One of my more enjoyable writing jobs is working on the The New Zealand Herald’s annual Innovation report.  It’s a subject that’s close to my heart and it means I get to talk to interesting people about fascinating ideas.

In one story, Microsoft cloud seeds next start up wave, I look at the Bizspark programme which helps technology start-ups by giving them free software, free cloud computing and advice. The results speak for themselves:

To date some 655 New Zealand companies have joined BizSpark and 212 have graduated. The graduate roll call includes some of the brightest young stars in our tech sector, among them are: Pingar, GreenButton, Find.ly, TranscribeMe and Timely.

If New Zealand can spawn a handful of start-ups of that calibre every year, we’re on track to becoming a technology superpower.  

Microsoft New Zealand is generous with the Bizpark offer. In effect, it means start-ups don’t need to pay for technology infrastructure or software until they have money coming in. There were times in the past when I’ve involved with tech start-ups and could have done with similar help.

It’s also clever, getting the next generation of successful technology firms hooked on Microsoft’s software and service infrastructure from day one. That’s going to be a hard habit to break.

And there’s something else. Publicly Microsoft talks about moving from being a software giant to becoming a software, services and devices company. It’s not a bad plan. But the reality is that, for now at least, Microsoft’s greatest strength lies behind the scenes.  It supplies a lot of important plumbing and stands behind a vast array of other people’s innovation and success.

That’s every bit as worthy and possibly more lucrative than being centre stage. Standing behind the next wave of innovators is a great way for an elder statesman like Microsoft New Zealand to stay relevant and in touch.