REDMOND, Wash., July 26, 1999 — Entrepreneurs have Kristin McGuire Marshall’s morning commute to thank for the latest addition to Microsoft’s growing stable of resources for startup companies. While inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 520 Floating Bridge between Seattle and Bellevue, Wash., the marketing manager for Microsoft’s Startups and Venture Capital Relations Program heard a story on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition about EntreWorld, an online resource for entrepreneurs sponsored by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
In her office, Marshall accessed www.entreworld.org , which offers hundreds of articles on starting and growing a business, along with discussions and advice from experienced entrepreneurs. The synergy between EntreWorld and Microsoft’s MSDN startups Web site was obvious, and a relationship quickly developed which now enables Microsoft’s Web site for startups to dynamically link to EntreWorld’s site, thereby expanding access to helpful resources for startups.
“The Web is making it possible to collaborate with other organizations and ultimately improve service to customers,” said Judith Cone with the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Kansas City, Mo. “Both EntreWorld and Microsoft target entrepreneurs, so the fit was natural. Microsoft gains compelling content for their Web site while we increase our exposure to a vital audience.”
“The Internet has reduced barriers to market entry for entrepreneurs,” said Microsoft’s Marshall. “But, while starting a business may be easier than it used to be, growing and sustaining a business — especially through that crucial startup stage — is still tough. Entrepreneurs need to talk to each other and to groom themselves for the growth that will come with success. Our own site for startups is strengthened through this relationship with EntreWorld — in that we have access to dynamically updated content in areas such as how to assess a business idea, understanding the qualities of entrepreneurship, and how to access capital — leaving Microsoft to focus on our core strengths in delivering technical and marketing resources to startups and established software companies.”
Microsoft MSDN Startups Give EntreWorld Content High Marks
“EntreWorld.org’s section on Growing Your Business provides useful information for companies such as NetIQ for the pre-and-post-IPO phases,” said Tom Kemp, vice president of marketing at NetIQ , based in Santa Clara, Calif. “The site provides a wide array of case studies outlining the pros and cons of going public, sales and product strategies to maintain growth, and insight from professionals in the world of investment banking.”
John Earle, president of Chant, Inc. in Marina del Rey, Calif., agrees: “There’s a lot of useful information to help course-correct or fine tune strategies and tactics for our business. It’s a great resource because we can quickly zero in on topics of interest and literally ‘run into’ discussions about issues we should be addressing.”
The two-year-old EntreWorld.org site is both an online resource and an outreach tool for the nonprofit Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which provides a number of programs nationwide for entrepreneurs, such as its FastTrac entrepreneurship training program.
“We have found that entrepreneurs want advice from other entrepreneurs, and from veterans who have built successful companies,” said Cone. “They’re not as interested in the more traditional experts that people in many fields turn to, such as academics. With EntreWorld, our people scour the Web for the very best articles published on growing a business, from strategic planning to the VC courting process, from building corporate culture to going public. And we feature custom business articles written by successful entrepreneurs.”
Startup Momentum Continues
The EntreWorld relationship underscores Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to provide entrepreneurs with information and tools for the unique needs of startup companies. While Microsoft has been dedicated to helping developers for years — the Microsoft Developer Relations Group (DRG) dates to the mid-1980s — its focus on startups accelerated with the launch of the MSDN Startup Program in September 1997.
If growth in the MSDN Startup program is any indication, entrepreneurs are finding Microsoft’s message a meaningful one. Membership has exploded in just one year, from 1,000 in July 1998 to nearly 3,000 companies today.
“I learned about Microsoft’s Startup program at a Business Marketing Group workshop in Palo Alto,” said Yasmin Kahn, president and CEO of Hayward, Calif.-based Alivebooks.net . “Terry Hanold, Technical Evangelist for the Microsoft Silicon Valley Developer Center, gave a talk and I was encouraged to join.”
For Khan, Microsoft’s message to startups came across: Microsoft wants startups to be successful because its own success depends in part upon them.
“It’s very encouraging that a big company like Microsoft has a reason to want us small companies to succeed,” said Khan.
Other entrepreneurs praised Microsoft’s close working relationships with startup companies:
“Microsoft takes a very active role in the support of startup companies,” said Lareen Strong, director of marketing at Layton, Utah-based CSM-USA Inc . “Microsoft steps in from the beginning to make it as easy as possible for the startup. We have a number of Microsoft people on our ‘account’ so to speak, which means we always get answers in a timely manner.”
“Microsoft’s responsiveness enables us to turn on a dime to meet a whirlwind of customer requirements,” said Earle from Chant Inc.
Other entrepreneurs appreciate that Microsoft is approachable and really listens:
“I attended a dinner reception hosted by the MSDN Startup program on Windows 2000,” noted Matthew Feldman, CEO of Tufans Technology in Seattle. “Microsoft asked a lot of questions and we told Microsoft our needs. A few weeks later, I read about the Windows 2000 Readiness Program and saw that many of our suggestions were incorporated.”
“I’ve been impressed with how straightforward it is to deal with Microsoft,” said Greg MacPherson, president of EPRS Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Microsoft’s outreach to entrepreneurs occurs through many venues, noted Marshall. Microsoft was a sponsor at the recent Red Herring Venture ’99 conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Marshall sits on the advisory council of the National Business Incubation Association, and Microsoft provides qualifying members of that organization free software through MSDN Universal Subscriptions. The MSDN Startup program features two newsletters: MSDN Startup Newsletter for startup companies; and The VC Flash, which reaches hundreds of venture capitalists. Venture Capitalists may sign up for the VC Flash at the Web site ; benefits include access to a searchable database of Microsoft startups seeking funding. Likewise, the newsletter for startups helps entrepreneurs understand the process of being courted by potential investors, or “angels.”
In November 1998 Microsoft opened its Silicon Valley Developer Center in Palo Alto, Calif., which provides business and venture capital connections as well as technical support to hundreds of startups in the high-tech hub of Silicon Valley. In June, Microsoft became a sponsor of garage.com, a Silicon Valley organization that facilitates connections between startups and potential investors and which is headed by former Apple Computer Evangelist Guy Kawasaki. The Center also works with several other organizations in Silicon Valley in support of startups and entrepreneurs, including the Software Development Forum, Round Zero and the Silicon Valley Association of Software Entrepreneurs.