Last summer IBM began asking their 120 venture capital partners what it would take to launch the world's most successful initiative for helping startups capture new business. They concluded that the initiative had to be offered to startups for free, with no upsell and regardless of VC status. Add to this IBM's preferred software, as well as access to IBM's social network of 8 million IT professionals and you have IBM's version of BizSpark.

So today is launch day and Drew Clark, Director of Strategy for IBM's Venture Capital Group defined Big Blue's new initiative for startups as a "small crisp set of capabilities that are what startups most want."

Of course what IBM offers is anything but small. With over 400,000 employees world-wide their strategy to collaborate with startups in areas of health care, energy efficiency, retail and manufacturing under the SmarterPlanet vision is significant. At the start of the year we covered CEO Sam Palmisano's London speech about IBM's heavy investment into this sector, which is often refered to as smart systems or internet of things.

Yet there have been few commercial success stories for startups in this sector so it stands to reason that IBM needs to focus on supporting startups in this emerging market. Drew Clark recognizes that this initiative may not be for everyone, but if your startup is in alignment with IBM Smarter Planet ambitions they want to work with you. So today in Bangalore, India they are announcing their Global Entrepreneur Initiative.

Claudia Fan Munce of IBM Venture Capital Group says, "Our vision of a smarter planet is really a collaborative vision. It's about collaborating with all aspects of the ecosystem: with academia, with government, and more importantly, with the real innovators."

The initiative's aim is to help your startup find and develop your niche with markets and developers who most suit you, which they refer to as "impedance matching."

Here's a breakdown of what IBM offers once you sign up, and are accepted:

Access to IBM's Software

IBM provides software access either on-premise or in a cloud computing environment to help you build your software applications. Expertise will also be made available to help you better understand how to navigate and fully utilize the full range of the software options IBM is making available.

Access to IBM developerWorks

Last April we told you about IBM's big geek network, reportedly the largest online technical resource for software developers in the world. Today, half of the world's developers use it; that's around 8 million members.

Dedicated Project Managers to Help You Build, Market and Sell

Jim Corgel, IBM ISV and Developer Relations, says that "...real project managers are going to be assigned to work with our entrepreneurs." So whomever your target client is, from consumers, to small businesses, to large corporations, to governments both small and large, IBM has a project manager familiar with that territory.

Work Side-By-Side With Scientists and Technology Experts

With more than $6 billion per year invested into Research, IBM has more than 3,000 workers in eight major labs around the world. In 2009 they produced nearly 5,000 patents. With this many patents being produced imagine how eager they are to work with startups who can help get their new patented technologies into the market place?

Attend Global SmartCamp Mentoring and Networking Workshops

Smart Camps will be occurring every other month around the world. Locations over the course of this coming year are: Boston, Paris, Stockholm, Dublin, Israel, England, and the Silicon Valley. At Smart Camp you'll not only get feedback on how to present and refine your startups, but you'll also be able to network with the people most prepared to guide you in gaining the notoriety your startup deserves. The Smart Camp Community is also a collaborative online group where your projects can be reviewed and refined in connection with upcoming Smart Camp events.

The criteria for start-ups to participate in the IBM Global Entrepreneur Initiative are; 1) the company must be privately-held; 2) in business less than three years; and 3) actively developing software aligned to IBM's Smarter Planet focus areas. To apply go here.