Greetings everyone!

On Friday, March 25th in Central London, we hosted the BizSparkCamp for Azure, a day focused bringing UK BizSpark companies up to speed on Microsoft Cloud Computing

The day designed to offer the following assistance to entrepreneurs, in particular, the CTOs and developers/architects within Technology Startups.

  • Learn to build new applications in the Microsoft cloud

  • Get insights and guidance from other startups who have built their applications on Windows Azure

  • Potential Nomination for BizSpark One (an invitation only program) for high potential startups

  • Practical “how-to” tips on how to get started in the Microsoft Cloud.

The event consisted of a morning of keynotes and presentations from companies who have already built out applications on Azure.

Mark Taylor, Senior Director of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group, and Board Member for Microsoft UK, delivered the keynote to the audience. He focused on our Vision for Cloud, and his view of the future.

Sam Rosenbalm flew in from our Redmond Corporate BizSpark Team to talk about BizSpark Connect, and to provide practical support and guidance to the UK BizSpark companies about how to leverage the BizSpark platform on a global basis. http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/Connect.aspx

Mark Quirk (@markqu) and Eric Nelson (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukisvdev/) then spoke around practical hints and tips to help the startups get BizSpark Azure subscription up and running, and advice on how to get started on building their first application. It’s also worth checking out David Gristwood’s blog around Azure. Everything you need to know in one place! (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/david_gristwood/)

Finally, four companies presented their Azure applications to the other startups to give them an idea of how Azure has impacted their business. All the presentations were deeply insightful and really provided hard evidence that showcased the value of the Microsoft Cloud platform to their respective businesses.

1) Exceedra – a BizSpark One company focused on Insight Driven Planning – in the Cloud! - in the Retail and Consumer Goods sector. Exceedra were one of the winners of the BizSparkCamp Pitch Contest in 2010, and the presentation focused on what they’ve been able to achieve in just one year since joining the BizSpark Programme.

2) Xylyx - a BizSpark Company focused on micropayments in the Cloud. Xylyx were also one of the winners of the BizSparkCamp Pitch Contest in 2010.

3) mydeo – myDeo has been working with the Emerging Business Team since 2005, so were a great example of a more established company, and why they chose to switch to Azure. They focus on Secure Enterprise Content Delivery for all a company’s media.

4) AllMyPlans – a BizSpark Company focused on keeping all your finance documentation in one place and up to date.

The afternoon consisted of a series of Technical and Business-focused breakout tracks, where Eric Nelson and David Gristwood presented a series of Technical Briefings. Simon Karn from Microsoft and Andrew O’Conner from InishTech presented a session on understanding the Commercials of the Cloud from a Microsoft Perspective. Exceedra, mydeo and xylyx then followed on to discuss their business models in the cloud, and how it has benefited their businesses. Some great statements were made by all three of them. “Azure shortens my sales cycle significantly - it means that I no longer have to sell to IT, I can sell directly to the Business, and close the deal in a significantly shorter timeframe” “Azure has saved thousands of pounds from my bottom line – it makes complete business sense to us”

We finished off the day with a pitch contest, with five great Judges at the helm and seven startups pitching for the grand prize. Kynetix was the generous donor of a £10k prize for the winner of the pitch contest, to assist the winner in building out their Azure application.

The pitching companies were:

  1. Certivox - Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) company, providing on-demand encryption key generation, management and distribution for the cloud. CertiVox solutions work for large enterprises, independent software vendors, and software-as-a-service providers.
  2. Cirrious – developed a product called SysAzure - a monitoring and reporting tool for cloud applications. Azure itself frees SysAdmins from many of their traditional “maintenance” tasks . AppAdmins can instead focus on business level challenges – on improving quality and efficiency at the application level – and this is where SysAzure is targeted.
  3. Immersive Forensics - aims to be the provider of leading solutions for the forensic and policing sector. Leveraging new technologies such as low cost yet high power mobile phone and tablet platforms they are provide a tool set to bring the forensic expert into the digital age
  4. Lost Property Heaven – a SaaS lost property management system for companies of all sizes to use to look after their customer's property. This system feeds a single central database which is then searchable by the general public allowing them to easily find their lost property and have it returned to them wherever in the world they are.
  5. MetaBasics - BigSociety (big.so/ciety domain) - Website optimised for mobile devices and utilising geolocation. People can post jobs with optional reward (e.g. £0-500) and search available jobs within their immediate radius (e.g. 50 miles).
  6. Scoville - allows the user to remember, share and discover places they love. Scoville let users discover new places through very simple signals such as Foursquare check ins or a simple Like. Their location-based recommendation engine understands places, the user social graph and their geolocation, so they can use the power of the crowd to something that’s unique to everyone.
  7. StockYoyo - an investment website which uses game mechanics and social networking to teach people about investing. Members make simple predictions about stock prices which help StockYoyo generate an investing profile for them and aggregate crowd sourced data about stocks for everyone.

The winner for best pitch was Certivox, and the overall winner of the pitch contest and the £10k prize from Kynetix was Cirrious! Well done Stuart!

All in all, the startups left with a great insight into the Azure as a platform – we provided them with enough information to get out there building the next generation of Cloud Applications on the Microsoft platform.

There were over 80 delegates who attended the day, and 10 Microsoft staff to support the occasion.

As a final giveaway, the Microsoft Technology Centre in Reading, the BizSpark team and the Azure team at Microsoft offered half day Architectural Design Sessions with our Cloud Architects in our technology labs in Reading. As of today, 14 startups have booked the free half day sessions with us in May and counting!

And to finish off, some great quotes from the day:

“Great networking opportunity, feels like a community. Exceeded expectations”

“An excellent event. I look forward to the next Microsoft event”

“Great opportunity to learn about new ways to use Azure”

“Another excellent event. Don't be fooled by my high marks - I'm generally difficult”

“I would love to pitch my company!”