IBM is launching something it calls the IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative this week, a program that's essentially a quid pro quo arrangement by which software startups get free access to its software and technologists and Big Blue gets first crack at infusing the next generation of applications with its core WebSphere middleware platform.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) clearly understands that if it really wants to make its Smarter Planet marketing strategy take flight, it's going to need its software to be the cornerstone for ambitious developers working on applications designed to address big-picture issues like health care, energy efficiency and transportation.
This is especially true in developing countries such as China and India, where competitors such as SAP (NYSE: SAP), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) have joined IBM in investing billions of dollars to establish strategic development hubs and provide seed money for fledgling software developers that might otherwise struggle finding startup capital and supporting hardware and software.
It's no accident that IBM unveiled the initiative Wednesday to 300 venture capital, business, government and academic leaders at its venture capital forum in Bangalore, India.
"A large number of venture capital investments in the technology industry will be targeted at entrepreneurs in the U.S., China, Israel, U.K., Germany, France and India this year," Promod Haque, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, said in a statement. "To make these investments count, startups must have the right skills in place to bring new technologies to market more quickly."
Under the initiative, developed in part by IBM's Venture Capital Group, software startups -- defined as private companies that have been in business for less than three years -- will be able to download IBM's software portfolio through the cloud for free.
These startups will also have an opportunity to pick the brains of IBM's researchers, scientists and project managers in one-on-one sessions to glean insights not only into the software development process, but about what it takes from a sales and marketing perspective to get their companies off the ground.
IBM officials said the goal is to find software developers working on projects and applications aligned with its Smarter Planet framework. Selected participants will also gain access to IBM's developerWorks global social network to build relationships with more than 8 million IT professionals.
IBM will collaborate with 19 technology associations around the world, including the likes of U.S.-based organizations such as SD Forum, TiE Silicon Valley, Mass Tech Leadership Council, TiE Austin and MassInno, to identify "promising" local startups for the program.