Paris-based start-up Commerce Guys has been awarded the top prize at Microsoft's BizSpark European Summit, which gave fifteen of its most promising start-ups a chance to pitch live in front of an audience of investors and judges in London.

BizSpark is a global programme that aims to provide software start-ups with the development tools, technical support and business training they need to get their companies off the ground. Participants in the programme also get access to Microsoft's cloud platform, as well as a network of over 2,000  incubators, investors, advisers and government agencies.

Commerce Guys offers a suite of cloud-based solutions to help merchants use the Drupal open source content management system for their online stores. Since its launch 10 months ago, over 15,000 users – ranging from small companies to large – have signed up for Drupal Commerce, which includes software, consultancy and training.

“You may be wondering how an open source company gets to be part of BizSpark. In fact, the company has collaborated with Microsoft from its early days and is on Windows Azure,” said Frédéric Plais, CEO of Commerce Guys.

“We know that when we are targeting the enterprise market, a lot of them are going to be on the Microsoft stack, so this opens up a big potential market for us.”

Commerce Guys will now join the Microsoft BizSpark One programme for high-potential companies that demonstrate a strong potential to succeed, shape the industry’s future and enhance the overall value of Microsoft products and services for end users.

This means that Microsoft will work closely with Commerce Guys on a one-on-one basis to provide customised engagement plans to accelerate the company's growth, including access to technical, marketing and business development resources.

Other start-ups that scored highly in the competition include The Netherlands’ Autitouch, Ireland’s Jampot (also winner of the People’s Choice Award with over 12,000 votes), Israel’s Foresight, Belgium’s miMedication and Italy’s Paperlit.

Dan’l Lewin corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development at Microsoft said that the 15 finalists, that had been wittled down from 13,000 start-ups participating in the BizSpark programme in Europe, represented a cross section of companies that have a real chance of success.

“By definition these are risky ventures, and you reduce your risk over time by meeting new people, refining your conversation, focusing your agenda and getting closer to market,” said Lewin in an interview with Techworld.

“Maybe they'll get financing out if it, maybe they'll just learn a lot more about how to approach things through the questioning and interaction with investors.”

Commenting on the growing technology cluster in London's Tech City, Lewin added that start-ups in the UK have as good a chance as any to attract investment.

“Microsoft is very very bullish on the positives about the rise of entrepreneurship everywhere locally around the world. This is for the greater good. It draws people into the economy because IT is an enabler for new economic impact, and the innovation process is about economic impact.”