Microsoft (s MSFT) said Friday that more than 12,000 startups have joined its BizSpark initiative, a six-month-old effort aimed at fostering new software companies by providing applications and support. The disclosure comes on the heels of a speech earlier this week from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at Stanford University, in which he talked up startup opportunities despite the difficult economy.
“These are tough economic times, but these are times that are rich in opportunity,” he said. Microsoft says a number of startups are producing Windows applications, including ZocDoc, Tweba and SquareClock. Ballmer’s remarks, however, were balanced by the software maker’s announcement the day before that it would cut 3,000 additional jobs.
In a similar vein to BizSpark, Qualcomm Ventures, the funding arm of wireless chip giant Qualcomm (s QCOM), earlier this week unveiled the QPrize. The competition will provide $550,000 to four startups with the best wireless, consumer and green technology business plans. Both projects seem to point to a larger effort by technology leaders to promote startup creation during these cloudy economic times.