Featured Network Partners: Microsoft BizSpark

Our Network Partners share our passion for driving the success of software startups through mentoring, networking, business advice, financial assistance, and peer connections. Network Partners know the startup environment and understand what it takes to succeed.

Featured Network Partner

Company: PartnerUp
Interviewee: Steve Nielsen, CEO

PartnerUp is the first and largest online community for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Founded in 2004 and acquired by Deluxe Corporation in 2008, PartnerUp has developed an online environment that enables Startups to accomplish business goals and network at the same time. This Network Partner provides a complete suite of tools, information, and resources that are aimed at enhancing the small business networking experience and helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, and Startups grow successful businesses.

Q: Tell us about PartnerUp and your focus on Startups?

PartnerUp is the first and largest online community for small business owners and entrepreneurs. In late 2004, we saw a huge void in the way that small businesses and entrepreneurs networked with one another. We wanted to build an online environment that would let them accomplish business goals and network simultaneously

Today, we have 400,000 small business owners that come to PartnerUp every month. We operate primarily within the U.S. and Canada. We provide a complete suite of tools, information, and resources that are aimed at enhancing the small business networking experience and helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and Startups grow successful businesses. All of our research and all of the small business owners and entrepreneurs we've talked to have said they don't have time to network for the sake of networking—they need to network to accomplish business objectives. That’s why we designed the core functionality of PartnerUp to help them network with other people, but at the same time realize business objectives of their own.

At PartnerUp, we’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit engrained in our DNA. Our team brings years of online experience to the table, having built several top 500 Internet properties from the ground up. Our team’s dedication to pushing the limits of business enabled us to create a collaborative online network for other business owners and Startups that would help them achieve success.

Q: What makes you different and what is your mission?

PartnerUp is the first and largest network that's focused exclusively on small businesses and Startups. That’s our core point of differentiation. We help people achieve their business networking objectives and their business objectives at the same time. This really differentiates us from sites where you can primarily only network with people for social purposes. “In fact, we don't just provide a community where people can mingle. Our mission: connect innovators with the people, advice and resources they need to build and grow their businesses.

Q: How does interaction take place on the site?

You can interact with other members via any functionality on the site simply by clicking on our top navigation bars — people, opportunities, businesses, properties, answers, and forums. Any one of those will connect you with other people. We built this site around the concept of function-wrapped interaction. As an example, if you're looking for a person for your business, you can network with people—and network around that specific topic. If you're looking for opportunities to get involved in a Startup or in a small business, you can network with people, but you network through the opportunity section—focused on finding opportunities, posting opportunities, or managing opportunities. All of these tools help you accomplish a business goal and meet people at the same time. While we may skew toward the technology-savvy side of early adopters, we are really targeted at all small businesses and Startups and our audience is fairly evenly spread across all industries and geographic locations.

Q: How did you first hear about the BizSpark program, and what is your process for recruitment?

We heard about the BizSpark program through Jacob Mullins. We had some early discussions with you guys about how we could promote the BizSpark program on PartnerUp. In fact, we have the Microsoft BizSpark logo very prominently displayed on our home page, and have signed up more than 65 Startups. Our recruitment process really focuses on promoting the BizSpark program on the PartnerUp site, as well as having Microsoft people engage directly with our audience. Jacob has written a few articles for the e-mail newsletter and for our blog that talk about how Microsoft engages in the Startup ecosystem and how Microsoft can help Startups and really partner with them. We think this kind of information is really compelling to Startups. From our newsletters, to our blogs, to our member communications, we’re actively recruiting Startups into the program.

Q: What is most compelling about the program?

I think the software piece is certainly what grabs people's attention. I also think the perception of a partnership with Microsoft is a strong draw—there’s this feeling of camaraderie that seems to capture the attention of the Startups we’ve talked with.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the program?

I would give it a solid nine.

For more information, contact PartnerUp at info@partnerup.com or call them at 651-787-1280.