BizSpark Program: Microsoft Ireland

BizSpark is a Microsoft support programme for startups which allows members access to their range of software, technical support and many of the other resources that Microsoft has to offer.

There are currently around 550 startups currently enrolled in the BizSpark programme on the island of Ireland, 400 of which are in the Republic, which, according to Enda Flynn, Audience Marketing Manager with Microsoft Ireland, is among the highest rate per-capita worldwide.

Josh Holmes, one of Microsoft Ireland’s Architect Evangelists who engage with the technology community, describes BizSpark as, “kind of a three pronged project”.

“The first and most immediate thing that you’ll see is for three years we give startups all the stuff that we provide to run applications against, Windows Office, Visual Studio, basically our entire suite of applications developer platforms. There’s a whole bunch of software and technology that comes with it.”

This software comes in the form of a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Ultimate subscription, of which each startup gets eight, including 1,500 hours of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, which amounts to, “two servers running full time for an entire month.” according to Josh.

The second prong is, “access to technical resources, so there’s private blogs, member forums, that kind of stuff. There’s also access to myself, and Wilbour [Craddock, another of Microsoft’s Architect Evangelists] and the rest of our team”.

“The third prong is the marketing front, so we’ve got BizSpark Connect, which is connecting startups to startups, or people from whom you’ll find interesting startups. They get placement in Pinpoint, which is our partner locator so people can find other partners.”

All this amounts to a considerable investment on the part of Microsoft, and given that they do not retain a stake in the startups or any of their intellectual property, one has to ask, why bother investing in startups?

Josh Holmes is unequivocal: “Why would we bother with startups? Because we see startups as the future, and the more heavily we invest in startups the brighter and bigger and better the future is going to be for everybody involved.

“We were seeing a lot of startups not choosing Microsoft technologies for the wrong reasons. They were seeing cost as a barrier to starting off with Microsoft technologies, even if they thought Microsoft technologies were going to be better for them in long run. So they were making those decisions based on short term, “I don’t have any money in my pocket, therefore I can’t afford anything”, so we are removing cost as a barrier entirely.”

The evangelist is quick to sing the praises of the wide support network that exists in Ireland for startups, many of whom Microsoft are partnered with.

“We’re not a full-blown accelerator, so we’re working with great partners like the NDRC, Propeller, Enterprise Ireland, DIT’s Hothouse, all of these guys are fantastic accelerators here in Ireland, and we are working with them to help them in any way that we can.

“The goal is that at the end of three years that these startups are successful and the more successful that they are, to be fairly open and honest about it, the more Microsoft software they’re going to be using. And it’s getting them from zero to revenue and success as quickly as we possibly can, and we think that built on a Microsoft stack is a fantastic way to do that, and we want to help them get there.”

Additional material by Tom Murphy

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