I’m here today in London at the 2010 UK Bizspark event with a room full of startups and I’m asked how Microsoft Bizspark helped my own startup, Seesmic. They helped so much I thought I would write a quick blog post. It’s very smart from Microsoft to have such an ambitious program and other large corporations should do the same, here is what you get if you’re a Bizspark member (I’m not even talking about the free software, which is of course great)
-a single point of contact, locally
Bindi (in the picture here) in the UK, Julien in France, Dave in the US for Bizspark One. We also have amazing support from other organizations at Microsoft and Daryll, Jaime, Adam and Nicolas help daily. Many Microsoft evangelists such as Tim Heuer or John Papa help and even coded plugins for us. They have a team working with you and helping you navigate Microsoft. That sounds trivial but it’s generally very difficult to find the right contacts in large organizations, they are here to help and do it beautifully. When anything takes too long, they find shortcuts and get the partnership done
Seesmic got as much as you can get I guess: Seesmic was in Ray Ozzie’s keynote at the PDC Conference in Los Angeles and in Scott Guthrie’s keynote at Mix (see the video). We were exposed each time to about 5,000 developers and entrepreneurs. Marketing budgets at startups are tight so this exposure is priceless. We now have developers building more than 40 plugins on Seesmic Desktop and some of them heard about us first at one of those huge events. I was the keynote speaker at Bizspark UK today and Seesmic was featured at Bizspark France event, more to come, around the World. Amazing.
It’s not only Microsoft events, it’s also industry events where they keep featuring startups, such as mine, LeWeb which Microsoft supported since the first edition (thanks, Julien, Dan’l), but also many others.
-direct access to the teams behind Microsoft products
A year ago we decided to rewrite entirely our Seesmic Desktop to make it a platform, we could not have a secure plugin architecture with Adobe Air and the solution became quite obvious (read about all the Silverlight technical choice explained here). Yet, it was a huge risk for us to restart from scratch and we have been in constant touch with the Microsoft team. Still today when we hit difficulties or feel Silverlight should evolve we communicate directly to the teams who code Silverlight and often have an influence on the future releases, it is priceless. Microsoft is huge but listens and evolves really fast. Even if we’re a small startup team, they treat us as VIPs.
-connections to other entrepreneurs
Not that I really need connections as I’m behind LeWeb (!) but entrepreneurs always like to exchange points of views and learn from everybody else’s experiences, success and failure. Bizspark provides a great platform, in person with all the events around the World but also constantly online.
-connections to VCs and business angels
Microsoft is very active and keeps you in touch with the investors community, there are many VCs here today. They won’t do your fund raising but they help you get connected to them.
All large organizations should have a program like this. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just get inspired by Bizspark, talk to them and do the same. If you’re a startup, I cannot urge you more to join the program.
Thanks for all your help, friends at Microsoft, we would not be here without you all, and I am not quoting everyone on this post, many many more help us. I have been hugely impressed by everybody I have been working with and the entire program.