ICT Giants Seeking Startups for Long-Term Relationship

Top players in the information and communications technology (ICT) and entertainment industries are putting a wealth of free (or next-to-free) resources and tools at the disposal of tech startups to facilitate their growth.

In French, the translation proposed by the Office québécois de la langue française for “startup” is “jeune pousse”—literally a “young shoot.” The OQLF’s definition of a startup is as good as any: a recently launched, innovative and dynamic enterprise, especially one operating in the new economy, that is expected to grow quickly.

In recent years, the ICT sector has seen many of these “young shoots” spring up, grow at an accelerated rate and disrupt entire industries.

The situation has prompted many major corporations to roll out programs designed to cement ties with the potential “next big things” in their market. The table below provides an overview of some of the programs catering to the needs of technology startups. More details on these programs are available here.

Program Open to independent startups*? Cloud services Benefits
AWS Activate



Amazon Cloud Services

$15,000 to $100,000 worth of services

Disney Accelerator



$120,000 in investment capital



No Adobe Creative Cloud $80,000 worth of services

Google Cloud Platform for Startups


Google Cloud

Up to $100,000 worth of services

IBM Global Entrepreneur


IBM Bluemix

Up to $120,000 worth of services

Microsoft BizSpark Yes Microsoft Azure Cloud $9,000 to $120,000 worth of Microsoft Azure Cloud services

Salesforce for Startups


Salesforce Cloud Services

No equivalent value provided (one year of free access to select Salesforce applications)

* Not affiliated with an incubator, accelerator or VC firm.

For Amazon, Facebook, Google and other ICT and digital giants, these solutions have been fuelled primarily by the price battles being waged in the cloud computing industry. Disney, the odd man out on this list, has developed a particularly generous program in order to play a part in the development of technologies and services poised to potentially deliver a slew of benefits to its multiple assets.

Taking advantage of the cloud wars

Over 700 million Snapchat photos and videos are shared every day via Google Cloud Platform, whereas Amazon’s cloud services enable Pinterest’s 100 million users to pin to their hearts’ content.

Many tech success stories have begun as a tiny team of enterprising go-getters working out of a garage or an Internet café. Pinterest, for example, started out as a 12-person operation in a small apartment, although it saw its user base explode from 10,000 in 2011 to 17 million a year later. It was able to absorb this phenomenal growth without investing massively in IT infrastructure because it had embraced Amazon Web Services (AWS) early in its development.

Cloud computing is big business: Amazon, the undisputed leader of the pack, currently provides cloud-based data services to more than 1 million business customers and raked in nearly $5 billion in 2014 for doing so. Dell, once the world’s largest computer manufacturer, recently announced the purchase of EMC, a provider of high-end data storage and cloud computing services, in what has been hailed as the largest deal in tech history.

This is one of the reasons Google, Microsoft, IBM and others have developed cloud-based platforms and set up programs that double as marketing tools for reaching out to the Snapchats and Pinterests of tomorrow and locking in their loyalty today.

Disney’s strategy

Although Disney takes a different approach, its goals are the same: helping to fast-track the development of tech startups in the hopes of reaping the rewards somewhere down the road.

Instead of offering IT infrastructure, however, Disney Accelerator opens up one-of-a-kind access to a bevy of top brands and the movers and shakers working for this entertainment industry powerhouse, not to mention mentorship services and investment capital.

That is precisely what happened with Sphero, accepted into Disney Accelerator’s 2014 cohort. Sphero used the experience as a springboard to develop an app-enabled droid that is a miniaturized version of a character from the new Star Wars movie, which Disney has slated for a much-anticipated December release.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship?

As cloud-enabled services expand, other high-tech tools and resources are spreading to the international stage to support the emergence and expansion of innovative initiatives of all kinds.

Mobile application development is an excellent example of this. The three corporations that dominate the market—Apple, Google and Samsung—are making sure their app stores are continuously brimming over with the latest and greatest innovations by providing their development partners with access to the likes of Apple Developer ProgramGoogle Developers Launchpad and Samsung Enterprise Alliance Program. The Apple program is limited to iOS development, and the Samsung to Android, while Google Launchpad, according to its website, is open to non-native apps.

By offering startups free tools and resources, leading ITC corporations are pulling out all the stops to forge long-term relationships with promising up-and-comers. Today’s tech titans are determined to provide these “young shoots” with fertile ground, where their agility and creativity can take root and flourish.

In so doing, they hope to secure their allegiance early on, watch the seeds they sow bear fruit and do their part to usher in the next major paradigm shift. And what do startups get in return? An extensive array of platforms and services from some of the industry’s heaviest hitters and an ecosystem built specifically to expedite their growth. As the saying goes, it’s a win-win!

Support programs for tech startups

Please note:

  • All amounts indicated are in U.S. currency.
  • Programs may be changed or cancelled by their proponents at any time. The contents of this table were compiled based on information available in October 2015.

