Thanks to Rob Caron for posting these great links for developers today. Keep coming back for this information if you are interested in developing on Windows devices or if you currently do develop using Microsoft products and software.
All sorts of guessing and excitement about the new Microsoft investment in Barnes & Noble today. One thing is certain, Microsoft is all about the cloud and putting apps on devices.
From the press release:
One of the first benefits for customers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8, which will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore by providing one of the world’s largest digital catalogues of e-Books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally.
From the TechCrunch story, Microsoft Makes $300 Million Investment in Barnes and Noble....
This is also a progression — a very big one — of the funding etudes that Microsoft has been making to developers to make sure they are making apps for the Windows Phone platform, a way of getting more content on its platforms, which, it can be argued, may have come too late to the market. The first product to come out of the door? A Nook application for Windows 8, the companies say.
Venture Beat says it's a gateway into the lucrative higher education market.
The inclusion of B&N’s higher education business also gives Microsoft a gateway into that potentially lucrative market. The subsidiary will push forward B&N’s Nook Study software to deliver digital education goods — which could potentially remove the need for expensive textbooks.
The Next Web focuses on the push to make a dent in the e-reader market against Amazon and the Kindle and Kindle Fire:
One of the first things that customers will be able to experience will be Barnes & Noble’s NOOK app for Windows 8 (Amazon has also built a Kindle app) that will push e-book, magazine and newspaper content to Windows customers.
The two companies will also push education incentives via Barnes & Noble’s College business, providing students and teachers will digital tools and content via Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Study software.
The Portable Future
The really simple way to look at it is that Windows Phones and then the future devices that will use the Windows 8 platform -- like the really hot looking tablets coming out -- are preludes to a future of portability. Developers now have an even bigger doorway through which to walk through their apps ideas.
Microsoft is hosting, through BizSpark, a competition to build web and mobile apps for Windows Phones. You can do this at Seed Philly. You can also, presumably, do this anywhere from now until June 3, when you take the 30 to Launch Azure Challenge, which gives you an opportunity to work with Microsoft Windows teams to put your business in the cloud with an app for the phone or the web.
Pun aside, Wappwolf is based at Rocketspace on Fremont Street in San Francisco. Roland Trimmel, who is from Austria, manages the marketing and strategy for the company. He is here in this video with the team, also from Austria. They have an automation app for documents put into dropbox that is easy to use and that gives me some thoughts on the future of workplace automation.
I get sick and tired of haivng to tag and post every single Facebook photo into albums, especcially since my job means that I have to do this for many pictures. Yes, Facebook does have some automation, but the great thing about Wappwolf is that Wappwolf does all the dirty work for me and makes sure that anything I drop into Dropbox or Box will be automatically processed using all the little tasks that I have created for it.
It doesn't matter if it's a pdf, a video going to YouTube, like the one I am going to show you here, or spreadsheets.
They are getting ready to announce some changes, like the use of "recipes" created by avid users of the app. Microsoft has a partnership with RocketSpace -- our attempt at being deeply embedded in Silicon Valley Startupland.
An Israeli startup called Soluto switched to Windows Azure to help it deliver Soluto to more than 3 million PCs worldwide, maintain its market momentum, and uncap its business potential. That's what happens when you win Tech Crunch Disrupt and people fall in love with you. You can click here to see a full video about the solution.
Soluto Reached for Azure when they realized their new found fame had made the friendly IT solution a hot ticket. Here's the complete Microsoft Israel case study.
Tomer Dvir and Ishay Green have been programming software since before they were teenagers. In 2008, they started a business in the “Silicon Boulevard” area of Tel Aviv, Israel—a hub of technology entrepreneurship—and built an application called Soluto that helps advanced PC users manage and optimize the Windows-based PCs of their friends and family remotely.
“As technology becomes ubiquitous, we want to help people get everything they can out of it,” says Dvir, CEO at Soluto. “We wanted to do it in Tel Aviv, where we could be at the center of all that innovation.”
In May 2010, Dvir and Green publicly launched Soluto at the inaugural TechCrunch Disrupt, a worldwide competition for IT startup companies. Soluto won Best of Show, and suddenly the company was an international thought leader, with media coverage in global outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, and the BBC.
What Made Soluto Different? A Focus On Unsnarling the Consumer IT Confusion
“Everyone at TechCrunch was talking about Facebook plug-ins and Twitter applications, and we showed up with home PC support,” says Roee Adler, Chief Product Officer at Soluto. “But the idea that Soluto could help make people happier with their technology really resonated.”
