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Money isn’t everything, and IBM intends to prove that adage with a comprehensive new initiative that will help emerging entrepreneurs succeed, hopefully helping Big Blue and its channel grow their sales and profits. To qualify for the IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative, applicants must be privately-held, in business less than three years; and actively developing software aligned to IBM’s Smarter Planet focus areas.

The company says a large number of venture capital investments in the technology industry will be targeted at entrepreneurs in the US, China, Israel, UK, Germany, France and India. Under the initiative, start-ups can access IBM’s software portfolio, IBM scientists and technology experts, and dedicated IBM project managers; attend new IBM SmartCamp mentoring and networking workshops with VC firms, government leaders, academics, and industry experts; and, connect with other entrepreneurs and more than eight million IT professionals on IBM developerWorks.

While some of the economies are starting to rebound, it’s a tough time for entrepreneurs, says Mike Riegel, vice president, IBM ISV and Developer Relations. “We’ve been thinking for some time how to package some of our capabilities to help entrepreneurs.” What IBM is trying to do, he says, is to create a Smarter Planet ecosystem.

The three major requirements of ISV startups is access to technology, the ability to differentiate themselves, and the need to get in front of customers. So IBM developed this initiative to help them do those three things, he says.

Riegel tells Channel Insider that of the five key elements to the initiative, the unlimited access to IBM’s technical resources is going to be enormous, especially coupled with the access to IBM’s research capabilities. The SmartCamps will also play a critical role. Piloted in November, they bring together leaders and business mentors “to really fuel the innovation that takes place”.

There will be seven camps around the world, with a winner at each selected to participate in the final camp in Dublin.

IBM has been beating its Smarter Planet drum since November 2008, and has been making headway in its focus on an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent world, says Riegel. “There’s a real hunger for breakthroughs in technology.”

The company has been working with over 1,500 start-ups over the last five years, but it’s looking to dramatically grow that ecosystem, he says, by recruiting thousands and thousands of startup ISVs. This will lead to the creation of a much broader set of solutions customers can adopt to become smart companies. “It will help our reseller partners with more solutions. A lot of innovation will be fuelled by these companies that our customers and partners will benefit from.”

Customers are being more selective on how they solve problems, says Riegel, demanding tighter alignments with their business and fast ROI. “A lot of partners are really gravitating to Smarter Planet. It’s not about IT, but how do I solve deep industry problems.”

As part of the program, IBM is collaborating with 19 industry and technology associations to identify and connect local start-ups to the initiative through IBM SmartCamps and forums at IBM Innovation Centers throughout 2010. The associations include SD Forum, TiE Silicon Valley, Mass Tech Leadership Council, TiE Austin, and MassInno in the United States.

Big Blue also has lined up more than 100 venture capitalists who can provide financing.