Microsoft South Africa has expanded its BizSpark programme, which supports small software development businesses and entrepreneurs, using money from government’s jobs fund and its own 4Afrika initiative.
The company wants to help lead the creation of up to 600 technology start-ups in the next three years through BizSpark.
Microsoft South Africa developer and platform director Clifford de Wit says the benefits provided through BizSpark, which was started four years ago, have been increased. Start-ups accepted to the programme previously received US$6 000 worth of hosting on Microsoft’s cloud platform, Windows Azure. That’s now been expanded to up to $60 000.
“If you’re a large, successful online business and you’ve already used your $6 000 of hosting, this can now can be extended by up to 10 times. That’s enough to incubate a very large online business, and it’s for free,” De Wit says.
BizSpark offers entrepreneurs and start-ups with incubation and acceleration support, business training, access to mentors, software and hosting. They can participate in BizSpark for up to the three years, but must update their enrolment — that is, confirm they haven’t gone public or changed their ownership — on the first and second anniversaries of joining the programme.
In order to be eligible for the programme, applicants have to be businesses developing software that are privately held, less than 5 years old and have annual turnover of under R5m.
Dumisa Hlatshwayo, chief investment officer of the Development Bank of South Africa’s jobs fund, says unemployment is a key concern in South Africa and something government has decided to put money into solving.
“Entrepreneurs who start small businesses are the real job creators in South Africa,” says Hlatshwayo, adding that it’s not just up to the government to provide support and incentives for small and medium-sized businesses. Rather, he argues, its when big business partners with them that they “help drive an entire new wave of business and innovation”.
The jobs fund is investing R96m in its partnership with Microsoft.
Microsoft South Africa MD Mteto Nyati says BizSpark is an extension of the company’s efforts to help reduce unemployment and help entrepreneurs create new businesses.
Nyati says the enhanced BizSpark programme will help start-ups take their software to market, both locally and globally.
“Ultimately, we want to establish South Africa as an exporter, rather than an importer, of intellectual property,” says Nyati. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media