Imagine a programme backed by one of the biggest companies in the world, focused on helping you to succeed as an entrepreneur - that's the Microsoft BizSpark programme.
BizSpark helps entrepreneurs at each stage of their development:
- Ideation. Microsoft funds many events to help you discover a great idea, including my masterclasses and Idea Workshops across South Africa.
- Building. Once you have an idea Microsoft provides lots of hands-on help and training - plus all their software for free for three years, plus significant discounts on cloud hosting in Azure.
- Go-To-Market. Once you reach this level, with a shipping product or service, you can qualify to enter the Portfolio Manager programme within BizSpark. You get a top coach like me as your portfolio manager who will spend four hours a month with you, plus you have free access to top resources like marketing, legal, technical, accounting and funding services from top Microsoft partners, plus up to $5,000 pm in free Azure hosting for a year.
- Scaling. When you're ready, Microsoft will help you scale your offering out to big clients and international markets.
How is all this funded? Through a collaboration between Microsoft and the Jobs Fund of South Africa. Why haven't I heard or read more about it? The Enhanced BizSpark programme run in SA by Microsoft and the Jobs Fund is unique and very new, so it's not well known yet (which is why I wrote this!)
Some examples of BizSpark in action for the startups in my portfolio:
- exposure through paid interview on It's Africa's Time TV show to 2m business viewers for Vigo
- fully paid collateral and stand at Cards & Payment Expo for Wallettec, plus arranged meetings with top players from across Africa
- indepth hands-on database performance tuning assistance for a Financial Mail 100 account of another startup
- exposure to top decision makers at some of the biggest metros at a special Microsoft event arranged for this, for our Smart City startups
If you're in the B2B space focusing on SME's then you'll be interested to know that Microsoft is also rolling out a pan-African portal for SME's for its Biz4Afrika programme - and that it is keen to promote BizSpark member's services within the portal.
- So for example Vigo's website building service is now being promoted across Africa in the Biz4Afrika portal.
The thing I like best about working with the BizSpark programme though is that it is like a big rowdy family, rather than a formal programme. Everyone knows everyone, from the Microsoft team behind BizSpark (pictured above), to the portfolio managers, to the providers of all the extra BizSpark services, to all the startups in the programme. Everyone communicates all the time, via WhatsApp groups, social get-together's (including NOW - Networking Over Wine!), and inside my Koi Group for Entrepreneurs on Facebook. It's a lot of fun!
Want to know more? drop me a line...