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MBRF and Microsoft join forces to boost startups

Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) signs MoU with Microsoft Gulf to become a BizSpark network partner

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft Gulf to become a BizSpark network partner.

The BizSpark programme provides technology startups with discounted Microsoft software and support. In order to qualify for the programme, a business must be privately held, earn less than $1 million per year and have been operational for less than three years.

“When we look at patents, every hour there are 10 [new] patents and seven of them are from Silicon Valley – how many of them come from our region is very different,” said Charbel Fakhoury, general manager of Microsoft Gulf.

The programme will be rolled out through the MBRF’s innovation centres, though the foundation will not be financing startups directly.

“We don’t finance small businesses – the foundation is not for that – we don’t give fish but we will teach you how to catch [them],” said His Excellency Abel Rashid Al Shared, deputy chairman and managing director of the MBRF.

As part of the agreement the MBRF will also facilitate an internship programme to host young Arabs at Microsoft Gulf.

“It’s a very exciting time; this is a good leverage of young talent and youth that the Arab world has. To help them bring their ideas and creativity to something that has commercial at the same time conveys a new idea that will create new businesses and new jobs in the short and long term,” said Microsoft’s Fakhoury.

BizSpark also offers Software as a Service (SaaS) startups the ability to use the Redmond-based giant’s production software and hosted solutions – on the proviso that they are developing a SaaS platform that is delivered over the internet.

Fakhoury explained that despite the global financial crisis, Microsoft will remain committed to new initiatives: “I just returned from our meeting in Seattle within the corporation and Steve Ballmer shared with us our research and development budget for next year and he said this is the only thing I will never touch,” he said.