Bangalore: To help cash-strapped technology start-up firms reach the market faster, International Business Machines Corp., or IBM, on Wednesday launched a global initiative that would give new entrepreneurs free access to its software, innovation centres and its global network of researchers, scientists and customers.
The programme was launched in five nations—the US, the UK, Israel, Switzerland and India.
IBM will not fund the start-ups but partner select new entrepreneurs through the ropes. This, in turn, would allow it to link its clients to a wider range of products and services.
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It is clear that there is a void in terms of nurturing very young companies, said Claudia Fan Munce, managing director, IBM Venture Capital Group. “We understand that there is need to help in bridging the gap that exists between building a technology and building a business.”
In India, 43 venture capital (VC) investors and at least 150 start-ups will come face-to-face with IBM on Thursday.
IBM is working closely with VC firms such as Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), Indian Angel Network and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), who would bring to it start-ups with innovative, global technologies. It expects at least 100 such partnerships over the next year.
“To make investments count, start-ups must have the right skills in place to bring new technologies to market more quickly,” said Promod Haque, managing partner, NVP. A few portfolio firms of NVP are already partners with IBM.
The information technology (IT) firm has forged some 1,500 partnerships globally for several years now before rolling it into a formal programme. It has acquired 37 of these start-ups so far.
Munce said IBM was not looking for acquisition opportunities in its partner firms. “Acquisitions are not what we look for. It’s all about offering complete solutions to our clients,” she said.
IBM is only the latest global IT firm to take an interest in start-ups. In late 2008, Microsoft Corp. launched BizSpark, a similar global start-up programme in India under which fledgling firms could use its tools and technologies free for three years.
As of February, at least 1,000 Indian companies had opted for it.
Experts say while it’s good for Indian start-ups that large foreign companies are involving them in their global strategies, the output of such programmes is yet unseen.
“Initiatives like the one offered by IBM could be of huge help if a start-up has a product which has been tested and has one or two customers. But if it is a start-up with unproven technology, I am not sure how much it will help,” said Vijay Anand, founder, Proto.in, a start-up support platform.