Microsoft's BizSpark helping start-ups, like Pose-a-Pet, reach their goals
Jennifer Whaley, founder and CEO of Pose A Pet™, stumbled onto her startup idea several years after she began volunteering to take pictures of homeless pets at animal rescue operations in an effort find them forever homes more quickly. Great pictures get animals adopted, she says. Even better? A PaaS like Microsoft Azure gives a startup the boost it needs to go worldwide.
Whaley’s idea to help homeless pets become more adoptable through charming, uniquely personable photos for rescue ads was helping to get more animals adopted more quickly, but the number of animals that she could help was limited by the number of hours in the day. She took pictures using a necklace of squeaky, distinctive sounds that captured a pet’s attention.
The noises captured the shots she wanted but, in her heart, she knew there had to be a faster and more efficient way to bring her photo-taking tools to the masses and distribute them out so that more animals would be adopted quickly. As she worked out the details of Pose A Pet™, she networked with other startups.
When another small pet business told her about the benefits of the Microsoft BizSpark program, Whaley was interested in learning more.
As she tells it, “It truly hit us that we were a real startup when we became a part of the BizSpark program. When we found out that everything we needed was available to us (Ed. Note: Visual Studio, Exchange, Azure, SQL, SharePoint, etc.) to develop the kind of apps we envisioned, we knew we had a chance.”
Jeff Everett, co-founder and CTO, manages the technology side of the business. Through BizSpark, Pose a Pet™ now uses Microsoft Azure to house all its images, create animal rescue flyers, add sponsors and helps create marketing campaigns for animal rescues worldwide, among other things.
Even more important, Microsoft Azure is available and scalable to Pose A Pet’s™ needs as it continues to expand worldwide. Azure’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) allow developers to focus on building differentiating scenarios and features rather than rebuilding infrastructure.
PaaS was perfect for Pose A Pet™, says Everett. The Microsoft Azure platform provides a cloud services operating system and a set of services to support easy development and operation of applications for the platform. One OSS platform the company is currently evaluating for use within Azure is Concrete 5. Everett says that will help wrangle in the many contacts the startup has for rescues, TV stations, radio stations, etc.
“We love the flexible nature it provides that our developers need and have been asking us for so they can use it for their contacts.”
Because Pose A Pet™ is dealing with multiple software versions as well as a collaborative workspace, the company uses Git Repository to make sure all the versions are properly cataloged through the Feature Based Workflow.
“That gives us frictionless context switching,” says Everett, “so we can go forward with a revision, commit a few times, head back to where we branched from and apply patching where necessary in order to make our final project stable while developing other ideas in parallel.”
“Azure’s Platform as a Service provides significant cost reduction in the development, deployment and hosting of business applications due to the fact that you pay only for what you use,” adds Everett. “The ever-increasing and limitless computing resources of PaaS also give us a major competitive edge over our competitors because if we need more resources or servers, we can have them up in minutes rather than the time required at traditional in-house data centers.”
Because of all the services Azure has to offer, Pose A Pet™ easily built a back-end engine to create shareable flyers in bulk for automated sends; each animal rescue flyer has a link to a business that sponsors an individual animal, which are then shared all over social media.
“We got excited about Microsoft Azure when we realized that the process was much more automated that we expected,” he says. “The most exciting thing for us is the ability to scale. We know we will be housing thousands of images and moving a large amount of data around in the future. Keeping all that in one place on a single platform like Azure makes things straightforward. And that leaves time for us to plan for growth through development.”
“With Azure, we just save so much time for ourselves and the work we enjoy doing,” he says. “And the ability to scale through cost is beautiful. It’s easy to get all kinds of apps to communicate with the server. For example, we use a lot of Java and will be employing more open source software packages like Ruby on Rails as we grow and customize. That’s a huge benefit of Azure – that we can deploy OSS on it.”
Pose A Pet™ has iPad and Android apps now (Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps coming soon) that use proven attention grabbing sounds from Whaley’s necklace as a picture is being taken. The sounds in the app help the pet focus directly on the camera, which improves each picture taken. For those involved in animal rescue you can create a virtual flyer that can be instantly shared on their social media networks. The app will be available through the Windows Store soon stay tuned.
For anyone considering adopting a pet, Whaley has some valuable advice.
“Be sure you have the space, time and energy for a pet. Then find a local breed rescue or animal shelter and take things from there. Many people don’t realize that you don’t even have to open your home or even your pocketbook to help animal rescue. Visit your local animal shelter’s site today to find out how you can help homeless animals in your community!”
Microsoft is helping these startups succeed through its BizSpark program.
About BizSpark: Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps startups succeed by giving free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, software and support. BizSpark members receive up to $750 per month of free Microsoft Azure cloud services for 3 years: that’s $150 per month each for up to 5 developers. Azure works with Linux and open-source technologies such as Linux, Ruby, Python, Java and PHP. BizSpark is available to startups that are privately held, less than 5-years-old and earn less than $1M in annual revenue.
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