Like a lot of very large multinational companies, there’s two very different Microsofts out there, and micro-ISVs can definitely benefit from learning about and connecting to what I call “the other Microsoft”
Besides all of the technical evangelists, development advisors and support engineers located in and around Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, USA, there’s the Other Microsoft in Phoenix, Arizona and Alpharetta, Georgia and Columbus, Ohio. And there’s the Other Microsoft in Argentina and China and even Auckland, New Zealand.
The Other Microsoft is just as committed to the goals, values and bottom line as the Microsofters who work in Microsoft office buildings, eat Microsoft food, live in Microsoft suburbs and drop their kids off in the morning at Microsoft daycare. Absolutely!
They are just a wee bit more approachable, a wee bit more used to making their own decisions, and if you are lucky, a wee bit more interested in you.
Nigel Parker, Development Advisor, Microsoft NZ Ltd.
I came across Nigel Parker, and Darryl Burling when I went looking to put a human face on the Other Microsoft. Nigel was kind enough to spend a chunk of his Saturday (my Friday) responding to questions from 10,000-odd miles away.
Q. In what sort of ways do you evangelize Microsoft to developers in New Zealand?
A. In New Zealand the Developer & Platform Evangelism team is small and multifaceted. We have distinct roles within our group focusing of all the different components of the industry. We have focus on Academia, Community & Professional Developers, Independent Software Vendors, Web Hosting Organizations, IT Professionals, Architects, Business Decision makers and Citizenship initiatives.
Although we are proponents for Microsoft technology we are furthermore proponents for the innovation that drives the IT industry to change the way we work and live. One of the activities that I drive in New Zealand is rolling out early adopter programs to Independent Software Vendors. This enables those companies to get support in building their applications on our new platforms well before they ship. Those customers get the ability to make suggestions and change our platform to fit their real world requirements!
The process of matching passionate individuals to exciting technology is really rewarding. My MSN messenger just flashed up with a message from a customer "Dude thanks so much for the Expression Studio nomination. I've got an email from the PM [Prime Minister] to kick the process off.
“It's greatly appreciated... I'm extremely excited... expect to see some great evangelism from me in the future with it... UI and Design is a major passion of mine!”
Q. Do you have any sort of local developer events?
A. Of course! Every year our team organizes Tech.Ed. Tech.Ed is the premier developer event in New Zealand. For the last few years this event has followed a global pattern and been a sell out. Over the space of a week we trained 700+ Students, 2000 Developers with 77 Speakers (from all over the world), 8 Tracks, 128 Sessions and 1 Big Party.
In addition to Tech. Ed twice a year we run a Microsoft Connect event that spans 3 cities and is well attended by close to 5000 professional developers. Microsoft Connect is traditionally a free or minimal charge event that has greater reach to the regions than our Tech.Ed event. As a team we also sponsor New Zealand based user groups that support Microsoft technology. Last year the .NET user groups of New Zealand combined to create an incorporated society (http://www.dot.net.nz) to facilitate growth and manage programs including seminars, workshops, web casts and support mailing lists. Our team has committed to provide three Microsoft based speakers each year to tour and talk at these user groups.
Q. Any advice you'd give to a New Zealand developer interested in starting their own self-funded company?
If you are a New Zealand developer interested in starting your own self-funded company don't look past the business incubators (http://www.incubators.org.nz)! Microsoft New Zealand and Incubators New Zealand, unveiled at Tech Ed, a NZD 3.5 million technology sponsorship package that will provide 100 incubator companies and 16 incubator organizations with access to software technologies to support their business ambitions. This sponsorship package is being distributed amongst both technology and non-technology based start-ups.
Prior to the Incubators New Zealand program Microsoft helped create KiwiStartup (http://www.agitavi.com/kiwistartup/english/) an initiative where Microsoft, HP, Vodafone and TelstraClear all joined forces to provide technology resources for New Zealand start-ups that want to pursue a technology based innovation or initiative.
The Microsoft NZ Partner page (http://members.microsoft.com/partner/nz/) has a heap of resources and links that you should take a look at. This partner portal page gives you a vast array of tools and information for building products and businesses that leverage Microsoft technology.
In terms of getting access to these tools and resources, the first thing you need to do is to sign up as a "Registered Member". This is the first step in getting into the Microsoft Partner program. You can do this at https://partner.microsoft.com/global/program/levels/registeredmember/. The partner program gives you access to some great tools including channel builder which allows you to look at organizations overseas and in NZ and see what their specialties are. This creates a forum for communication that you can leverage to open new channels for your product or business. As you move up the levels in the partner program you gain more access to channel builder and other resources.
Once you've done that you can sign up to the ISV Empower program at https://empower-isv.one.microsoft.com/isv/programguide/. For 810 NZ dollars, per year for a maximum of two years, you get a Visual Studio Professional 2005 with MSDN Premium Subscription media kit with 5 user licenses. There are some requirements you must meet when you sign up - these are listed on this page. One of the main requirements is that you must commit to developing a resalable product that will support for one of the specified MS products while you are a member.
In addition to these programs, consider getting a business plan together - don't make it too big - just two pages to start with.
Key things to think of:
• What will I sell?
• What business problems does it solve?
• What is the problem you are fixing?
• How will you sell this to customers?
• How will you charge for the product?
• Consider a sales model (subscription, product, maintenance, etc)
• How will you support the product?
• When will you get cash flow positive?
• How will you grow the company?
• How will you allow for investors to invest?
• What will the company look like in 12, 24 months? 5 years?
• How will you get out?
The main reason to have a business plan is so that you can set goals and think about outcomes. It will probably change from month to month but just keep writing it down - you'll be surprised how many times you'll be asked for it.