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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

SaaS Lighthouse Program Flickers

From Don Dodge: Microsoft has unveiled the Microsoft SaaS Lighthouse Program.

This program is designed to help SaaS startups with licensing, technical, and marketing assistance.

I have been talking about this hole in Microsoft Partner Programs for sometime — a little on my blog, but mostly in person to Robert Scoble, Sam Ramji, John deVadoss, and many others. Pretty much every Microsoft person I meet. Microsoft has a good program (called Empower) to help the ISV startup and has, up until now, really had nothing for the SaaS startup. Why is the SaaS startup important? Because Web 2.0 companies are essentially all SaaS startups. Why are Web 2.0 companies important? If you don’t know, well . . . stop reading here.

It is obvious that Microsoft is trailing in the Web 2.0 community — this is embodied in the negative perception of Microsoft I found at a TechCrunch party: “anti-Microsoft” is a buzz word?. Most Web 2.0 startups are making use of free tools to build their sites and view Microsoft’s products (primarily Server 2003 and SQL Server) as being too expensive. While the productivity gains attained using these tools trumps licensing costs, Microsoft still needs programs that will help the adoption of their technology in SaaS startups.

Unfortunately, this program isn’t it.

You see, to get into this program, your company must have venture funding. A few problems with this:

  • A venture-backed company can afford the licenses and training. Period.
  • A Web 2.0 startup doesn’t start with venture money. In fact, very few startups begin with venture. So, the Web 2.0 startup gets no help from Microsoft until after VC? Kind of obvious, I know, but the startup has probably already built a service and released it before they get serious interest from a VC.
  • The venture clause is likely a way for Microsoft to get external validation that the startup isn’t wasting their time and money. OK, but that is no way to increase adoption.

Now, I cannot claim that the purpose of this program is to help Web 2.0 startups (or to increase adoption of Microsoft techologies).

Just to be clear: it doesn’t.

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