Microsoft woos startups with free software, business advice

Jun Kim, the young co-founder of a Korean software house, was recently approached by a representative from Amazon Web Services LLC., who offered him a $200 credit to develop on its Web Services cloud platform.

“I was like: $200, are you serious?” he said. “Azure could be worth $100,000 if we do well.”

Kim was referring to the competing Microsoft cloud platform. His company, GIO Software, gets free use of Azure because it is a member of BizSpark, Microsoft Corp.’s program to foster startups and encourage them to use its tools to build their products.

Microsoft also runs the BizSpark One program in Canada. The mentorship program for new start-ups provides resources and access to investors for select young tech companies.

Among its early participants were included Kobo Inc., employee management software company Dayforce Inc., and virtualization vendor VM6 Software Inc.

Budget-strapped fledgling companies traditionally spurn Microsoft products, opting instead for open-source and cheap alternatives. In 2008, the Seattle-based software giant launched its global BizSpark program, which provides its products for free to private software startups that are less than three years old and make under $1 million in revenue. The program now includes 45,000 companies worldwide.

At the DEMO Asia conference for startups in Singapore this week, Microsoft sponsored booths for a group of young Asian firms. The entrepreneurs at the event said the program was the main reason they now build on Microsoft products.

“We started with MySQL and Amazon Web Services,” said Reza Ismail, the director of Malaysia-based DappleWorks, which makes online tools for small businesses.

“It was just two of us, and we knew we needed some help,” he said.

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