By Alpa Agarwal

icrosoft Sharepoint 2010 SocialFest, an event led by the Emerging Business Team of Microsoft in Silicon Valley, will feature seven startups who are building social-oriented applications on Microsoft Sharepoint 2010.

Ed Buchholz, co-founder and president of Confer believes in building relationships. He proved it in the short time we spent talking about his social networking application targeting the small to medium-sized business space.

Based in North-East Ohio, Confer’s is the quintessential startup story. Ed was working a full-time job as Director of Product for another software-as-a-service company and recognized a significant need around communication and transparency across the disparate workgroups of sales, service, product, marketing, and development. He put together a small team and, quickly built a prototype around the concept utilizing Microsoft technology from the BizSpark program. Within 90 days, Ed and team had found seed funding from a local angel, left their full-time positions, and had numerous committed beta customers.

Confer’s initial focus was to build a highly scalable and efficient technology and interface platform, with features coming later. As Ed put it, “There have been too many examples in recent months of products experiencing outages, security failures, data loss … We wanted our offering to be rock-solid.”

Confer aims to enhance collaboration and awareness in the workplace through micro-blogging, chat, and social networking. Employees of an organization enter a short biography, upload a photo, and then start sending and receiving status updates. It’s just that simple. So, I asked Ed, “Isn’t it too simple?” Ed argued, “The world of business software might benefit from a little simplicity. We’re a young product, and building cloud-based software is an iterative process. We’re not done yet, by any means.”

In fact, Confer is heavily invested in the development of features that will differentiate it from other companies. Ed continued, “Our aspiration is to completely change the way and method through which you communicate in the workplace. It’s an ambitious goal, but achievable. Modern technology has made unified communications a possibility, even on a budget.”

Their vision must be compelling, they were just accepted by the Ohio Department of Development into the Ohio Technology Investment Tax Credit Program, and are raising a Series A funding round, primarily from a coalition of Ohio-based angel investors.

Here are Ed’s top three tips for obtaining funding:

1. Tap the government economic development programs in your area. Many areas have made significant commitments to drive job growth.

2. Be forthright with investors when providing revenue projections, status updates, or pitching concepts. Investors know if you’re not being realistic.

3. Build relationships with everyone. You never know where that key introduction is going to come from.