Startups drive technology forward, and Microsoft wants to prove it values startups' contributions. Microsoft for Startups is a $500 million initiative to help startups create, develop and market enterprise-level software. Microsoft's new program will provide a variety of perks to all startups, like networking resources, and select benefits to specific partner companies. Some high-level benefits include up to $120,000 in Azure credits, a free Office 365 Business Premium subscription and priority sales status among Microsoft's 40,000-plus sales representatives.
If you're running a tech startup, it's important to be aware of what resources you have access to as part of this new program. The overall structure of this program, for most startups, involves reducing friction for development and operations. Still, the program offers resources to tech startups looking to make a splash in the enterprise software industry.
Before we dive into all the features and components of the program, you need to understand what companies qualify for what benefits.
Varying access and qualification
Microsoft for Startups is a two-pronged program: All startups will have access to select benefits, while qualified startups will get better guidance. If you qualify, you'll be backed by a third-party company that provides initial resources and guidance, like an incubator, accelerator or venture capitalist firm. Microsoft will also review your company and confirm what benefits you'll have access to. There aren't many details on this review process, but startups working with incubators, accelerators or venture capitalists can contact their local program director to find out if they qualify for certain benefits.
The separation along this line is intended to ensure qualified startups can take full advantage of the resources Microsoft has to offer. The offering is still robust – even unconfirmed startups have access to things like the Microsoft Partner Network and a free Azure trial. The qualified benefits provide more of a road map for startups looking for sales and marketing support as well as funding.
The bottom line is you need to qualify to access full benefits. You can get qualified by pitching incubators, accelerators, and venture capitalists about your company's goals and product. If you end up partnering with an organization, you can talk with your program director about getting an enrollment code to work with Microsoft.
Services for everyone
If you're in the early stages of development, or it's not an option to partner with another company, you'll still have access to Azure credits, the Microsoft Partner Network, technical and business resources, sales support, and local business events. These programs can provide you with a baseline of support as a startup.
- Azure credits: Microsoft's current promotion provides a $200 credit to new Azure users. Azure, Microsoft's cloud-based computing software that's on par with Amazon Web Services or the Google Cloud Platform, can be used as infrastructure to build programs. It's a monthly, pay-as-you-go service that lets you build programs. The $200 credit is included in the free trial, which lasts for 30 days. The credit is a nice perk, but it may be aimed at getting you into the service as opposed to providing in-depth help.
- Microsoft Partner Network: Startups can sign up for the Microsoft Partner Network to gain access to other companies for collaboration and networking purposes. There are varying levels of benefits, technology access and business resources depending on what kind of plan you sign up for.
- Sales support: When you launch your product in one of Microsoft's cloud-based marketplaces, like AppSource or Azure Marketplace, you'll have access to promotional benefits and lead sharing.
- Resources: Microsoft provides resources like tutorials, partner profitability models and business design sessions that you can take advantage of while you build your product in Microsoft Azure.
- Local business events: Microsoft runs local networking and community events that feature Microsoft executives and other business experts.
Services for qualified startups
Qualified startups have access to more benefits and the guidance of Microsoft's sales and business teams. Microsoft for Startups shines as a program designed for qualified startups looking for help with bringing a product or solution to market. While it does provide some benefits for all startups, the exclusive benefits are where this program stands out.
- Azure credits: Businesses have access to up to $120,000 in free Azure cloud credits. This additional credit allows select companies to build their solutions with limited overhead cost.
- Software access: Microsoft for Startups provides subscriptions to Office 365 Business Premium and Dynamics 365. These two offerings mean that companies can get things done on Microsoft's applications and CRM software free of cost.
- Azure consultation: Business leaders can attend a four-hour cloud architecture session to learn more about the performance, scalability and security of Azure.
- Sales and marketing support: Individual teams will support startups as they prepare to market and sell their products to enterprises. Startups will have access to experts in a co-sell program and premier access to other enterprise companies that partner with Microsoft.
- Cloud marketplace priority: Your solution will have priority listing in Microsoft's cloud marketplace, and the company's 40,000-plus sales representatives will push your product as they interact with other businesses.
Microsoft for Startups is a big program that will provide startups everywhere with the resources to get a solution or product off the ground. In addition to these select benefits for both qualified and regular startups, Microsoft runs three startup solutions: Reactors, ScaleUp and Ventures. Reactors are locations in major cities where learning, networking and resource sharing take place. ScaleUp, previously known as Microsoft Accelerator, provides sales, marketing, and technical support for enterprise-ready companies as they market and sell their solution. Ventures is a Microsoft-led funding program for software companies looking for Series A, B or C funding. While the tiered system reinforces the need for incubator, accelerator or venture capitalist backing, the overall program is another step from Microsoft toward helping companies drive innovation.