In the month after TechCrunch Disrupt, almost 1 million people downloaded Soluto. As people use Soluto, it collects information about the PCs they work on and then analyzes and presents that data for use in managing other PCs, which requires a lot of computing capacity. The company supported Soluto with a hosted environment running Microsoft SQL Server data management software and Amazon Web Services, but the system failed under the sudden demand. “Our server environment couldn't scale up fast enough,” says Adler. “We needed a better, more flexible solution, but we still wanted to avoid the risk of a big IT investment.”
An Azure Solution
The Soluto team wanted to power the application with cloud technology. Having already used the cloud-based Amazon Web Services, it also evaluated other cloud environments, including Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud set.
The team expected that transferring a live application to the cloud would be challenging, and it quickly determined that it could support Soluto most effectively with Windows Azure. “Because we could work with familiar tools such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio, we knew that we could get to market much faster with Windows Azure than we would with Amazon,” says Adler. You can click here for a video about this case study.
Soluto users now connect to Windows Azure through a web browser and use Soluto to connect remotely with any PC, while the application automatically collects anonymous information about the computer. “We collect usage data from every Soluto-managed computer to generate information that helps Soluto users quickly optimize the PCs they work on,” says Adler. “But only technical information is gathered into Windows Azure, and no Soluto user has access to anyone’s personal data.”
Soluto users can remotely diagnose PC problems, add updates, or install applications, often in a few mouse-clicks and with no action required by the user. “From any location, I can update my mother’s Windows Media Player, turn on her firewall, or install Skype on her PC,” says Adler. “If her PC is off, the command will be stored on Windows Azure and executed when she turns the machine on.”
Soluto uses Windows Azure table storage to save PC data, deliver it to users, and process it with data from other machines. Soluto users generate tens of millions of data transactions every day, making Soluto one of the largest consumers of Windows Azure resources among startups worldwide.
Benefits of Windows Azure
By adopting Windows Azure, Soluto solved its scaling issues so it could offer a powerful tool to PC users, maintain its market momentum, and uncap its business potential.Complete Elasticity, Endless Scalability
The Soluto team uses Windows Azure to support a powerful tool that allows users to connect to and optimize PCs with the help of a broad peer-usage database, so everybody can benefit from the skills and knowledge of the broader PC community. “With Windows Azure, we gave Soluto the power to deliver an advanced user experience to every PC user,” says Adler.
After migrating to Windows Azure, Soluto grew rapidly. By October 2011, the application had 3 million downloads. Demand can spike by as much as 30 million transactions per day, but the Soluto team can quickly and easily scale Windows Azure to avoid any break in service. “With Windows Azure, we have complete elasticity and endless scalability,” says Dvir. “We are ready to serve any peak in consumer demand.”
By choosing Windows Azure over Amazon or other cloud services, the Soluto team could build on its initial momentum by moving the application to the cloud in just a few months. “With Windows Azure we did not have to learn new development tools—or build a server infrastructure—so we could stay focused on the unique value we offer,” says Dvir.
Soluto is still developing a revenue structure. But with Windows Azure, the team has the capacity and flexibility to serve its global user base and maintain its high-profile industry position in the meantime. “Using Windows Azure, we have the capacity to process hundreds of terabytes of data,” says Dvir. “That releases our growth potential and gives us the agility to watch the market evolve, learn from our customers, enhance our products, and develop a profitable model.”
Here's a whole list of videos of Soluto during their heady TechCrunch Disrupt days.
People think that software engineers just sit around and solve problems. The truth is, no problem really becomes a problem unless there is some human interaction in the real world that highlights the friction between the human and that difficulty.
Engineering and the software they create is not really problem solving, though. I like to think about it more like opportunity solving, as if each opportunity is just waiting there, like a sliver of water in a jar. You've heard of the Aesop's fable of the crow who was thirsty, but who could not reach the water in the bottom of a jar.
Well, the crow finally figured out how to put a bunch of stones in the jar, until it raised the water level. And then she took a nice cool drink. Birds are smart. Crows are among the smartest birds in the world.
Startup engineers and developers are kind of like the crows of the startup ecosystem.
And Microsoft kind of gets developers, so we are showing the world with things like the Azure accelerators.
The Microsoft® Accelerator for Windows Azure will host ten companies for a three month, on site, deep immersion program focused on building businesses that take advantage of the cloud. Through this program, Microsoft and TechStars will help entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators to bring to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless possibilities enabled by Windows Azure’s open and flexible cloud platform.
The program will run from late August through November in Seattle, Washington. The Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure is being powered by TechStars using the same mentor driven methodology pioneered and proven by them in New York, Boulder, Seattle and Boston.
