You may be familiar with Microsoft's Empower program for ISV's. Empower has been around for a few years as a way to help budding ISV startups ship their new Microsoft-based software products, and is widely-regarded as a no-brainer in its target audience. Until today, if you were contemplating a new software product built with Microsoft development tools, you just couldn't beat Empower. For an incredibly low price, you get the full MSDN suite of development tools, plus production licenses for OS and back-office products.
Today, though, Microsoft announced BizSpark, which just might do Empower one better - if you qualify. According to the BizSpark web site, BizSpark offers some amazing benefits for no up-front cost:
- Software. Receive fast and easy access to current full-featured Microsoft development tools, platform technologies, and production licenses of server products for immediate use in developing and bringing to market innovative and interoperable solutions. There is no upfront cost to enroll.
- Support. Get connected to Network Partners around the world — incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters — that are equally involved and vested in software-fueled innovation and entrepreneurship who will provide a wide range of support resources.
- Visibility. Achieve global visibility to an audience of potential investors, clients and partners. As a Microsoft BizSpark member, you’ll be tapping into a rich, vibrant ecosystem of peers, partners and support resources around the globe, helping you grow and succeed. Microsoft BizSpark is the quickest way to get your Startup fired up.
But you're not going to get all the good stuff unless you're a new (less than three years old) startup with under $1M of revenue. There's one more catch, too:
Before you can join, you need to team up with a BizSpark Network Partner. Network Partners are organizations that specialize in promoting and supporting software Startups through programs, mentoring, networking, business advice, financial assistance, and so on.
At first glance, this looks like merely a lower-cost version of Empower, but if you poke around the web site a little, and read through the Program Guide for BizSpark, you'll start to appreciate the bigger picture that Microsoft has in mind. They're trying to foster an entire connected startup ecosystem, including not just the startups, but also angel and venture investors and public and private incubation groups. If you step back and see the whole plan, this is a remarkable win-win opportunity for Microsoft and a whole bunch of new ISVs.