As I’ve been traveling across the US, I’ve spoken to tons of entrepreneurs, IT Pros and Developers alike, that are really interested in starting their own software business. 

Startup opportunities are growing …

Whether as a side-business or a full-fledged organization, startup opportunities in publishing mobile and cloud apps has never been greater, with analysts forecasting a continued compound annual growth rate of 15.25 percent from 2013-2018.

… but, it can be expensive to get started

Let’s face it … starting a new venture can be expensive.  And, that’s where we want to help you! At Microsoft, we believe that by helping startups succeed, we’re also helping to build a valued long-term partnership.  Together, we can build a more vibrant software economy that leads to new opportunities for all of us.  To assist with incubating and growing new software businesses, we offer a special program that’s been specially designed for startups: Microsoft BizSpark.

What is Microsoft BizSpark?

Click to enlarge ...

Microsoft BizSpark helps qualifying software startups succeed by providing free access to Microsoft cloud services, software and tools for three (3) years.  In addition, BizSpark can connect enrolled startups with key industry partners, including investors, and can provide marketing visibility to help entrepreneurs get started. 

Can I join BizSpark if developing on Open Source or other non-Microsoft platforms?

Absolutely! The cloud services, tools and marketing benefits provided via BizSpark apply to all software startups, whether developing on Microsoft or other platforms.  In particular, the Microsoft Azure cloud platform serves as a global, scalable cloud services solution for hosting web sites and applications that are built using Microsoft .NET, Oracle, Linux, MySQL, MongoDB or other open source technologies, such as Node.js, Phython, PHP, Java, etc.

How are startups leveraging BizSpark?

Over 50,000 startups from around the globe have leveraged BizSpark to help launch their venture over the past 4+ years!  For these startups, BizSpark has helped to significantly reduce startup costs by thousands of dollars and accelerate their business development efforts … just the free cloud services, software and tools alone provided via BizSpark can represent a retail value of over $40,000 USD to qualifying startups.

Once such startup that is in my local area, ChoreMonster.com based in Cincinnati OH, offers a great success story for how a startup can successfully leverage BizSpark to launch, grow and prosper.  Scott Hanselman recently caught up with Chris Bergman, CEO at ChoreMonster.com, at SXSW 2014 a few weeks ago to get his perspective on success as a software startup ...


Read the full success story on ChoreMonster.com.

Here’s a few of the ways in which BizSpark has helped other startups succeed …

  • Free $150 monthly credit on Microsoft Azure cloud platform for 3-years!
    Need a place to host your website, back-end cloud services, databases, storage or off-site backups? Use this FREE access to Microsoft Azure to eliminate or offset your cloud and hosting costs.  Once you've enrolled in BizSpark and you've launched your app, you can also apply for up to $60K USD in additional Azure cloud services via our BizSpark Plus offer.
     
  • Free production and hosting licenses!
    Leverage free production licenses for deployment of your new Software as a Service (SaaS) offers for delivery to your customers via the Internet.  Production and hosting licenses are included for Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint and System Center.
     
  • Free software licenses for develop, test and demo!
    BizSpark members receive free Not-For-Resale (NFR) software versions equivalent to those included in Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN.  These licenses are intended to support the design, development, test and demo of your software product on Microsoft or open source technology platforms.

What happens to my free software licenses after 3 years?

They’re yours to keep! At the end of 3 years, just visit the BizSpark site and complete the graduation process to become part of the “BizSpark Alumni”.

As part of this process, BizSpark will provide your organization with a license grant for any production licenses for your software as a service solution and Visual Studio with Microsoft Developer Network subscriptions you requested at graduation. You may continue using any of the software listed on the license grant according to the license grant use rights.  

In addition, BizSpark Alumni can take advantage of special MSDN discount offers for continued access to Microsoft Azure and ongoing MSDN benefits for new product releases.

Do I need to be a “Developer” or “Coder” to enroll in BizSpark?

No. To be eligible for BizSpark, your startup organization must be building software or apps as part of your core business, but there are lots of opportunities to get started with building apps that don’t necessarily involve code-based development.  For a step-by-step walk-through of one such approach, leveraging our Project Siena app building tool, check out the following article series that I published last month:

In addition, BizSpark also provides tons of training resources for expanding your app building skills into code-based development as your startup progresses.

How can I enroll in BizSpark?

To enroll your startup organization in BizSpark, just follow these simple steps …

  1. Are you a qualifying startup organization?
     
    To qualify for membership in Microsoft BizSpark, your organization must be:
     
    - Building software or apps as part of your core business
    - Less than 5 years old and privately held
    - Earning less than $1M USD annually
     
    If you meet these criteria, proceed to Step 2.
     
  2. Are you located outside the United States?
     
    If your organization is located outside the United States, please apply for membership in Microsoft BizSpark online at https://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/signup/default.aspx.  Your application will be reviewed by our global BizSpark team, you will receive a response within 1-to-2 weeks
     
  3. Are you located inside the United States?
     
    Great news! For a limited time only, I can waive the online application process for qualifying US-based startups and accelerate your ability to enroll in BizSpark TODAY! To take advantage of this limited time offer, please send me the following information:
     
    - Name of your startup organization
    - Your location in the US: City & State.
    - URL of your website ( if available )
    - Your business email address
    - Confirmation that you meet the criteria listed in Step 1 above.
    - A brief description of your idea for an app or cloud offering that you’ll be bringing to market.
     
    DO IT: Send this information to me TODAY at http://aka.ms/AskKeith, so that I can review and respond to your request as quickly as possible!

Got Questions on BizSpark?

As you consider BizSpark for your startup organization, please refer to our BizSpark FAQ for answers to common questions.  If your question isn’t answered in this FAQ, feel free to post it in the Comments section below or email me at http://aka.ms/AskKeith.

Good luck with your new startup!

-Keith