Mentors for the Microsoft Accelerator include a broad base of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the industry as well as Microsoft executives. In addition, Microsoft will provide in-depth technical support for Windows Azure and the METRO user interface environment delivered on Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
No Shift, Just Showing What We Really Mean -- Startups are Heroes and Culture Makers
Microsoft was instrumental in the creation of the home PC market. It literally revolutionized how people work anywhere.
The world is about solving for opportunity now. With the Cloud, people can not only just do business anywhere. They can create business anywhere.
That's where relationships with investors and incubators mean a lot more than before. Real relationships are happening here, and we're dead set on giving the best deveopers anywhere a chance to make the best companies
and solutions in the world.
Microsoft is being nimble in helping startups use Azure, for one thing. Check it out in Israel:
"Right next door to the Microsoft R&D center, the company renovated a large shared space and cleared out a floor just for startups. The focus is to bring in companies to utilize the Azure cloud platform to help them scale and grow, which is a rocky proposition, especially in Israel. Along with the ten startups, there is a mentorship heavy program with forty of the top startup CEOs in Israel.
Remember, that Microsoft also invested in TechStars. And we are partnered with many other investors and incubators in the space. Microsoft BizSpark is making headway in making sure they are compatible with the startup
mentality and with the aims, goals and aspirations of what Startup America CEO Scott Case calls "the real American heroes."
Not Following a Trend, Shaping a Future
Two days ago, we announced our partnership with Startupbootcamp Amsterdam.
It's no secret why. If you look at the latest venture capital trends, investor confidence is up (borrowing this image from the Venture Beat article).
(Image courtesy, Venture Beat)
Along with investor confidence making a tick up, there's been an overall trend among VCs to build an ecosystem that ensures startup creation. Leading investors in the space who mentor, like the folks at TechStars, have realized that rather than wait for investment opportunities to present themselves, they are going to invent the pipeline.
Mentors like Fred Wilson are exceptionally capable at not only spotting trends before they surface, but in creating a systematic culture that surfaces smart ideas within the sphere of influence. I've been an avid fan of Wilson after following and commenting on his blog, A/VC, for some time. He's a master at creating culture and zeitgeist, not by any direct influence, but by opening up platforms for people to express their views. All great startups come from conflicts, open views of open and closed systems, and from interaction with other smart people.
The rise of the social web has led to this exponential growth in startup cultures, all over the world. Incubators are springing up all over the place. If you look at the Microsoft BizSpark blog, you will see a heavy emphasis on events, partners and cultural moments. Wherever there is discussion and interest, there is a tie in to helping startups grow.
Your friends are really good at telling you what to wear, or whether your hair looks good in the morning. Why wouldn't they be good at giving tips at all the places you need to go to, or for the restaurants you want to eat?
HashTip gives you instantaneous tips for your day-to-day shopping, entertainment and excursion choices. They mine Facebook and Twitter and other social networks to figure out what your friends are saying about the places they visit and the things they do. This is another one of those "third parties" interfacing with the big social networks that have not solved their own social search issues. I love where this is going. Soon we are going to have a whole rash of third party apps that will help me solve this tremendous deluge of friend sharing and voyeurism and let me do something with it.
We found HashTip at DEMO2012 and we realized after talking to the CEO Rohit Vashisht that this would be a more amenable and avuncular version of the Michelin Guide.
Startup culture. Highs and lows. Dread and exasperation. Glory and elation.
What really sucks about running a startup? What do you love?
We asked the startup community at our Microsoft BizSpark Facebook Page to take a read on their startup experience and answer today's fill-in-the-blank question. By the way, if you have not joined our page and Liked it, you are going to be missing out on some good content and interactions with startup founders. Visit us now and join.
The Question We Asked Today:
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is _____________. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is _______________.
Here are some of the answers:
Greg Gopman, AngelHack -- "unites startup communities nationwide for a hackathon where they build startup ideas and win seed capital from investors."
The most exciting thing about being at a startup (AngelHack) is having the freedom to follow your passions and paint the world with a purple crayon. The most horrible thing about being at a startup (AngelHack) is you have to shovel through a lot of sh*t before anyone gives you the paper to write on.... luckily with persistence and temperance anything is possible. AngelHack Summer 2012 coming soon :)
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is working with cutting edge technology to show the world your own design. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is trying to find resources to help fund the high cost of software development and testing. Bizspark does a great job of giving startups what they need to create the next generation of apps and software.
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is the freedom to create and to succeed at it. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is the constant doubt and fighting them away.
Jason Barnes, iactionable which, according to Barnes, is "a gamification platform built on Azure. We apply game-like mechanics to business processes to increase motivation and engagement in the workplace."
