Microsoft this week launched StartupCenter.com to offer advice and resources for entrepreneurs starting their own businesses.
According to Cindy Bates, general manager of U.S. Small Business at Microsoft, one million new businesses are started each year in the United States (including home-based businesses). Microsoft has brought together several partners, including FedEx, Bank of America and MasterCard, to reach these young businesses.
Microsoft already serves millions of small businesses in the United States with its Windows/Vista operating systems, Office desktop suite and Small Business Server. And Microsoft today offers a Website called the Small Business Center, which tends to focus more on technology information for established small businesses.
But this newest site appears to be part of a strategy by Microsoft to reach small businesses more broadly and deeply. For instance, this new site targets small businesses earlier in their life cycle before they may have established vendor loyalties. The purpose of the new site also goes beyond technology, where Microsoft has traditionally played, by providing resources about operations, finance and other business functions.
The breadth of this strategy becomes even clearer when you view it through the lens of two other Microsoft small business offerings. Microsoft’s Office Live, a set of online tools for small businesses to create websites and conduct more business online, has over 400,000 subscribers. And Microsoft’s Office Accounting Express 2007, a free accounting program designed for small businesses, has been downloaded more than one million times, Microsoft told me last week.
Over time Microsoft plans to add content to the Startup Center and offer additional features and resources including: additional partners; more site personalization; and a social networking element.