I’ve written in my past
life about how bullish I am on the future for tech/internet/mobile/social
startups given all of the big investments made by the major players.
Silverlight, AIR, Google’s Android, Windows Mobile, the iPhone SDK,
Facebook, OpenSocial, Amazon Web Services, Twitter, Windows Live, etc.
all represent major new platforms that didn’t exist in all their
splendor just a few short years ago.  Anyone with an imagination, some
business sense, and access to a developer or two can get something
started quickly and at low cost today.

Given all of these choices, what could the major players do to help
entrepreneurs make a bet on their technologies?  I’m not talking about
access to SDKs and technical resources… I’m talking about resources
to help start a business.  I used to give this thought when I
helped build some of the partner programs for Microsoft.  Now that I’m
on the other side of the fence, I have some new ideas that have been
born out of my 3 weeks on the new job… starting a new Web company
from scratch.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect any tech player to
actually follow through on all of these.  But I did want to capture my
thinking 3 weeks in to share ideas with colleagues at the major
players… to help them understand the thought process of the
early-stage entrepreneur.  Anyway, here goes:

- access to reasonable health care
this is probably the #1 concern of the early stage entrepreneur,
especially one over the age of 25.  Most people who go early stage can
endure going without salary for a period of time, but very few people
can endure a major unforeseen medical problem.  There are a lot of
options here — extend a health care plan to startups, partner with an
insurance company to provide a special deal for sponsored startups,
pool startups into a separate plan & take that to an insurance
company.  Right now, it’s a pretty ugly situation for startups and it’s
a very common question amongst startup CEOs.

- legal support — attorneys are *really* expensive,
especially for a small business struggling to pay its own employees.
In fact, I’d argue that the last thing a startup CEO wants to do is pay
an attorney $300/hr when that amount of money could buy an entire team
on a contract basis.  Legal needs for startups are pretty standard —
we all need NDAs, invention assignment agreements, work for hire
agreements for consulting arrangements, terms of use/license agreement,
etc.  Make it easy!

- assistance with "scale" problems — today’s environment is
one of potentially rapid change.  Big success stories happen almost
overnight.  The major players need to have programs in place that make
it easier, not more difficult to do things like add server capacity,
make new employees productive quickly, and accelerate marketing

- business development leads — simply put, I need help
exposing my business and its products/services to potential customers.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that if I’m starting something, it is
complimentary and not competitive with the major players.  We all know
that the major players communicate with potential customers all the
time… make it easy to help me find customers!  We would all win.

- access to qualified talent — for many promising
businesses, it is difficult to find talented people willing to work on
terms you need to get your business started.  I’d love to see a
Monster.com for people looking for startups… with information on
where someone lives, the skills they have, etc.  It would also be
interesting to get help with outsourcing.  I’d love to tap into a
network of certified outsourcing partners for example.

- access to internal deals*All* the major players spend
millions of dollars getting their own work done by working with
third-party vendors.  I’d like to see easier access to internal deals
as long as the project matches the type of business we do.  If what I
experienced at Microsoft was any indication, folks just reached for the
nearest or most comfortable vendor to get something done.  Often times,
we were disappointed with the result.  There are a lot of hungry,
capable companies out there eager to please major players in the tech
business… all they need is the opportunity.

The tech giants make the mistake of assuming that the only way to help is by making the technology easy to approach.  While that is a major part of the equation, help on the business issues would also go a long way.  The company who figures out how to solve these problems will win
over the hoardes of entrepreneurs eager to find a good partner that
helps mitigate some of the risks of going early stage.  There you’ll
find great leaps of innovation that will pay off with platform wins and
undying loyalty from the masses.