Pitching Virtual Woo to ISVs

IBM is expanding its ISV partner outreach in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil with a virtual mentoring program featuring more than 40 online workshops.

The expansion, announced Monday, is due in part to the success of its development centers, officials said, 30-40 facilities located worldwide that help small companies quickly re-design, build and test their applications to embrace open standards and IBM’s own software and hardware line.

More than 400 developers a day joined the Armonk, N.Y.-based company’s developer network in emerging markets last year, according to officials at Big Blue. Although IBM has developer centers in each country, they aren’t enough to meet demand.

In February, IBM moved up its timetable to get more development centers in Brazil, China and Russia, key markets for IBM to develop partnerships with ISVs.

This time, Big Blue is stepping up its courting of developers. Rather than relying on the developer to visit the IBM facility, IBM is bringing the facility to the developer in the form of tailored workshops, overseen by company architects, who will guide developers in re-crafting their application.

Classes range from getting applications to integrate with IBM’s WebSphere Application Server to merging with its portal technology. They will be made available through the company’s virtual innovation center.

“These classes are going to be online so a student can get it over the desktop as opposed to getting in a plane or getting in a car to get to one of our innovation centers,” said Mark Hanny, IBM vice president of ISV and developer relations.

Members will be able to attend these workshops by calling into a lecture and using their desktop or laptop to participate in laboratory events. The instructor is also available by phone, e-mail and instant messaging for specific questions.

The virtual mentoring program is tied with IBM’s developerWorks site, which features tools, code and how-to articles, to get ISVs connected to the resources they need to get their application moving in the right direction.

IBM also announced Monday the formation of a venture capital (VC) advisory council that matches investment funds to promising start-ups — who are part of IBM’s partner program — in emerging markets.

The company invited seven VC firms to start out the advisory group: Accel Partners; Darby Overseas Investments; Draper, Fisher and Jurvetson; Hummer Windblad Venture Partners; 3i; U.S. Venture Partners; and Walden International.

IBM said more firms would be added going forward.

Officials say IBM’s VC strategy is different than regular corporate VC strategies in that they don’t invest directly in their partners but rather pair outside VC firms to its partners. Support from IBM comes in a different fashion, through co-marketing, resources like the virtual mentoring program, and sales help.

That indirect, though tangible, support for IBM partners is what VC firms really want, said Drew Clark, IBM venture capital group director of strategy, rather than more investment money.

“There’s an awful lot of money out there — there’s too much money — and so the last thing IBM needs to do is go in there and throw more money in,” he said. “What the VCs tell us is more important, more significant, is providing their companies a pathway to be successful in the marketplace.”

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