1. The freedom to solve problems and make change happen.
2. The extremely polar emotional rollercoaster from excitement to desperation.
The most exciting thing about a startup is being pioneers and innovators the most horrible things is leaving the company, but to start it all over again is the reward !!!
Vishal Talreja, Xiimo
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is the constant uncertainty, fear and doubt and yet the fighting spirit to create something wonderful - from the heart. Here at Xiimo, we are constantly trying to understand the small business sentiments, pivoting, re-calibrating to get the best experience, powered by Azure, to small businesses globally. Nothing horrible about that :)
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is learning. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is also learning.It is a great feeling to delve in something new, experience something fresh, pick up a new skill, meet new people, understand new technologies, gain new insights. But it is equally as harsh to learn about our weaknesses, our inabilities, the problems with our ideas, the problems with people, the challenges that all entrepreneurs must face. It is by accepting both the bold and fearful nature of entrepreneurism that we can progress. We never really fail, we merely learn harder lessons than others :)
Angela Fisher, Ace Barter
The most exciting thing about being a start up is realizing that the roller coaster up and down doesn't deter me from pushing forward. I feel the same joy and enthusiasm on the up days, and the down days. The most horrible thing about being a start up is that in-between time when you see the forward momentum paying off, but the money isn't coming in yet. I'm with Ace Barter, and we are a barter exchange - basically a cash and credit alternative.
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is "you are alone and can think on your own: your vision, your perception, your company". The most horrible thing about being at a startup is "you are alone and might mess up everything: risks, lack of experience, high pressure".
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is that your are trying to make your dream come true, and every moment of that is exciting - from designing to negotiating with investors. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is that you need time to prove your idea, and you need money to stay alive. Net Beszed and Experts on Cam would like to thank Microsoft for its help! We are trying to stay alive. We are going to stay alive!
Jose Antonio Morales
_Discovery_. _Fixed costs_.Discovery: it is the engine, we wish to know if we can achieve something different and great.Fixed: any obligation that drains cash: subscriptions, passives, unnecessary expenses.
Written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist, Microsoft Bizspark
What is the most amazing thing about building a startup? Entrepreneurs tell us that more than anything else, it's the ability to change the world in some way. That's speaking kind of broadly, and usually it means they have found a problem somewhere and then decided to fix it.
And with the world being so huge, you can imagine the problem sets are huge. Find a big problem, and then build a solution, and you are on your way to something scaleable. To build rapidly and at scale, you need partners, and that's one of the things that Microsoft BizSpark offers.
We had our own problem here at BizSpark. How do we offer our startups access to the partner network that exists all over the world? Thousands of startups have signed on to work with Microsoft technologies and build in the Azure cloud, and as we promised, we connect them with partners who can provide them with tools, advice, ideas, and innovations.
So, we made a map. Visit the site to check it out. You can use the map to find locations and names for every partner in the over 2,400 member network. Let us know if you have any questions, and feel free to drop ideas in the comments.
Startupbootcamp Amsterdam, the Dutch branch of the pan-European startup accelerator programme, is teaming up with Microsoft® BizSpark®. The latter will support the Amsterdam programme by allocating products, software services and organisational knowledge.Microsoft BizSpark is a global programme that helps software start-ups succeed by giving them access to software development tools, business training and a network of over 2,000 partners to connect members with investors, advisors, and hosts. Microsoft BizSpark contributes to Startupbootcamp by supplying an extensive software package and products like Xbox’s Windows Phone 7 devices to use during the Startupbootcamp Amsterdam programme, and additionally Microsoft’s cloud services with up to $60.000,- (per start-up). Mark Voermans, Emerging Business Manager at Microsoft BizSpark, will be mentoring the start-ups for one day per week.Patrick de Zeeuw, CEO of Startupbootcamp Amsterdam, is very enthusiastic about the partnership with Microsoft BizSpark. “Microsoft BizSpark is a fantastic programme focused on start-ups. BizSpark has an admirable track record and a great network in the international start-up scene. We’re proud to be part of this network and very pleased to be working with Mark Voermans as a mentor. In addition, our teams will be able to use MS Software which will prove invaluable in their current environment.” Mark Voermans, Emerging Business Manager at Microsoft BizSpark, has a clear view on why they established a partnership with Startupbootcamp. “Startupbootcamp is an established international accelerator. The team have a raft of knowledge and experience plus access to top flight mentors when it comes to supporting the start-ups. This knowledge and experience is vital to the success of the start-ups who have a limited amount of time to launch and attract investors.”
