What started out as two young men working in a garage in Albuquerque in 1975, turned into a Fortune 500 company. Fast forward to today and Microsoft is offering guidance and new technology to young startups, just like they once were.
Over the past few years, Microsoft has been moving into a new realm of community involvement with its support for the startup community. One way they are entering this space is through Microsoft’s Developer Experience (DX) division. I was recently invited by Nicolas Gaume, the Director of France’s DX division, to attend a Microsoft Experience event. Guest speaker Raphaël Enthoven spoke passionately about a new-found autonomy within the startup community along with growing überisation through peer-to-peer platforms. This autonomy is exactly what Microsoft intends to facilitate through their BizSpark program.
Keeping in line with what Founder, Bill Gates, once said – “Microsoft is not about greed. It’s about innovation and fairness” – Microsoft launched BizSpark in 2009, a program that provides free software to young, promising startups and is currently working with over 3,000 startups in France. The offer includes 3 years worth of FREE stuff to startups that are less than 5 years old, privately held, and earning less than $1M annually. And at the end of the 3 years the startups get to keep all the software.
So what’s the catch? Why is Microsoft offering support of this size to startups, expecting nothing in return and taking zero equity? “For our own survival”, explains Gaume. Microsoft needs a way to remain relevant to younger generations, and this is a great way to do it. This relationship is symbiotic: what is necessary for Microsoft’s survival is equally as important for the survival of young startups.
Microsoft is offering more options and an array of high-end products, with the goal of turning young entrepreneurs on to Microsoft’s hardware and software, eventually creating long-term users. On top of that, Microsoft acts as a liaison to connect startups to its users both locally and internationally, which has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks (especially here in France). It also creates an opportunity to participate in co-marketing and co-selling, which lets these startups touch a part of Microsoft’s market, giving life to these young companies.
But it’s not just through shiny new toys that Microsoft plans to increase its market reach; it is through relevance and connection. Creating a space where the next generation of Bill Gates and Paul Allens can grow into profitable companies. With their startup-esque office space and young staff, Microsoft is giving back to the young community “a garage” like the founders once used as their own starting point.