Yesterday’s post, BizSpark 101, discussed why we developed BizSpark, what’s in it, how to get it and the key BizSpark roles: Microsoft Champs, Network Partners, and Startups. Today I’ll go into a little more detail on how it works, why we designed it that way and what we’ll change in the near future.
The roles and rules are simple: BizSpark Champs can enroll Network Partners or startups; Network Partners can enroll startups. So far, two and a half months after launch, about 70% of startups have been enrolled by Network Partners, and that percentage is increasing.
Anyone who works with startups can become a Network Partner by enrolling here and signing this agreement. There are now about 1,000 BizSpark Network Partners worldwide. They vary in in size, scope and business set of organizations, including university incubators, government agencies, investors, consultants, influential bloggers and banks. Most choose to publish their profile on the BizSpark site, and you can see them by selecting a country name here. Some examples: TiE, IFJ Institut für Jungunternehmen (Switzerland), Suzhou International Science and Technology Software Park (China), Lgilab (Israel) and the Association of Shareware Professionals.
We chose to work with such a wide range of organizations simply because they work with startups directly, and they represent the complex elements of each local software economy. In many cases we already have working relationships with those organizations, so why not strengthen them? Where we didn’t already have a relationship, this is a way to build one.
Startups can enroll in BizSpark by contacting a Network Partner or a Champ. In either case, the process is the same: the Champ or Network Partner provides the startup an invitation which includes a a link to the enrollment site and a unique code. The startup signs the agreement, and provides basic contact information, and gets a code to access to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) download site.
It can take a couple of hours for the registration to show up in MSDN, but when it does, the software is available for download.
We tried to make the process as simple as possible and also to engage the community. I’ve uploaded a more detailed workflow here. The system works well, and we are getting very good comments from users. It’s not perfect though. After a couple of months of operation, we’ve found some areas we want to improve.The workflow connects three roles -- startup, a Champ, and a Network Partner -- with two systems -- BizSpark and MSDN -- and most errors occur when one of those elements is unresponsive. It doesn’t happen often, but Champs or Network Partners occasionally overlook enrolment requests, leaving startups frustrated. The registration delay between BizSpark and MSDN can also be confusing. An upcoming release will bring a lot of improvements in the user experience, including fixes to both these workflow problems.