About StartupbootcampStartupbootcamp is a pan-European startup accelerator programme. We currently run accelerator programmes in Copenhagen, Dublin (runs February-May ’12), Amsterdam (runs April-June ’12) and Berlin (runs June-November ’12) and will soon be expanding to London. At this moment applications for Startupbootcamp Berlin are open. Applications close on June 17th 2012.About Microsoft® BizSpark®Microsoft® BizSpark® is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to software development tools, connecting them with key industry players, and providing marketing visibility. The program also includes access to Windows Azure, a flexible, comprehensive, and powerful cloud platform for the creation of web applications and services. In addition, BizSpark offers technical support, business training and a network of over 2,000 partners to connect members with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters. Since it was established in 2008, more than 50,000 companies in over 100 countries have joined BizSpark.
30 to Launch Opens Today
If you haven't heard of this before, prepare to engross yourself in a new opportunity. 30 to Launch -- a thirty day boot camp to get your business-as-an-app up and running in the Azure Cloud, with a chance to win $4,000 while you're at it.
Take thirty days to invest in your Cloud Business with 30 to Launch.
Join 30 to Launch | Windows Azure. Here's a little more information:
If you are looking to start a cloud business, port your app to the cloud, or extend an existing app – 30 to Launch is for you. From technical and business consulting time to daily tips to keep you on track, your cloud business you can really kick start things with this program.
Also, what’s new with this challenge is that you can get competitive and stay on track with the 30 to Launch Timeline App. The Timeline App enables sharing of your progress with the entire 30 to Launch community. You’ll have the chance to showcase your app development and see where your app stacks up against other participants. At the end of the challenge, not only will you be equipped to jumpstart your cloud business, but you will also have a shot at winning $4,000 to invest in your cloud business. Sign up to the challenge which runs from April 23 to May 22, 2012.
Opportunities like this are popping up all the time with Microsoft. It's a great chance to supercharge your startup efforts and make sure you are surrounding yourself with the right resources and the right people to get you off the ground and running.
You can also focus completely on building a Windows Phone app in thirty days.
*This contest will begin on April 23, 2012 and is open only to hobbyists, professionals, and developers in the field of software technology who are legal residents of the 50 U.S. + D.C. 18+. Please visit http://www.30tolaunch.com/WindowsAzure/Contest/OfficialRules on April 23rd to receive full details on how to participate
Written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist, Microsoft BizSpark
Lise Quintana is a storyteller and a techie and she introduced me to some concepts this weekend that made me think about building apps in the cloud. You can listen to one of her recent radio interviews, here.
I headed down to Santa Cruz this weekend to meet a group of 18 teams working on building startups at Cruzio, a co-working space on the main drag there.
What I came away with -- among other things, was an interesting video interview with one of the team members building a storytelling app.
Here's here quick video interview / monologue with Lise Quintana about what she was trying to do there. I think what she's saying has some repercussions for app building generally. Apologies for the somewhat fuzzy nature of the lens. I think I got some skin oil on it.
Watch for talking about using the web to make a "mechanical pivot." Storytelling can switch just as easily as a company switches its possibilities. This is the kind of stuff I get excited about -- when traditional forms or mechanics of business, literature or media delivery are forced to change because of changes happening in their own realms.
Radical changes in technology costs and the ease with which you can use technology to communicate ideas, form teams and share products means that we are going to be seeing a very fast and furious rise in the number of almost instantaneous companies forming in the next few years.
Startup co-working spaces like Cruzio in Santa Cruz, just a few miles away from the SVC at Microsoft, are trying to create startup weekends so that people from all over the community who have ideas, or who have tradable skills, can join quick teams and create new products in 54 hours.
One of those people visiting Cruzio this weekend was Lise Quintana, who used to work for a very large technology firm in the Valley. She's since moved on and is doing her own thing. That thing happens to be a hyperlinking storytelling function on the web, which she desires to make into a web platform and an app (hope I got that right, Lise, based on your latest updates).
When Building A Company Shares Attributes of Creating a Story
Lise's hyperlink story that changes the reader's perspectives, not just the plot in the story. It will allow for a reader to engage the story at the same time as other characters in the plot line, with a simple linking tool. It was still in development, so I didn't get the full story. On the surface of this interview, Lise's comments don't seem to be about a particular tech object or physical product built in the cloud, but the germ of what startups work with is right there. We are hyperfocused on building apps that help us connect to people, When entrepreneurs and developers talk about sharing apps, or apps that help us to itemize things in lists and then share those objects in the real world, we are really talking about a shift in how we perceive ownership, viability, permanence and other qualities of reality.
The more we use tools to share and to connect, the more we change our perceptions of what it is we share. I think that is why having storytelling apps like the one Lise is building are crucial. They help us make sense of what is happening in the startup world and beyond. They give us something to think about, and that may help us build something new.
