Microsoft Startup Program Helps Emerging High-Tech Companies Get Up and Running

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 25, 1999 — A 2-year-old company based in San Mateo, Calif., AvantGo, Inc., uses Microsoft’s developer program for start-up companies to obtain the technical information it needs to develop Windows CE-based enterprise software. It also taps into the program to receive business and marketing opportunities that have contributed significantly to the company’s success in the emerging, but very competitive market for mobile computing applications.

“Microsoft has a great developer program,” said Stuart Read, AvantGo’s vice president of marketing, who led the launch of AvantGo 2.0 last September. “We’ve received lots of technical support and training, we’ve attended developer conferences, we receive regular updates of software, and we have great access to the people who actually write the code for Microsoft’s products.”

AvantGo is one of more than 1,700 start-up companies Microsoft works with through its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Startup Program. Begun in September 1997, the program is one of only a handful of developer programs in the industry targeted specifically at young or emerging high-technology businesses. The program, which is designed for companies less than 4 years old and with fewer than 40 employees, was formed to provide business and marketing assistance to emerging companies that develop products based on Microsoft technologies.

The program is an offshoot of Microsoft’s MSDN ISV Program, a 7-year-old program that currently provides technical and business information to more than 7,000 software companies of all sizes. Microsoft decided to create a second program specifically for start-up companies to better meet the special challenges these companies face in getting their businesses off to a good start. The MSDN ISV Startup Program, which complements a range of existing developer programs Microsoft offers via MSDN, provides start-up companies with important business and technical information. It also offers start-ups opportunities to participate in marketing programs designed to provide exposure for their companies and products.

“The program enables start-up companies to reap the benefits of developing for Microsoft platforms, even though they may not be completely established yet,” said Kristin McGuire Marshall, Microsoft’s product manager for the MSDN ISV Startup Program. “Due to their size, some of these small businesses don’t always have a best-selling product or an account manager at Microsoft yet. However many are creating cutting-edge products for Windows and want Microsoft’s assistance.”

Participants in the MSDN ISV Startup Program receive discounts, information resources and marketing benefits designed to help them be successful as they get their businesses up and running. For example, they receive discounts on Microsoft products such as MSDN Universal, a comprehensive set of Microsoft development tools and essential programming information that includes quarterly updates on CD-ROM. Start-ups have access to free business planning software that includes information on topics ranging from marketing their business to analyzing their competition. They also receive information about the venture capital community, as well as opportunities to present business plans and demonstrate new products to venture capitalists via newsletters and events. And they obtain reduced-price opportunities to advertise and market their products alongside Microsoft.

In addition to benefits aimed specifically at start-up companies, companies in the MSDN ISV Startup Program also receive the same services offered to software developers through the MSDN ISV Program. These include a monthly e-mail newsletter customized for different developer interests, invitations to participate in events, discounts on Microsoft and third-party products and services, and public relations and marketing opportunities.

“Through our program, start-up companies are able to get exposure to other Microsoft customers and partners, the industry, the press and the venture capital community,” Marshall said. “They also get access to our technical tools, and to information on the latest Microsoft platform developments and development strategies. The combination of these resources enables them to reduce their development time and costs, stretch their existing marketing resources further, expand their reach, and get up and running more quickly.”

Silicon Valley Developer Center Provides Additional Resources for Start-Ups

More than one-quarter of all start-up companies that work with Microsoft through its MSDN ISV Startup Program are located in Silicon Valley. In addition, businesses in Silicon Valley account for about one-third of all the venture capital money invested in U.S. businesses. Facts like these recently prompted Microsoft to open its new Silicon Valley Developer Center in Northern California to provide additional assistance, information and resources to established software developers, start-up companies and venture capitalists in this influential and dynamic high-tech community.

“Certainly, the highest concentration of start-ups and venture capital firms are in the Valley, and we decided it made a lot of sense to root ourselves as part of the Valley community and start to build long-term, one-on-one relationships with these companies,” said Larry Cohen, head of the Silicon Valley Developer Center.

In addition to receiving information through the MSDN ISV Startup Program, start-up companies can visit the new Silicon Valley Developer Center to receive hands-on assistance and development support from Microsoft technical personnel. Start-up companies visiting the Development Center also have the opportunity to take advantage of special events, business opportunities, training programs and other activities designed to help them take advantage of key Microsoft technologies and business directions.

Having a Developer Center in their backyard offers start-up companies the chance to develop on-going, one-on-one relationships with Microsoft. “There’s a different level of interaction between these companies and Microsoft that we weren’t really able to offer before,” Cohen said. “They now have more frequent and in-depth information about our business and technical directions.”

Read, the AvantGo vice president, said the Silicon Valley Developer Center has helped his company keep up with new Microsoft technologies as they emerge: “We can’t always travel up to Seattle, so the seminars and product direction we’ve received from the Developer Center in Silicon Valley have been great for us. It’s nice to have a lab here locally.”

Other start-up companies also say they have benefited from Microsoft’s developer programs. San Diego-based Lomasoft Corporation, which makes a three-dimensional modeling tool, decided to develop its product for the Windows platform because of the detailed documentation and superior development tools Microsoft offers. “Microsoft’s software development tools provide the most comprehensive and efficient environment available today for software development,” said Lomasoft President James R. Gambale, Jr. “Having easy access to these tools is an absolute necessity for any company targeting the development for the Windows platform. The MSDN programs provide a cost-effective mechanism for start-ups to stay up to date with these important tools.”

The company, which launched 3D Shapeview standard and technical editions earlier this month, said the exposure it receives through the MSDN ISV Startup Program has played a critical role in the company’s success. “Being at COMDEX in the Microsoft Showcase has been very beneficial to us from a general marketing and business-to-business marketing standpoint,” Gambale said.

One of the first companies to join the MSDN ISV Startup Program, Austin, Texas-based Mediatruck said the program has enabled it to take advantage of marketing opportunities it would not have been able to afford without Microsoft’s help. Last year, for example, the company demonstrated its r.e.d.d. System Web site development tool in Microsoft partner booths at Internet World and COMDEX, two trade shows it normally could not afford to attend.

“Our first product hasn’t even launched yet, and Microsoft came to us with the opportunity to participate in these two shows,” said Danielle Camarda, Mediatruck’s business development coordinator. “It was a great place for us to start to create a buzz about the product, and gather a lot of beta testers.”

A Winning Scenario for Microsoft, Start-Ups and Customers

The program also provides important benefits for Microsoft. By working closely with start-up companies, Microsoft helps foster support for its key platform technologies. Ensuring that a variety of third-party applications support its platforms promotes the long-term success of the Windows platform, because customers purchase operating systems based on the range of software and hardware available to support them.

“The Windows platform is successful because of the applications that are provided by third parties,” Marshall said. “We benefit by helping start-up companies be successful because that, in turn, helps grow our platform. In the end, it is the customers of both Microsoft and third-party developers that win by having a broad choice of applications for their computing needs.”

Marshall has watched the MSDN ISV Startup Program rapidly gain popularity since its creation less than a year-and-a-half ago. The number of start-up companies participating in the program has increased by more than 70 percent during the last six months, and that growth is only expected to continue as Microsoft makes the program even more attractive for start-up companies.

“We anticipate not only maintaining the current growth, but actually accelerating the growth during the next six months,” Marshall said. “The work of small companies is essential to the vitality of the Windows platform, and we want to help these companies be successful.”

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