Microsoft Australia touts start-up innovation

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Microsoft Australia touts start-up innovation

Software behemoth Microsoft has plans to grow the Australian software industry by extending a giant hand of support to local start-up companies.

Through partnerships with state governments, the AIIA and La Trobe University, Microsoft is offering a holistic incubation program, dubbed Empower, to provide and connect Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) with the resources needed for bringing innovative software products to the Australian market.

“While we are part of an international corporation, Microsoft Australia is absolutely an Australian company,” Microsoft Australia’s industry development manager, David Sajfar, told iTnews.

“We put a lot of effort into growing the Australian industry and into making the Australian software economy succeed, because if they succeed, we succeed.”

So when Microsoft was approached by a cash-strapped biotechnology start-up named Evado just over a year ago, it was eager to welcome the budding software company into the folds of Empower.

Microsoft’s Empower program is offered on a subscription basis of $1000 per year for a maximum of two years, after which enrolled start-ups are expected to have completed their development work and be able to move on to other Microsoft partner programs.

The program provides enrolled start-ups with a software package that includes the Windows operating system, Office, Windows Server, Exchange, and SharePoint, as well as access to software development kits, driver development kits and the MSDN library.

“For a small company, it was very hard to negotiate through Microsoft’s resources and find subject experts easily,” said Evado’s CEO Jenny Anderson of the start-up’s difficulties during its first three years of development efforts before enrolling in Microsoft’s partner program.

“Microsoft helped us in various ways,” she said.

After working with Microsoft and Microsoft’s innovation centre at La Trobe University for the past year, Evado has completed its software offering and now has signed a major contract with the Australian heart device company, Ventracor.

Evado plans to take its Web-based clinical reporting software to U.S., European and Asian markets, with the eventual aim of offering the software for free to third world nations.

Besides the financial benefits of a partnership with Microsoft, Evado has also benefitted from the connections it has forged through Microsoft’s relationship with La Trobe University and the Victoria.NET program.

“Through Victoria.NET, we’ve met many other companies; some of which we’ve used in the development of our software,” Anderson said.

“The program also helped us bypass university bureaucracy by putting us in touch with a La Trobe PhD student who has done a lot of work with us.”

While she acknowledged the existence of cheaper platforms on which Evado’s software may have been developed, Anderson said the company made a conscious decision to build on Microsoft’s development platform as it is most widely used by organisations in its target market.

“Very few hospitals have open source, and support for open source software,” she said, “and nearly every hospital and research organisation has Microsoft [software installed]. Building software on Microsoft’s development platform was our decision and we haven’t regretted it.”

According to Microsoft’s Sajfar, the company’s partner programs provide networking opportunities for ISVs within and beyond the $1 billion local .NET market, as well as assistance with what he called “the issue of bridging the gap between research stages and going to market”.

“Evado came to us with a huge innovation opportunity. They had many platforms, frameworks and toolsets to consider, but they choose Microsoft,” Sajfar said, listing speed to market, technical assistance, and easy-to-use framework as some benefits of working with Microsoft.

“The local software [start-up] companies tend to be quite small and that can be a very lonely place for a company,” he said.

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