Featured Network Partners: Microsoft BizSpark

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Featured Network Partner

Company: Illinois Technology Association
Interviewee: Fred Hoch

The Illinois Technology Association (ITA) is a membership-based, non-profit training organization that focuses on growing technology companies in the Illinois region of the United States. More than 700 member companies and a network of 50,000 individuals are involved in the organization. President Fred Hoch spent some time with us recently to talk about what ITA does and how BizSpark helps its members.

What differentiates ITA from other organizations?

Hoch: We are very consultative with our members. They see us as an extension of their business and we see ourselves as employees of our member companies. We do all we can to stimulate growth for them.

ITA focuses on three pillars designed to grow technology companies: development, talent and visibility. We offer a wide variety of events, personalized attention, connections and publications – all specifically designed around those pillars.

One of our key differentiators is our network of established executives. They help drive mutual success and are critical to supporting Startups as they launch their businesses.

How do you work with Startups?

Hoch: We bring growth-stage industry companies together, leveraging the connections and experiences of the community to increase the overall success rate of the local industry. We also provide the tools our members need to address the strategic and operational aspects of their businesses.

Companies become members by joining the association through our web site. The type of membership depends upon the applicant’s qualifications. About 35 percent of our members are Startups.

Why do some Startups succeed and others fail?

Hoch: I think Startups that fail miss the mark in two key success factor areas. First, they don’t always have a strong understanding of how they are going to make money with their idea. You can’t just build a product without understanding exactly who will pay for it. Second, companies with clear focus do best. Focus on what you’re trying to sell and don’t get distracted. Luck is also part of it, of course, but vision, a sense of purpose and dedication to your long-term goal is critical.

What interested you in the BizSpark program?

Hoch: We got involved because Microsoft has been great partner for us and we wanted to help channel BizSpark to Startups. It really gives new companies a leg up on the competition. They obtain access to resources, technologies and networks they wouldn’t necessarily have.

Why is it important for technology companies to build on multiple platforms?

Hoch: Technology companies once developed only for the PC but today they must develop for all channels. Users want to be able to access a product across every channel – PC, smart phone, the cloud, etc.

If a Startup is not thinking about all these things, it just won’t succeed. No one needs to do it all at once but every business must be thinking about every channel for long-term success.

For more information about the Illinois Technology Association, contact Fred at fred@illinoistech.org