When we launched BizSpark back in November 2008, our mission was clear: Give startups – the lifeblood of the technology sector – the tools and software they need to succeed.

Since then, about 35,000 startups from all over the world have enrolled in the program, which provides early-stage businesses with fast and easy access to software development tools and platforms as well as a network of 2,500 network partners – including venture capital firms, university incubators, consultants and angel investors – interested in helping startups grow.

What’s most encouraging is the degree to which these startups have started to connect with and support one another. For example, BizSpark Connect is a fairly new initiative where participating startups make themselves visible online to one another and network partners. Though still in its early days, 13,700 startups have posted profiles on BizSpark Connect.

BizSpark also aims to increase startups’ access to business and technical training. Through BizSpark Camps, startups can gain insight from local network partners on subjects such as how to raise venture capital, manage channel partner relationships and retain high-caliber employees, among others. On the technical side, the Camps offer training and orientation on Microsoft tools and platforms, including Windows Azure, SharePoint and Windows Phone 7, just to name a few. In just the last six months, 64 BizSpark Camps have been held in more than 40 countries, reaching more than 1,000 startups.

So, why do it? Startups are at the very edge of innovation and represent the next generation of Microsoft partners. Giving them friction-free access to our technology, helping build connections in the local ecosystem and helping startups succeed is an investment in Microsoft’s future.

This is particularly the case as Microsoft moves to the cloud. Every day, we see more and more startups take advantage of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform. To read more about the benefits of cloud computing, check out this feature story on the Microsoft News Center, as well as the results of new research just released by Microsoft regarding the Top 10 Cloud Computing Cities. An "Economics of the Cloud" whitepaper is also available.

BizSpark startups using Azure don’t have to worry about the high costs in time and money associated with running IT infrastructure. Azure lets startups focus instead on writing great applications, giving them the bandwidth they need to create the next game-changing technology and execute on their business plans.

Take, for example, one of BizSpark’s many success stories – an online community and platform geared toward comic book lovers called Graphic.ly. With Azure, Graphic.ly doesn’t have to worry about  managing servers and virtual machines or expending precious funds paying a high-priced IT administrator. They can focus on creating the richest, most immersive experience for comic book collectors and enthusiasts possible. Watch the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at Graphic.ly.

BizSpark makes even more sense when one takes the challenging economic environment into consideration. Buying servers and then paying someone to ensure they run properly costs a lot of money – money better spent on building a business in these tough times. We invite any entrepreneur anywhere in the world with a great idea and even greater vision to join BizSpark.

Posted by Matthew Clark
Senior Director, Startup Engagement