Microsoft will give startups up to $120,000 worth of Azure cloud credit as part of its BizSpark Plus programme aimed at supporting growing businesses across 47 countries.
The company has partnered with over 150 startup incubators and accelerators across the world, including those with a UK presence such as MassChallenge and Seedcamp, to deliver the updated BizSpark Plus programme,
Startups that qualify for the programme will receive access to Microsoft's global public cloud platform from 1 July, with Microsoft offering startups access to services worth $10,000 a month for a maximum of 12 months.
Microsoft did not elaborate on how a startup qualifies for access to the free Azure services, although it is likely the firm will have to show evidence it is ready to grow and needs support to realise this potential.
Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist at Microsoft Developer Experience, announced the initiative in a blog post.
"Regardless of where they reside or what platform and tools they use, our goal is simple: we aim to help early stage companies accelerate innovation and get their stuff in the hands of customers as quickly as possible," he said.
Guggenheimer explained that the move will build on the existing offerings in the BizSpark Plus programme, which include free software, developer tools and technical support.
Microsoft's donation of $120,000 worth of cloud access to each qualifying BizSpark Plus startup is roughly equivalent to the £80,000 worth of free cloud platform access offered by IBM to London-based startups.
Microsoft has thousands of startups on the programme, and providing free access to its cloud platform could see the company ploughing millions of dollars into small businesses across the globe.
Microsoft could also be seen as attempting to attract and channel startups onto its cloud platform, making them familiar with, and potentially loyal to, the company's offerings. The reasoning is that when startups grow into fully-fledged enterprises they are more likely to become Microsoft customers.
V3 contacted Microsoft for more information on the startup plans, but the company was not available to comment.
The firm is already embedded in the UK's startup scene through the Microsoft Ventures programme, and recently showcased some of the London startups that it has helped to grow.
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