that are looking at free frameworks, “If you are sitting on a reliable platform, it makes you credible.”
“We can build knowledge-type economy businesses from New Zealand,” notes Drury.
Jonathan Kirkpatrick, CEO of AUT Technology Park and chair of Incubators NZ, says getting to offshore markets straightaway is a necessity for start-ups. The local market, he notes, can be used for product testing, but what is critical for many software companies is “getting offshore quickly”.
BizPark will simplify the important technology decisions for these companies in the early stages of growth, by giving them an industry-leading platform at no immediate cost, he says.
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