Microsoft woos startups with $120K in cloud computing credits

The company is attempting to lure new customers to its cloud platform with big savings

Logos of accelerators participating in BizSpark Plus

Logos of accelerators participating in BizSpark Plus

Microsoft is trying to lure more startups onto its Azure cloud services by offering a substantial US$120,000 credit for companies that qualify for its BizSpark Plus program.

Starting July 1, qualifying companies will receive $10,000 worth of Azure credits every month for a year, which they can spend on services to power their business. Those offerings include Microsoft's App Service -- a set of tools designed to power mobile, Web and other applications -- along with infrastructure services like virtual machines and higher level services like Azure Machine Learning.

The BizSpark Plus program is open to companies that work with a startup incubator or accelerator that has partnered with Microsoft. The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant has teamed up with more than 150 such accelerators around the world, including Techstars, ERA and Seedcamp. In addition to the Azure credits, BizSpark Plus members get access to free software like Office and Visual Studio. It's run under the auspices of Microsoft Ventures, a division of the company that works with startups through a variety of programs.

BizSpark Plus is an extension of Microsoft's BizSpark program, which is also open to startups that aren't working with a partnered accelerator. The BizSpark Plus credits come in addition to BizSpark's own system of credits, which offer qualifying startups up to $750 a month in Azure credits for three years. That means a qualifying company could get up to $10,750 a month for use with Microsoft's cloud platform.

The BizSpark programs are important for Microsoft because the startups of today have the potential to become large enterprises like those that drive Microsoft's core business. Getting new blood hooked on Office and Azure early has the potential to pay off big later as companies grow and their needs grow with them.

It's another sign of the brutally competitive market for public cloud providers. Amazon Web Services has successfully drawn in companies large and small to pay for services from its cloud platform, which is now a $5 billion business. Microsoft wants to catch up to that, and that means bringing in new blood.

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