Malaysian tech startups get Microsoft boost

Software giant will shell out US$84.8 million over three years and provide free software, to help startups and technopreneurs in Malaysia.
Written by Lee Min Keong, Contributor

KUALA LUMPUR--Microsoft has pledged to invest 300 million ringgit (US$84.8 million) over three years to boost the success rate of local technopreneurs and startups.

Provided through the software giant's newly-launched BizSpark program, the investment is expected to help 500 startups and create some 5,000 new jobs in Malaysia. It will also generate an additional 1 billion ringgit (US$282.7 million) for the country's software economy.

Microsoft's Malaysia managing director, Yasmin Mahmood, said BizSpark aims to encourage innovation, creativity and nurture entrepreneurialism amongst the country's most promising startups, by providing them free access to software, tools and other resources--at a stage where they need it most, but can least afford it.

"During times of economic stress, it's even more important that startups have the technology and market resource support they need to succeed," Yasmin said Thursday at the program's launch here. "We believe the combination of technology and partner support provided by BizSpark is the right formula to put young companies on the road to success."

"Microsoft is investing a total of 300 million ringgit, which translates to 625,000 ringgit (US$176,688) per startup to ensure they are developing on the best technology currently available in the market," she added.

Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry Malaysia (Pikom), and eight industry stakeholders have been roped in as network partners to support the program.

"We already have 10 startups signed on to form the pioneer batch, and we're targeting for 500 companies to be equipped over the next three years," Yasmin said, adding that Malaysia was the third country to see the launch of BizSpark.

The three-year program is targeted at technopreneurs who have established private companies developing software-based products or services. These companies should have been in business no more than three years, and generate an annual revenue of less than US$500,000, said Peter Tam, Microsoft Malaysia's senior lead for software innovation initiatives.

"Through BizSpark, startups will be given a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Premium three-year subscription, giving them access to download a broad set of design and development tools needed to build, test and maintain an application on the Microsoft platform, as well as professional support services and expert information resources," Tam explained. Selected companies will have access to Microsoft products such as Visual Studio, Windows Server and SharePoint.

The program will also provide a global network of hosting partners offering discounted hosting services for startups looking to take their business or product online, he said. Startups will also have the opportunity to be profiled and promoted on BizSparkDB, an online business directory, through which Microsoft promotes promising startups from around the world.

According to the MDeC's vice president, Saifol Shamlan, BizSpark offers another platform on which MSC Malaysia, Microsoft and its other network partners, can strategically collaborate to help drive transformation in Malaysia's ICT industry.

As of end-2007, MSC companies recorded revenues of about 17 billion ringgit (US$4.8 billion), with exports totaling 5.5 billion ringgit (US$1.6 billion).

Saifol said: "Today, there are 319 MSC Malaysia companies that are actively on the Microsoft platform contributing 2.97 billion ringgit (US$836,619) in revenues, at the end of 2006--a clear testimony that public-private partnerships play an important part in bringing more to the table," said Saifol.

Urekalabs is one of the 10 pioneering startups that signed up for the BizSpark program. The company's CEO Razlan Mustapha said: "With BizSpark, as a young startup, the initial zero licensing costs for Microsoft's software and development tools will greatly help us in re-focusing our limited funds, into other areas to help us in our startup journey to reach profitability."

"The support structure that Microsoft BizSpark provides will also help our developers, should they need any technical support," Razlan added.

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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