Who For Whom What Selection Criteria Notes
Startups that are not receiving support from an accelerator or incubator Self-Starter Package
Free access to 24 AWS services for 12 months following sign-up, along with other services that do not expire at the end of this free usage term
All startups To sign up, click here The free offer includes:

  • 750 hours of access per month to AWS Cloud Services
  • 5 GB of standard storage
  • 100 million free events per month in Amazon Mobile Analytics
  • Technical and business training programs
  • Short-term access to AWS Support (length varies depending on type of package)

Portfolio Packages: Similar benefits, with different lengths, depending on type of package and accelerator partner

Startups affiliated with an accelerator, incubator or seed/VC fund

See here for a partial list of applicable programs

Portfolio Package
Up to $15,000 in AWS promotional credit for one or two years (amount varies by type of package and accelerator partner)
Portfolio Plus Package

Same terms or $100,000 for one year

Startups in select accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and other startup organizations, or seed/VC funds
Technology-powered startups from around the world with innovative ideas for products and services in the consumer Entertainment and media space
  • Access to $120,000 in investment capital
  • Access to resources, contacts and key decision-makers at The Walt Disney

Company (Walt Disney Studios, Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN, ABC, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney Consumer Products and Disney Interactive)

  • Support from the Techstarsaccelerator program
  • Support and mentorship from Disney executives
Disney Accelerator looks for tech startups with strong, dynamic teams and the ability to come up with and act on innovative ideas; selected startups must show they are capable of building their business Ten companies were chosen in 2014 and in 2015 to spend three months (during the summer) at Disney Accelerator’s offices in Los Angeles Any intellectual property developed

By participating startups is retained by them; companies are not required to stay in the U.S. after the program ends Coming soon: the 2016 program is scheduled to be launched in January For more information: info@disneyaccelerator.com

Three categories of mobile startups:

  1. Developers that intend to launch an app within the next year and are associated with one of Facebook’s accelerator or incubator partners
  2. Developers that have launched a quality mobile app in the Apple or Google Play app stores
  3. Developers that have launched a mobile app and seen a sustained level of growth in their target markets
Access to a worldwide community and global events, mentorship and up to $80,000 worth of tools and services from Facebook and third-party partners Tools include:

  • Parse mobile backend as a servic
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
    Mailchimp email marketing support
  • SurveyMonkey account for research
  • Promotional Facebook ad credit for new spenders
To be eligible, companies must work with one of Facebook’s incubator or accelerator partners. Otherwise, potential partners can contact Facebook for more information:

“If you’re backed by or associated with an organization that invests in or works with startups, reach out to them and see if they have a referral code. While we’re starting with a small set of partners, we intend to expand the number and types of organizations we work with. We are especially thoughtful about including all regions, not just North America. If your organization does not have a referral code, have them reach out to fbstartpartners@fb.com about potentially working with us to include mobile startups they work with in our program.”

Apply here Recommended application deadline: December 31, 2015

New benefits for game developers coming soon

Startups in an approved accelerator or incubator fund
  • $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform credit
  • Access to technical architecture reviews with Cloud Platform Solutions engineers and architects
  • 12 months of Firebase platform credits for mobile or web application development, valued at $149/month
  • Must not have received previous Cloud Platform credits
  • Less than $5 million in funding
  • Less than $500,000 in annual revenue
To apply, startups should contact their accelerator or incubator for more information

Businesses that do not qualify may still be eligible for a free 60-day trial ($300 credit applicable to Google Cloud Platform products)

Tech startups One year of free access to select Salesforce cloud apps Open to anyone interested in thought leadership from the Salesforce ecosystem of partners, customers, executives and subject-matter experts

Focus on tech startups that are building the next big enterprise app, consumer app or connected device, and are committed to changing the way people do business or live their lives

International program open to entrepreneurs worldwide, although specific product offers may not be available outside the U.S. For CRM services, see Salesforce CRM for startups(free 30-day trial)
Startups specializing in software or application development BizSpark

  • Up to $750 per month of free Microsoft Azure Cloud services for three years
  • Full suite of development and test software and tools from Microsoft
  • Access to hundreds of free training classes and technical content
  • Four break-fix phone support incidents
  • Company must be less than five years old
  • Privately held
  • Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business
  • Software must add significant and primary functionality to integrated Microsoft software
    Software must be owned, not licensed, by the startup
  • Company must earn less than $1 million annually
Microsoft Azure is a growing collection of integrated cloud services (analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage and web)
BizSpark Plus

$120,000 in Microsoft Azure cloud services for a year

Same criteria as BizSpark, plus partnership with an accelerator or VC firm BizSpark Plus is available exclusively through select accelerators and VC firms
Startups focused on developing innovative technology solutions
  • Up to $120,000 in IBM Cloud usage (Bluemix platform)
  • Training programs
  • Mentorship
  • Technical support
  • Less than five years since incorporation
  • Less than $1 million in annual revenue
  • Not a previous program user
  • Not a prior IBM customer
    Affiliation with an IBM-approved incubator, accelerator, VC firm or community partner
Eligible entrepreneurs not working with an approved accelerator can receive up to $1,000 per month in services

Apply here


Danielle Desjardins
Danielle Desjardins offers analysis, research and writing services for media and cultural enterprises through her company, La Fabrique de sens. Before that, she was director of planning for Radio-Canada, where she was responsible for strategic, corporate and regulatory matters for more than 20 years.
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