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By 3 September 2013 | Categories: news

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Microsoft South Africa today announced that, in partnership with the government’s Jobs Fund,  it will be “dramatically expanding” its BizPark programme,  which supports small software developer entrepreneurs.

Even more significantly from a potential employment perspective, the initiative intends to help create up to 600 technology start-ups over the next three years.

Mteto Nyati, Microsoft SA’s managing director, pointed out that the success of a start-up software company was dependent on attracting paying customers. Therefore, one of the priorities of the BizSpark initiative, he explained, is to help in this regard by driving the development of high-quality software and providing access to markets, both directly, and through Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

To qualify for the local BizSpark programme, a start-up must be developing software; privately held; currently generating less than R5 million in annual revenue; and less than five years old.

A leg up rather than a hand out

The initiative will use funding from the government’s Jobs Fund and Microsoft’s own 4Afrika initiative to give companies that qualify access to  development tools, business support through accelerators and incubators and connect them with key industry players.

Nyati elaborated that the enhanced BizSpark programme would not only give small software developer start-ups a far greater ability to develop local solutions, but also the business acumen to take their software to market. To this end, the programme will offer technical support, business training and exposure to a network of more than 2 000 partners to connect small businesses with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters.

Nyati continued that as the BizSpark programme grows, it would further aim to recruit small software start-ups in specific areas, like education and healthcare.

Prosperity, together

Dumisa Hlatshwayo, Jobs Fund’s chief investment officer, added that entrepreneurship and innovation were critical elements in driving a nation’s economy, and that technology start-ups had the potential to breathe new life into the local software development sector.

“Entrepreneurs who start small businesses are the real job creators in South Africa. But it’s not just up to the government to provide support and incentives for SMBs. When big business and SMBs collaborate, they help drive an entire new wave of business and innovation in our country,” added Hlatshwayo. 

To the point

According to Nyati, the BizSpark programme had already been a “breeding ground” for some incredible start-up entrepreneurs and small software businesses. “But we can do a lot more for this community by partnering with government and local incubators to provide additional benefits to our start-ups, improving their success and that of the broader ICT industry. This will grow the industry and ultimately provide more people with employment,” he concluded.

The new announcement is not the first significant employment-friendly move by Microsoft in the past few months. Back in June, the company announced that it would train more than 3000 unemployed graduates, enabling them to obtain permanent jobs in the technology sector in the next three years.

More recently, the company also unveiled its Technology Centre in Bryanston, aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, while enabling local companies to become more competitive on a global scale.

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