Microsoft has launched an initiative to provide free software to companies that are just starting out in business.
The Microsoft BizSpark programme is available to businesses that have been in operation for fewer than three years and that make less than $1m in revenue.
Eligible businesses will get a three-year Microsoft Developer Network Professional subscription.
"Entrepreneurs play a vital role in driving innovation and creating the kinds of new jobs that are essential to sustainable economic growth," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
"Microsoft BizSpark is an exciting way for us to help provide business startups with the development tools, advice and exposure they need.
"We look forward to working with organisations and development agencies around the globe to foster entrepreneurship and help new companies succeed."
For startups building hosted software, BizSpark includes production licences for application hosting, and management servers including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center.
The programme will be supported by economic development agencies, university incubators, hosters and investors, including the National Venture Capital Association and the Indus Entrepreneurs.
"We think that Microsoft BizSpark addresses a fundamental challenge that startups face: access to current, full-featured tools and technologies that help turn ideas into a thriving business," said Suren G Dutia, chief executive at the Indus Entrepreneurs Global.
"We will work closely with Microsoft to help startups bring their innovative solutions to market more quickly and effectively by providing educational programmes, business mentoring and peer networking."
The worldwide launch of BizSpark was announced this week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
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