Sun Expands Its Startup Program

We were so consumed with all things DEMO last week, that we almost overlooked Sun‘s announcement that it was expanding its “Startup Essentials” program to Canada, France, and Germany. The program gives developers substantial discounts on Sun hardware and software services in a bid for Sun to be the dominant platform for Web 2.0 applications and services.

Seeded in the U.S. in 2006 and expanded to China, India, Israel, and the U.K., the Startup Essentials program has had about 1,600 startups register to date, according to the company, with some 200 companies submitting new applications each month. Sun Startup Essentials is free to eligible companies, those in business fewer than four years and with less than 150 employees. In addition to deeply discounted hardware, participant companies have access to low-cost Web hosting services provided by Sun partners in the communities supported by the program, along with free technical support via e-mail. Sun also hosts occasional “Startup Camps” in key geographies; the next will be held in London in early March.

I talked with Sun’s director of Startups and Emerging Markets Sanjay Sharma about the program prior to the announcement, mostly curious about the country-by-country roll out of the program. After all, in the Web 2.0 world that Sun hopes to conquer, every application is potentially a global one. Why cherry-pick regions when a program like this can blanket the planet with electronic resources?

“For this program to be successful,” Sharma said, “we have to have feet on the street. ”

Sun identifies regions with significant startup activity and an engaged community. “We don’t want the first without the second,” he said.The company enlists Web hosting providers to service the program, and puts people on the ground in these communities.

The program is having an impact, according to Sharma, who claims that now two-thirds of Web 2.0 companies are using some combination of Solaris, mySQL (acquired by Sun in January), and other Sun infrastructure.

With the expansion of the Startup Essentials program, Sun is tasking its place among the platform providers wooing the global startup community. Microsoft’s Startup Accelerator program, launched last fall, is gaining momentum worldwide (Disclosure: Guidewire Group is a member of the Microsoft Startup Accelerator program) and Adobe has long supported startups with direct investment and services.

Each of these efforts is new enough that we foresee that all three will begin a full-court press to attract startups to their platforms. That can only be good for entrepreneurs who will have a range of choice in architecture at greatly reduced cost and with the further upside of go-to-market support.



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