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: Pixel Programming
Interviewee: Phil Winstanley, Founder

Pixel Programming is a Web Application Development company that offers solutions to a wide range of businesses around the world. Its mission is to provide its clients with the best software development solutions from leading experts in the areas of development and systems design. As a Microsoft® BizSpark™ Network Partner, the firm has already signed up more than 100 Startup companies.

Q: Tell us a little about Pixel Programming?

Founded in 2007, Pixel Programming is essentially a software development company. But we were formed in a different way than most other software development companies. After working with Microsoft for many years, and speaking at conferences, writing books, and working with the development community, I saw an opportunity in the U.K. market for really good quality people to write software, so I formed the company. And from there we've grown and grown, and now have a range of clients from big financial institutions to small Startups. Our mission statement is really about doing a great job for our clients, and keeping our clients happy. We focus on giving them what they need as opposed to just offering what they ask for from us. Our tag line or our mission statement—delivering simple solutions to complex problems.

Q: How are you structured? Do you have a staff of developers that you work with?

Yes, we work with contractors. We don't employ any staff because of the way that our work comes in, it's very fluid. We have two directors within the business who manage the projects and the operations side of things, as well as monkeying with the code every now and again. We’re really all developers at heart. We have a crew of about 15 different contractors that we work with on different projects depending on the skill set required. We only use the best industry-leading people for what we're doing—whether technology- or market-focused. Our business is primarily in the U.K., although we have clients all over the world from Australia to Iceland.

Q: Tell us about how you first heard about the Microsoft BizSpark program and what your involvement has been so far?

I first heard about BizSpark about a year ago. Over time, as I’ve worked more with the community, and especially during the last year and the economic downturn, it became increasingly clear that people starting up businesses really needed help. And one of the barriers, especially in software development, has been licensing costs, and the fear of getting trapped in a big financial hole. Once I heard more about BizSpark through Bindi Karia, the UK VC/Emerging Business Lead at Microsoft, it really piqued my interest. Because of all the work that we do in the U.K—we have huge conferences with hundreds of developers—we have exposure to a prime audience of potential Startups for BizSpark. Within this audience of Startup businesses, everyone's got a business idea. These software developers just don’t necessarily have the time or the inclination to go about doing it. BizSpark offers a big carrot, as opposed to a stick, to help them. In fact, initially, we signed up as a Startup because one of the businesses that we run was building products for software developers. That got us into BizSpark. Then a week later, I was speaking to Bindi about getting started as a Network Partner.

Q: Tell us a little about the Startups you work with?

I’d say the majority of the Startups that we work with are individual developers who are looking to start a company, or they've got a product idea. They're looking for advice about how to go about doing things, and not just on the software side of the business. They have questions such as how to form a business, the legal structures that are in place for them, etc. In the U.K., starting a new business is quite complicated. After we answer these questions, the Startup tells us what they want to build, and how they plan to build it. We’ve formed a really good relationship with our Startups, where we've just given advice and chatted with them. For us, it's great because we're building up a network of different Startups, and for Startups, we're helping them make important connections.

Q: What do you think is the biggest benefit of being a BizSpark Network Partner?

For me, it’s exposure to the Startups. It's learning about the products and the different people that are out there. It's very inspiring listening to the ideas that people have, and finding out more about what they're doing. There's such passion in the software development world, which is normally a very dry world.

Q: What do your Startup companies think about the program and what is most valuable to them about BizSpark?

I think the first thing that people say when they hear about BizSpark is—what's the catch? They don't believe that Microsoft can be this generous. But, times are changing. And the Startups that I work with are software developers. For them, BizSpark provides access to software and services that just wouldn’t be available to them. It opens doors, and is enabling them to start up businesses that they wouldn't do otherwise. So BizSpark is absolutely fantastic from that point of view.

Q: Tell us how you have been successfully signing up Startups?

Because of the position I've got in the U.K. within the development community, I can stand up in a room full of developers and tell them what BizSpark is all about in real terms. As soon as they realize that they can start to create those products that they've had in the back of their minds for a while, it's a no-brainer. It's an absolute winner. They just jump on board. I think we’ve added nearly 100 Startups to the program. Because we’ve done so well in signing up Startups in the U.K., we sit at the top of the directory on the BizSpark site. We get quite a few people coming through the directory and picking us from the list to be their Network Partner, because they've heard about us from friends and colleagues and they know that we offer much more than just the sponsorship into BizSpark. We're happy to chat with them about their business ideas, and connect them to other people within the U.K. that we think are relevant.

Q: What is the one key takeaway that you would like to convey to other Network Partners and Startups?

We’re focusing our product line around quality and high standards in software development. Our first product called Exceptioneer is a new offering for .NET developers, and a good example of our quality standard. I think that quality ethos gets at the heart of our business. We’re not the people to come to if you just want something done quickly on the cheap. We work hard to deliver high quality, well-maintained, good software. And we know that our customers, especially where money is scarce, want to focus their financial resources on the right things. We think we offer a really good return on investment for our customers.

For more information, contact Phil Winstanley at phil@pixelprogramming.com or call +44 7753 747 991.