Why all early stage startups should get #Bizspark (w/#MSDN and #Azure)

Earlier last week, I was talking to a friend who wants to build a website to list and sell equipment in a niche market. When I mentioned the benefits of Microsoft Bizspark this person was surprised at the number of ways a Bizspark subscription could benefit them.

As someone working with startups for the better part of the past decade, it continues to surprise and sadden me to know that a large number of early technology companies don’t use Bizspark because of lack of knowledge or just good ole’ prejudice a.k.a Microsoft killed my pappy.

As for Bizspark and Azure, you’ve probably heard a bunch of pitches from salesy people – does “create compelling data-driven apps” sound familiar? Instead, I’ll post my naive worldview of Bizspark and how, in my opinion, Bizspark benefits early stage startups, with the hope that it’ll at least help one person.


Q. What is a Bizspark?
A. It’s a startup friendly program from Microsoft that provides 5 accounts for downloading and using Microsoft developer software. It also provides limited (but fairly significant) free Azure hosting credits. Bizspark does have some qualification criteria (hence, my stress on early stage startups).

Your startup qualifies if it is less than 5 years old, is privately held, and earns less than $1M annually.

Q. I’m a Microsoft stack developer, tell me more about the free software.
A. You can download and use the software that comes with 5 Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN subscriptions for free for 3 years and after that you either pay to continue or not. Either way you keep the software you downloaded. Just for reference each new VS Enterprise subscription is $5999.

Q. What about the Azure credits
A. Simply put you get 5 licenses and each gets $150/month of Azure credits.
As an example, each account can get one of the following per month – 1.5TB in Azure file/blob storage or a 2 core 3.5GB RAM 50GB storage Azure App Service instance or an Azure SQL Database S3 instance with 100DTUs and 250GB per database. You could put these 3 together and depending on the solution may have a complete one. Keep in mind this could easily be a dev or test system and with efficient usage of scripts can be created and destroyed in minutes.

Q. I’m not a Microsoft Developer. Why should I use this?
A. Like I mentioned in my previous point, you can at the very least get up to 1.5TB/month of Azure file storage free/month. If you multiple this by 5 you can get into some decent storage numbers (around 25-30 hard drives of 256GB storage/month). Additionally, Azure does support non-Microsoft technologies like Linux, PHP and other OSS. Also, Azure has support for numerous mobile backend functions which should interest non-Microsoft developers in the mobile arena.

Q. Microsoft will peek into my data (also see: some lemonade stand guy will have access to my data because shared servers)
A. This line of thought stems from a lack of understanding of cloud technologies. Major cloud solutions providers like AWS and Azure are certified to provide high levels of data security compliance to various organizations including finance, healthcare and government. Granted you have to still working on securing your custom application hosted with these providers but a lemonade stand guy peeking into your data will most likely be your fault and not the providers’.

Q. Why not AWS (or some other provider)?
A. That is an excellent question. My answer is that if your core expertise is in Microsoft technologies stick with Azure. Amazon’s AWS is the largest provider of cloud services and for a good reason. I would encourage everyone to check it out and then make a decision based on their needs, skill sets and convenience. AWS is arguably cheaper than Azure and offers 12 months of limited free trial instead of the 36 months Azure does through Bizspark.

Q. I’m ideologically opposed to Microsoft
A. Well we can’t really argue about technology dogma but consider the fact that perhaps some of these software or services can benefit your technology business.

Q. So I should signup from the Bizspark application page?
A. Yes. But if you have a friend who works for a Microsoft Partner (for instance, a company like NebbiaTech) or is a Microsoft MVP talk to them before you do so. They may be able to provide helpful tips.

TLDR; When you’re in the early stages of starting up a company, every minute and dollar counts and dogma in technology can be a company-killer. Regardless, of your stack (Microsoft, mobile and other OSS), companies that are early stage and building products can benefit from Bizspark. Not only do they get free Microsoft Developer Software for 3 years but also get up to $150 Azure credits per account per month (multiply by 5 for 36 months = $27000 over 3 years). The benefits of getting Bizspark and using the free software and Azure credits far outweigh any argument to not doing so.

Disclosure: I do not work for Microsoft and don’t get paid to endorse their products. I am, however, a heavy Bizspark+MSDN+Azure user.

If you liked this post, please share it on social media and follow me on Twitter @_s_hari
Is there anything I’m leaving out? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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