How do I turn my cool idea into a real business?
Well, that's the same question I asked myself quite a bit over the past year. How does a normal guy like me with a head full of ideas afford the licensing I need to turn them into a legitimate business? Well the answer is we can't (without pissing off our wives or stealing software)... Don't worry Microsoft; I'm always pissing off my wife, so that was no surprise. ;) Recently, I found out about BizSpark. BizSpark is a cool program offered by Microsoft that helps small start-up business get the legit software they need to get their business moving, as long as you're selling a product or a service and follow a handful of other rules.
What's the catch?
Well, as far as I could see from reading a handful of blogs and the information in their guide; there isn't one. The catch is that your licensing ends in (up to) three years if your business succeeds or not. After three years, all your production licensing becomes dev/test licensing, but is still legit for exactly that: development and testing; which is still a good deal.
Some other requirments are included in the deal. Like annual revenue must be < 1M (if mine was that much, I'd buy retail). Your company has to be less than three years old and its primary business should be about the product or service you're applying for. To keep the production licensing and stay in the program, your company cannot be sold or go public during the time you're participating. (Which really is good. The idea here is that if you're business is doing well enough to be bought or go public, you don't need the cost benefit of this program).
So go check it out! I received mine in about a day. It's well worth the opportunity to try and build something on your own.