What Lise is talking about in this interview is how it is so easy these days to create a company and create new products. She believes we are seeing an epochal shift in how companies and individuals morph together to work on great ideas. Here's a bit from her update email to me:
The app my team developed was enormously well-received, and one of the VCs on the panel was kind enough to call it "brilliant." This is absolutely the validation we were looking for. The team and I talked about other applications for existing literature, and it looks like we're going to keep moving forward with this idea all the way to a completed suite of applications for both reading and writing.
After much anticipation, Microsoft Retail Stores opened its 15th store Thursday at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California.
The second Store in the Silicon Valley region was welcomed to the Palo Alto-area by local influencers, executives, elected officials, community representatives, and nearly 1,000 customers and partners at the Grand Opening ceremony!
Hundreds of customers crowded the entrance as the curtain dropped and were welcomed by energetic store associates excited to introduce them to the latest and greatest Microsoft products. Many immediately lined up to duel in The Smoked by Windows Phone Challenge! Later in the day attendees were also able to play Kinect with San Francisco 49ers legend, Jerry Rice, and receive photos and autographs.
This new Store provides several offerings to give every customer the VIP treatment including:
Overall, the Stanford Shopping Center opening was a huge success and is another great addition to the Microsoft Retail family!
Guest blog by Ruud de Jonge
This week sees The Next Web conference taking place in Amsterdam, so it is good timing for our local BizSpark champ, Mark Voermans, to give us an insight into start-ups and entrepreneurship in the country. But first, a bit about Mark.
Mark is currently Emerging Business Manager for Microsoft in the country and he describes his mission is to help startups become ‘the next big thing’. He says, “I’m a lucky man, because I’ve been able to turn my passion for technology and business into my job.” After a varied early career in engineering and technology, he joined Microsoft as a Product Support Engineer and became part of Developer Evangelist team in 2006. Mark is a regular mentor at start-up events across the region. Over to Mark.
“On the face of it, The Netherlands is a great example of a thriving start-up community. We have a strong start-up scene and there is a very high awareness of cloud technology. Every start-up I meet is either adopting it or is at least aware of the benefits of cloud. Dutch people are not afraid to try new technologies and explore business ideas; compared to the size of the country, we have one of the highest penetrations of start-ups in Europe. And they are supported by a very strong network of mentors, from all kinds of organisations and backgrounds, who volunteer their time to help the next generation of companies.
But we have our challenges. The majority of tech start-ups are focused between Amsterdam and Rotterdam and around Eindhoven. While that’s good news for these parts of the country, it would be good to see more innovative entrepreneurship in other parts of the country. We also suffer some of the same cultural issues as other Europeans: there is a fear of failure here, as opposed to the US where you are applauded for trying something new, rather than just staying in the same old job. Another factor is that red-tape makes it hard for companies from outside The Netherlands to set up in business here and while our government does a lot for start-ups, I believe that they could be doing even more.
But, despite these issues, we have a lot of great stuff to talk about. I’ve noticed some real niche markets, for instance healthcare technology. One of my favourite start-ups is Autitouch, which with its intuitive software, is helping to diagnose and support learning in autistic children and young adults. Using Microsoft Surface touch technology, it overcomes the limitations of conventional mouse/keyboard/screen-based computers.
Another, very cool new company is Doctor Kinetic, which focuses on making physiotherapy more fun for people with back problems. Based on the Kinect platform, this solution uses video games to help patients heal or prevent problems, complete with automated diagnosis.
I’m also seeing a lot of companies launching solutions on the cloud that are less about apps and more about platforms. For instance, RobinHQ.com – which is one of the companies presenting at the NextwebEurope event – is a tool that enables brands to manage and monitor customer service through the Web and social media. Another is Atomblock, with its online video distribution platform. Atomblock has been hugely successful in its first couple of years and I’m delighted to say that it has qualified for BizSpark Plus, meaning that we are able to provide the company with a substantial amount of free time on Azure, our own cloud platform. Atomblock is a good example of the kind of company we’ve worked closely with from their very early days to helping them ‘go global’.
But BizSpark is not just about Microsoft giving startups free technology, support and visibility: our BizSpark Network Partners are an integral and very important part of the BizSpark program, who help startups in those challenging early stages of a company’s evolution. Two examples I’d like to call out are Rockstart and Startupbootcamp. Based in Amsterdam, Rockstart Accelerator is a new program that helps the most promising teams from around the world to launch their startups and break through on a global scale. Startupbootcamp – which launched its latest project in Amsterdam earlier this month - is a three month business startup acceleration program that focuses on getting businesses ready for funding, launching and scaling to European and global markets.
