Last November, Microsoft started a new program called BizSpark for startups that's pretty sweet. It's pretty not-too-evil also.
If you are a small business and you sell a product or service to your customers, you might want to check it out. Here's the criteria:
- Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business.
- Privately held, and in business for less than 3 years.
- Less than US $1 million in annual revenue.
What do you get?
Here's what you get from the program:
Development Tools, Platform Technologies and Production Licenses
- All the software included in the Microsoft® Visual Studio® Team System Team Suite (VSTS) with MSDN Premium subscription
- Expression Studio Version 2
- VSTS Team Foundation Server (standard edition)
- Production use rights to host a “software as a service” solution (developed during participation in the BizSpark Program, on any platform) over the Internet, with regard to the latest versions of Microsoft products including:
- Microsoft Windows Server® (all editions up to and including Enterprise)
- Microsoft SQL Server (all editions)
- Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server
- Microsoft System Center
- Microsoft BizTalk Server
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM (coming soon)
- In addition to the core program offering, BizSpark startups will be eligible for other Microsoft offerings, such as:
- Microsoft Azure Services Platform - The Azure Services Platform is the collection of Foundational, Developer and Live Platform Service such as Windows Azure, Live Mesh, Compute Services, Storage Services, Workflow Services, Identity Services, Connectivity Services, SQL Data Services. All developers will have access to the Azure Services Platform developer tools which includes the local development fabric.
After three years, they assume you've either succeeded and are making money, or you're gone. If you're around and you want to continue, you pay for your MSDN subscriptions the regular way, and if you want to keep using your production licenses, you pay for those using the Service Provider Licensing program.
If you want in, you need to find a sponsor, and there's a list on the site. If you can't find one, though, Bill Staples (a General Manager at MSFT) can sponsor you (details on his site, click "Contact Me" under his picture) which is nice of Bill.
BizSpark is for companies that SELL something (product or service), not for pure consulting companies, but if your consulting company has at least one product or service, that appears to meet the criteria.
I asked folks on Twitter to see if they were using it and if it was a good thing, and everyone said it was a good program. It's a messed up economic time, and I think BizSpark would be an easy way to get a small business or startup idea of the ground without thinking about software licensing for 3 years. If you've got an idea for a business, or you already have a business, this could be the program for you. Tell Bill I sent you (he's one of my many bosses, so be nice and don't get me sacked) and he'll help you get setup.
Are you in this program? Is it a good thing? Leave a comment.
Update: The guy at MSFT who runs the program is Julien Codorniou and feel free to email him at julienco at microsoft.com with questions. Mention my name for free candy (not really).