*Update Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010: **I have had a few people contact me about getting denied enrollment in the BizSpark program. Most of these people are trying to enroll a CONSULTING company; which is NOT what BizSpark is for. BizSpark is for companies that are “Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or online service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business.*” That means, if you want to enroll in BizSpark, that you must be developing a product to sell/offer and not selling consulting services.

**Update Monday, Aug. 16, 2010: **My startup, Carto LLC, is now enrolled in the BizSpark program!

Update Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010: I just got off the phone with Cliff Reeves, the General Manager responsible for BizSpark. Apparently, BizSpark has recently dealt with some problems of piracy with people enrolling in BizSpark who do not have a legitimate company. He assured me that the any confusion causing my denial of enrollement into BizSpark will be fixed, and I am going to get an invitation code to get Carto LLC enrolled on Monday. This was a really prompt response, and I really appreciate him taking time out of his weekend to get in touch. Also, he mentioned that they are going to work at either calling people or telling them why they do not meet the eligibility requirements, instead of just sending a generic message on the order of “You do not meet the requirements at this time.”

Original Post:

I know the title of this post is a little on the strong side, but I am currently really perterbed about the Microsoft BizSpark program. Some of you may know that I have been involved in founding a new startup, Carto LLC. Carto is a software as a service business that specializes in developing and hosting custom GIS-based (Map-based) line of business applications that perfectly fit the needs of the client. Since we are just starting out, I thought I would get Carto enrolled in the Microsoft BizSpark program, but have been denied twice! Also, they have no contact phone number and my email was ignored!

What is BizSpark?

Basically BizSpark was started as an on-going effort by Microsoft to get more startups to use Microsoft technologies and products instead of going with open source. The way that they do it is by making the technology and software extremely cheap for startups that qualify for the BizSpark program.

According to Microsoft, BizSpark is…

“Launched in November 2008, the BizSpark program is designed to help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early-stage startups globally. The program provides fast and easy access to current, full-featured software development tools and platforms, and a connection to over 2,000 BizSpark Network Partners – including university incubators, hosters, government agencies, investors, consultants and financial institutions – all with a common goal of supporting entrepreneurship. BizSpark startups can also have the opportunity to achieve global visibility to an audience of potential investors, clients, and partners by profiling their company and posting offers and events in the BizSpark online networking hub, BizSpark Connect. Join a community of over 30,000 startups enrolled in BizSpark by signing up today.”

Enrollment in BizSpark is free, as long as the startup meets the following requirements:

  1. Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or online service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business.
  2. Privately held.
  3. In business for less than 3 years
  4. Less than $1 million in annual revenue

Then if you meet those requirements you get free Microsoft software to use for that three year period, at the end of which you are required to pay a fee of $100 USD.

Apparently Microsoft Does Not Really Care About Startups!

About 4 weeks ago, I applied to BizSpark for my new startup, Carto LLC. After about a week I got an email saying that we were denied because “it does not appear that you meet all the eligibility requirements at this time.” After being denied I looked on the BizSpark website to see if I could find a contact phone number, so I could call to find out why we were denied. They have no contact number published. However, in the denial email I recieved, they state that you can email, bizspark@microsoft.com, if you have any questions.

About 3 weeks ago, I emailed bizspark@microsoft.com to find out why we were denied entry into BizSpark. I also explained in the email that we definately meet the four posted requirements on their website. I never recieved a reply.

About 1 week ago, I tried applying for the BizSpark program a second time. After about a week, I recieved another email stating that we were denied due to not meeting the requirements.

Today, I emailed bizspark@microsoft.com again, am posting this message to my blog, and spreading it on my Twitter and LinkedIn account.

I am really annoyed that Microsoft would offer such poor support for this program that they have been promoting so much. I am a Microsoft MVP (have been since 2008) and promote Microsoft products to people everyday. I have also been recommending the BizSpark program to others interested in starting their own companies. This send me the message that Microsoft does not really care about startups all that much, even though they say they do. Unless this gets resolved, I will tell people specifically not to bother with BizSpark, since Microsoft obviously does not care about startups all that much.

How many others have been denied entry in to BizSpark for no apparent reason? If it happened to me, I assume there are others that it has happened to.