Microsoft Corp. has joined with three of the most respected companies serving small businesses — MasterCard Worldwide, FedEx Corporate Services and Bank of America Corp. — to provide a comprehensive tool for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. Enhancements will be made to financial management, payroll solutions and shipping to Microsoft Startup Center, a free online guide that provides step-by-step advice and resources that small-business owners need when they start their business. The Web site’s easy-to-follow format opens the door to essential resources a startup company needs to succeed. To add to the site’s existing wealth of content, visitors will receive small-business advice from entrepreneurial experts Rich and Jeff Sloan of StartupNation.

“With these additional resources, visitors to not only learn how to launch their own business, but are immediately equipped with real-world tools to help them succeed,” said Cindy Bates, general manager of U.S. Small Business at Microsoft. “By combining extensive knowledge from four companies that have an established commitment to the small-business community, we are creating a comprehensive experience on the Web for new small businesses.”

An extension of Microsoft’s Small Business Center Web site, Startup Center is a free, personalized site at that is designed to help entrepreneurs effectively get their businesses up and running. With its easy-to-use format, Startup Center is designed to support those who have a solid business idea by helping them complete the tasks required for launching a new company. The site provides comprehensive advice that people can use to take action to turn a business idea into a legitimate launch. The agreements announced today complement the site’s mission by providing even more helpful small-business tools for visitors.

MasterCard Worldwide will provide Startup Center users with access to flexible cash-flow management solutions, business intelligence, and special programs and services. The MasterCard Find-a-Card tool, which enables businesses to choose the right payment card for their needs, is also available on the Startup Center to provide entrepreneurs with easy access to cash-flow management solutions.

“In addition to a great idea and perseverance, MasterCard Worldwide understands entrepreneurs need relevant and readily accessible business tools to help them succeed,” said Bruno Perreault, group head of Global Small Business and Mid-Sized Enterprises at MasterCard Worldwide. “MasterCard is pleased to be the small-business payment card brand on the Startup Center while also providing Startup Center users with key business resources that enable entrepreneurs to focus on getting their business started.” As the top small-business lender in the United States, Bank of America will provide Startup Center users with a host of small-business financial and payroll management tools, small-business checking and credit card accounts, and its online health insurance platform.

Visitors to Startup Center will also have direct access to FedEx Express and FedEx Ground’s reliable shipping and time-saving tools and resources tailored to the needs of small businesses. With more than 1,400 locations, FedEx Kinko’s Office and Print Centers will provide a virtual office for small businesses that offers a full range of FedEx shipping services, as well as copying, printing, signs, graphics and Internet access.

“Small-business owners truly are the backbone of the world’s economy and are some of our most important customers at FedEx,” said Karen Rogers, vice president of marketing at FedEx. “We are pleased to be a part of the Microsoft Startup Center and to offer FedEx services tailored to small businesses in one easy point of access.”

Visitors to Startup Center will gain insight from two of the country’s top entrepreneurial experts, Jeff and Rich Sloan, chief “startupologists” and co- founders of StartupNation.