Microsoft South Africa today announced the launch of its BizSpark programme. This initiative is aimed at giving entrepreneurs and small businesses a boost. To make this happen, Microsoft has partnered with the South African government’s Jobs Fund (which provided the initial financing for the project).
The BizSpark programme will provide qualifying local software development start-ups with much needed access to development tools, business support through accelerators and incubators, and connect them with key industry players.
“I believe that you do good business by doing good. Of course we are doing it for the revenue, but we are also doing it for the good of the company and all the companies involved. There is a huge explosion of the youth in South Africa and if they have nothing to do, then we have a problem. As a company, we designed the initiative to help the youth and I also have a strong bias towards the youth,” says Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director Mteto Nyati.
Microsoft’s Clifford de Witt explained that one of Microsoft’s fundamentals are partnerships and that SMEs are the last step in the process. “BizSpark was developed four years ago and we realized that companies don’t want to take out money in order to pay for things like software – so we do that for them as well,” he said.
He added that another facet to the project is the provision of valuable tech support and visibility in the market. A portal is also being developed to support the software that these startups produce.
Although the original BizSpark started four year ago, de Witt highlighted that a number of changes had been implemented since then. These changes include the adoption of an online model as well as a greater focus on realising the potential of local startups.
Dumisa Hlatshwayo, Chief Investment Officer of the Jobs Fund, said entrepreneurship and innovation were critical elements in driving a nation’s economy and that technology start-ups had the potential to breathe new life into the local software development sector. The Jobs Fund is designed to challenge the public and private sector as well as civil society organisations to commit their ideas and resources to innovative job creation programmes.
“Entrepreneurs who start small businesses are the real job creators in South Africa. But it’s not just up to the government to provide support and incentives for SMBs. When big business and SMBs collaborate, they help drive an entire new wave of business and innovation in our country,” said Hlatshwayo.
To qualify for the local BizSpark programme, a start-up must be developing software; must be privately held; generating less than R5 million in annual revenue; and less than 5 years old.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor