October 1, 2007 12:21 PM PDT

Microsoft gives U.K. start-ups a helping hand

U.K. companies with "high potential" can now get a helping hand from Microsoft, the software giant said Monday, as it launched a new program to support start-ups.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said the aim of the so-called Startup Accelerator Programme is to help those companies that show enormous potential but find it difficult to get started in the right way. A similar program has been running in the U.S. since August.

"Software offers huge opportunities for new U.K. businesses, but even great ideas and groundbreaking innovation are sometimes not enough to bring long-term success," Ballmer said.

The program is designed to "help fledgling businesses realize their potential and achieve success," he added. It includes technical support and guidance on Microsoft technologies and platforms including Silverlight--Microsoft's competitor to Adobe Systems' Flash--and its Live service, which also received a shot in the arm with the announcement of new services on Monday.

To help promote their businesses, Microsoft will be offering commercial help as well, but first companies have to "be successful" in being considered suitable by Microsoft. Once accepted, qualifying start-ups will get access to tools and services to help "accelerate their businesses commercially," the company said in a statement. This will include "access to marketing and sales support, as well as business-development sessions hosted by Microsoft."

The program was launched at a half-day conference in London. At least four companies--Miomni, Zebtab, Corebridge and ViaPost--have already successfully joined the program.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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