Partners aim to help e-commerce start-ups

Compaq, Clear and Microsoft are offering three-months' free use of selected equipment to a dozen e-commerce start-ups a year.

Compaq, Clear and Microsoft are offering three-months' free use of selected equipment to a dozen e-commerce start-ups a year.

The partners believe their "seed capital" scheme will help boost the country's IT future, by helping start-ups in their pre-venture capital phase.

But it falls well short of the worldwide $600 million Hewlett-Packard Garage scheme announced a few months ago. It has already provided one Auckland company with upto $3.6 million.

Unlike Garage, offers no hard cash, just the equpiment for 90 days, after which the start-ups can buy or return the free equipment.

Compaq New Zealand e-business director Todd Irving says he believes the scheme will help retain innovation in the New Zealand software industry and offers "access to the expertise and market reach of Compaq and Clear."

"By providing start-ups with the technology they need to complete a prototype before applying for venture capital, we bridge a significant gap in resourcing and give them the best possible start when they apply for more substantial funding," he says.

Clear marketing and online services director Ian Scherger says applicants will need strong business plans to be successful but he hopes to seed a number of successful new businesses.

No total budget has been set for the programme, which the parties say will be flexible and tailor-made to entrants.

But the free packages will include 90-day use of a Compaq high performance server, with hosting option at the Compaq Internet Service Centre; a Clear high speed internet connection, Microsoft e-commerce software, and Microsoft's MSDN Universal developer network subscription.

Applications can be made electronically from February 1 via the website that is set to go live next month. Winners, whose solutions must use technology from Compaq, Clear and Microsoft, will be chosen next March.

Compaq say the scheme is just for New Zealand, though it has a similar SpeedStart programme in the US.

Hewlett-Packard's Garage programme is offering $72 million to 15 to 20 companies across Australia and New Zealand. In August, Auckland-based Yippee!, the scheme's first Kiwi beneficiery, received upto $3.6 million plus other support for their venture that offers free software in return for adverts on services.

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