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On BizSpark

You’ll remember that recently I reviewed Windows Phone 7 Mango from the perspective of an iOS guy, and actually came back pretty impressed with it.

You’ll also remember that through my company, Fuzzy Aliens Ltd, I offer app security services to mobile app developers. So far, that basically means iOS developers: in addition to being where I have most experience, I have punted around for Android clients and got exactly zero interest.

So I thought it would be useful to offer the same service for WP7. After all, Microsoft knows the bad press associated with having security fail on their platform, so should be welcoming of a security guy adding his biological and technological distinctiveness to their own. Not only that, but there will probably be a lot of line-of-business app developers out there who would appreciate mobile security knowledge.

Now the thing that puts me off is basically the cost. I own exactly one copy of Windows 7, and use the free Visual Studio Express. To meaningfully research and code for Windows Phone 7 I’d need another two Windows licences (£100-£250 each roughly depending on version) and Visual Studio Pro and MSDN (roughly £700), along with at least one handset (£300) and an App Hub membership (£60). Wow. Around £1500 just to dip my toe in untested waters.

Luckily, Microsoft have a plan designed to help. BizSpark ought to give me access to most of the above except the phone, in addition to training. It also offers that MS would put me in touch with potential clients and even investors, and could help with hosting costs for web services. The idea is that Fuzzy Aliens would get this stuff for free for a while, during which MS would help build the business. Then, once FZA “graduates” from the program, I get to keep all the software and MS have a new trusted partner.

Seems like a low-risk way to get into Windows Phone 7, and to grow my business which – while only six months old – is already showing signs that I need to find more clients from somewhere. So I signed up at around 16:15 today.

By 18:13 Microsoft had decided that:

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

Well, in fact FZA meets all of those criteria. The basis of its business is secure software, and indeed I am currently (OK, I’m blogging – you see what I mean though) developing such secure software. Indeed I even help out the platform community for free by releasing some of this software here as open source.

The business is fully held by me, and has been operating for nearly six months. I would dearly love to have more than $1M of revenue, but it hasn’t happened yet.

So for whatever reason – though not one they care to tell me about – Microsoft has decided that they don’t want me joining their community. Given that this leaves me free to focus on making the iPhone a safer platform for its users, I don’t yet know which of us has lost out the most.

{ 9 } Comments

  1. Joel | May 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    And how much does it cost to get started as an iOS developer if you don’t own a Mac?

  2. Graham | May 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Joel, That’s not really relevant to my situation, or indeed to mobile companies in general due to the way the market has shaken out. But the answer is £612 for the Mac, £2.50 for Xcode, £193 for the iPod Touch and £69 for the dev program. A bit cheaper, but like me if this was a new market you were just considering moving into you might want to find support for that.

  3. Mike Brown | May 27, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Hello there,

    I’m not sure what your application stated, but it’s not obvious to me you are offering a product or a hosted application. The Bizspark program is for people focused on creating products (either packaged software or hosted applications).

    You may want to consider WebsiteSpark instead. http://www.microsoft.com/web/websitespark/support.aspx?tab=ProgramDetails it is targeted more at service companies.

  4. Joel Martinez | May 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    whoa whoa … who says you need 3 copies of windows 7, vs pro, and a physical device? the free phone tools works with vs express (and also comes with blend). The emulator is fantastic (and getting even better with Mango to let you simulate sensor input). Depending on your application, you can get away with developing and testing entirely on the emulator … and once you get ready to submit an application to the marketplace, the only fiscal requirement is the apphub membership. If all you’re doing is dipping your toe in the water, I’d say the barrier to entry is in fact quite low

  5. Scott Bussinger | May 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Microsoft has lots of similar programs targeted at different groups. Sounds like BizSpark wasn’t right for your situation, but check out some of the other partner programs like ActionPacks (https://partner.microsoft.com/40118451) and the Cloud Essentials Pack (http://www.microsoftcloudpartner.com/us/default.aspx). They used to have an Empower program as well, but I think it’s closed now.

  6. Joel Martinez | May 27, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Further, there are no license restrictions on the Express versions of Visual Studio: http://www.microsoft.com/express/Support/Support-faq.aspx

    “Can I use Express Editions for commercial use?

    Yes, there are no licensing restrictions for applications built using Visual Studio Express Editions.”

    🙂

  7. Scott Bussinger | May 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    You might also ask Bob Walsh (@BobWalsh) from the Startup Success podcast which options might work for you.

  8. Mark | May 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Is the WebsiteSpark programme no longer being run by Microsoft? I’m also of the same view regarding needing to buy a mac, can’t even emulate!

  9. Graham | May 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks very much Scott, it does indeed look like ActionPack might be a better fit. I’ll research some more.