But the spotlight needs to be on the entrepreneurs: their drive, their business acumen, their innovative ideas. And that brings me neatly back to The Next Web event, which we’ve partnered with to select and coach 19 startups that get to launch their companies (at no cost to them) in from to the audience. Being privy to the shortlist, I know that we are dealing with a very calibre of entrepreneur at this event, something that as both a Dutchman and a Microsoft BizSpark champ, I’m very proud to be associated with.
Many of the nearly 50,000 startups hosted on the Azure Cloud may not know how much support and offers Microsoft is giving to those teams.
Here is a link that puts it all in one place.
BizSpark Partner Offers. Have a great weekend in the cloud.
TourWrist Is Not Just a Panorama Photo App
Written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist and Editor, Microsoft BizSpark Program
TourWrist is an information translator that allows us to gain multiple layers of intelligence from an experience in the past, so that we can translate ourselves into the present.
Let me back up.
TourWrist won a million dollars in IDG public relations and media exposure for having a really great immersive panorama app, but they also won it because aesthetically and functionally they make memory make sense. Business, marketing, travel, and relationships – even military intelligence – is all about memory.
Armstrong pulled off a beautiful app that offers great aesthetics, and he delivers a way to package memory into something we can easily articulate. When we talked at the event he said that having a way to organize memory into graphic mnemonic devices is going to be very, very important in the coming years.
I believe it. We are a distinctly unconscious folk, we humans. We are not very good at paying attention. We do that later. We’re really good about ripping the veil off the world. I would say that the past twenty years of information delivery has been about pummeling us with so much information that we know nothing of the experiences we are having. Information no longer organizes those experiences.
Welcome To The Beginning of a New Design Era
It has not happened yet, but I hope it does. Designers have always been cool, but they are going to be completely essential in the coming wave of “DIS-disorder apps” that I think are the new thing.
DEMO 2012 showed me two things: 1. We have had enough of all the information. 2. We need a carefully articulated voice, choice, and decision engine for our culture.
A lot of entrepreneurs built very interesting and well-developed products, and what I noticed about this was that design was the real theme of DEMO 2012. From HashTips, which helps you take your friend’s experiences and use them to make careful decisions about eating, entertainment and lifestyle instantaneously, to Hypemarks, which orders your media habits around your friends’ choices in a way that Facebook has completely missed, design is the unspoken desire of the app building and cloud server world.
Bring on the Curators
Consumers have the control. They have so much control because they have devices that bring them as much or as little information as they need when they complete tasks. They own the devices upon which their lives will be translated. So you have to create a life for them on their devices they understand. Solving that problem won Armstrong a cool million in soft money. He was able to make an app that helps people look back at places they have been, which in turn will help people plan for places they want to go.
Simple and pretty elegant, which are big compliments for people building new software.
(Photo Courtesy of Demo Conference on Flickr)
My theory is that life is managed by a well-rehearsed habit of language, timing, and repetitive actions that produce the same, or nearly the same, result. Over time, we call this life. The media channels, fiscal channels and commodities we interact with all the time frame our thinking about those things, just as our thinking has made those things.
Technology disrupts those things, as newer and faster, or more efficient, or radically different parameters are set.
Design Manages Life and Design Restructures Chaos
DEMO entrepreneurs, whether they believe so or not, are trying to create a new culture. Entrepreneurs in general are the unpaid interns of our new lifestyles, and they are scrapping and fighting to get that honor recognized. That work takes tireless hours of passionate involvement. Their focus on disrupting the channels we have come to know as our real life is really about disrupting the ordered chaos that has become this epoch’s culture. Our culture has been formulated by megalithic media channels and very strong institutions that no longer look at authoratative in the light of massively scaled mobile devices.
They are not simply trying to create a new app for the cloud. But they are addressing the solutions that were created by building the cloud -- how do I take all of my separateness and disjointed life, which was disguised by my involvement in megalithic singular channels of content, institutions, and commodities, and translate it into sense?
Make It Rain
(photo courtesy of Vilkskogen on Flickr, Creative Commons License)
The cloud is important, because the cloud is both the solution and the metaphor for the New Problem Set. It allows developers to organize all those currently active cultural interactions we process every day – shopping, driving to work, parking our car, changing money, planning travel – and turn them into abstract objects on the web.
The reason you have to have great design is that an abstracted object is now not immediately understood in mechanical terms like language, sound, or smell. It’s a piece of code.
Like I said in one of my tweets, people buy from people they like. They invest in people they like. Your product has to be a person that someone likes. Abstract code can instantaneously be delivered from the cloud into a meaningful cultural object. It can become likeable.
When that happens, you have managed the disruption.
