Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Microsoft BizSpark: Single Devs Need Not Apply

I want to start off by saying that I am a Microsoft ASP.NET Developer by day, so I am kind of a fanboy (I admit it). Back in the summer of 2009, I decided that I wanted to try and take some of my ideas for starting a web app company and run with them. When I found out about BizSpark, I was really happy because now I could use the same tools that I use at work to craft my ideas at home.

I signed up for BizSpark in August 2009 and after the initial waiting period, was approved. The first thing I did was download Windows 7 to update my laptop. After that, I downloaded the tools of the trade - Visual Studio, SQL Server and Microsoft Expression. I started working on my ideas but with a challenging home life, trying to get a lot of time to put something together is difficult.

About two months ago I tried to go back to the BizSpark site to download more development software. When I signed in, nothing was available anymore. No software links, just general information that's visible to the general public. Perplexed, I sent an email in April to Microsoft asking what had happened. The MSDN folks suggested I send an email to the MS Champs team, specifically Tom Halabi, to find out what happened. I sent the email to him on April 22nd and never heard anything back.

Fast forward to the July 4th weekend. The install of Win 7 that I had placed on my laptop is now showing me Counterfeit messages every 5 minutes. I sent a message to to try and figure this out. Their response was:

Dear Rob Heckart (Heckart Software),

Thank you for your interest in the BizSpark™ Program.

From the information you provided, it does not appear that you meet all the eligibility requirements at this time. To enter the program, your startup must be:
  • Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or online service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business,
  • Privately held,
  • In business for less than 3 years, and
  • Less than US $1 million in annual revenue

Interesting. I am privately held, been in business less than a year and currently have no revenue. I do try and work on my projects when I can - does that meet the definition of "Actively"?

Then yesterday, another email showed up from the BizSpark team:

It’s recommended that you provide a corporate email that matches your URL/domain name (no, or and a solid company description. Our audit teams are using this information (website, Corporate Email and company description) to approve/decline or remove BizSpark Members. They also spend a lot of time validating your website.
If you provide all the requested information, you will be approved very quickly.
BizSpark Team

So now I have to pay to establish a web site with email addresses? Even though I'm just starting to figure out what I'm doing, I need to have a website full of information that validates what I'm doing?

I do realize Microsoft's need to watch out for scammers. Since this program is really a great opportunity, it would also be a great opportunity to steal some software - which is something that I am not trying to do. My problem is that when you're just getting started, you need all the help you can get. The hand was extended and then quickly pulled back. And when it was pulled back, there was NO explanation given - not even a screw you automated email.

In the end, this is probably a good thing. I've been thinking a lot about Android and iPhone development and how that's probably the direction I should probably head towards. It's time to branch out and be that multi-lingual developer I've always told myself I want to be again. The nice thing about Android and its tools are that they're free. I'm also thinking about putting Ubuntu on the laptop. I installed it on my work laptop and run my Microsoft stuff in virtual machines. For what I do with my laptop, Ubuntu's probably a good choice. Heck, while I'm at it, I might pick up some Ruby on Rails to see how the other half lives. When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade.

I think I'm done with the BizSpark thing. I'll either use the free tools or just ditch Microsoft technologies completely for my startup thing. No sense putting a website together just to get access to the tools. I'll spend my time more wisely crafting the application(s) I want to build.