More than 400 Irish firms take part in Microsoft tech startup programme


MORE THAN 400 Irish companies are taking part in Microsoft’s BizSpark programme for early-stage technology firms – proportionately higher than most other countries where the initiative is in place.

BizSpark is an international programme that provides entrepreneurs and startups with a range of supports including technology from Microsoft, resources from partner organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and guidance from business mentors.

Cliff Reeves, global head of emerging business with Microsoft, attributed the high Irish involvement to an entrepreneurial spirit that is more evident here than in some larger countries such as Germany.

He acknowledged that Microsoft’s involvement in BizSpark was partly to make the company’s technology more attractive to startups that might otherwise develop software for rival platforms.

“We want to get broader adoption of entrepreneurs. We’re very strong with medium-sized ISVs [independent software vendors] that grew up with Microsoft, but new companies are starting to look at different ways of delivering software and we weren’t always the first choice for them,” said Mr Reeves.

Another benefit for Microsoft is the opportunity for it to learn about technology trends from small nimble startups, he added.

In some cases, those companies are using technology that Microsoft itself has spun out. One example is Irish company InishTech, which has relaunched Microsoft’s Software Licensing and Protection Services. Under the BizSpark programme InishTech was able to bring a new version of the service to market much faster than if it had started from nothing, said InishTech chief executive Aidan Gallagher.

BizSpark also gives startups access to Microsoft technology such as development tools and server products with no upfront costs. “Our company saved €292,000 minimum over a three-year period,” said Ian Lucey, founder of secure payments firm Lucey Technology.

It also allows companies to take advantage of international partnerships that Microsoft has already established, said Conor O’Riordan, chief executive of TradeFacilitate, an Irish company providing software to make international business transactions easier.