Developers, Manage Your Code
Managed code is a managed lifestyle. Articulated sub-layers of code packaged into meaningful cultural sense – like a good UI that makes the abstract mental action as clear as the physical action – means you are building a real product.
I think that when investors are looking for great products, they are of course looking for well-articulated encoded objects that come out of the database.
Travel Depends on a Kind of Forethought to Create the Future
When I look at Georama, another DEMO Conference presenter, I am looking at a company that is trying to take all the existing APIs and data for travel and put them in a portal. But that’s not the problem that needs to be solved. A traveler likes going from one site to the next to find data and information about weather and hotel pricing.
When I went with a friend to Costa Rica, her sister joined us. As she prepared, she would take the screenshots of the weather being reported in San Jose and paste them on her Facebook page. I would work on Hipmunk and try to find the right prices. My friend bought the tickets. Yes, it was a three-person experience. But it was forethought and planning, and a kind of curating, too. Travel needs planning, and that happens by looking at other experiences.
Why do we travel? We travel to get away from work. What does planning for travel do? It helps us prime the engine for the vacation. It’s the subtle experience of finding out something about a place we’ve never been. When we look at other people's experiences, we can gain a better understanding of what we want to do in the future.
But the Future is Really About the Past And The Work We Do To Create the Present and the Future – Enter Memory
We gently peel back the layers of information that we have kept in our head from the last time we saw someone, or were having an experience with someone. If we have more people's experiences to connect to, our planning can be better.
This is the difference between how information is currently processed for travel and how it will be -- right now, we take information to make estimations on price, destination popularity. But plots on the graphs that are really interesting to us are not about estimations. It's about knowing what other people saw and how they experienced it.
Will this be the right location to deepen our relationship? What is this pool feel like, compared to this pool? Can I imagine my friend lying with me while howler monkeys scream in the ceiba trees? Will she feel comfortable? Will she like the rocky beach that overlooks all of the Pacific Ocean? I play in mind what I want to have happen in the reality I have never experienced before.
I don't have any of that experience until the trip is over, but if someone else had that experience, then we'd have an easier time to make that choice.
Robots are suddenly becoming a very attractive startup idea. Startup Weekend showed us that app development is a topical area that is chock full of ideas, but not well populated with executed business ideas. I will have a post on this later, but startup culture is a design and human interaction / problem set scenario. We need startups that solve human issues that are not solvable using the same thinking that created them, or using the solutions that already exist.
My feeling is that a lot of apps developers and other startup developers are creating brilliant stuff, but some of it is only about what people do on the mobile. The really great startup in mobile or the cloud is the startup that takes the person out of spending time on the phone or in the web and makes life outside easier.
(Photo Credit: Erica Hsu, on Flickr)
Thta's why when I look at robot developments at Startup Weekend, I see a convergence of life problems with mechanical and coding solutions.
I'm not the only one.
Andra Keay, from Robot Launchpad saw this first hand. She was one of the mentors of the Startup Weekend robot track. What I like about her post is that she points out that roboticists are not only important in the spectrum of entrepreneurs, they are also "testing assumptions" about everything from tasks to be done, to human and robot interaction.
Rodney Brooks, from iRobot, recently said that the real question for robotics now isn’t “what CAN a robot do?”, it’s “what SHOULD a robot do?” Startup Weekend is a wonderful opportunity to test assumptions about what a robot should do, to do it rapidly, to iterate and to validate. While we had some very good robot businesses, the winning team, “Eyes on Demand” had an incredibly strong value proposition, achievable cheaply with available technology.
More than that, the weekend showed that robots are part of the startup ecosystem, and will be for a long time.
MEGA Startup Weekend proved that you can mix startups and robots together and build new robot businesses. Now we need to work out how to repeat the success. It’s clear now that having real robot platforms is very inspiring. So is providing soldering irons, arduinos, and other materials like moldable plastics. But most of the teams who hacked on a robot platform or built their own robot still had to make trips to the shops.
So, how do we do this?
Entrepreneurship these days has been mobile-centric and app-centric. Everyone is trying to take successful web ideas and push them into mobile frames, as if the real problem to be solved is making the web smaller and mobile.
That's not quite it. The real issue is that there are problems out in the world and we live in a distributed environment, so we need to find technology and human interactions that solve those problems and make them easier.
Robots can do this, and robotocists are a different breed of engineer-developer hybrids and probably positioned excellently in some ways to engage meaningfully with a world that needs solutions. Read the rest of Andra's post to get a sense of where she's going.
By: Ahmed Siddiqui, Startup Weekend San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator & Founder of Go Go Mongo!
It seems like getting a technical co-founder is all the rage here in Silicon Valley. You have an awesome idea, and you have a killer application to YCombinator, and you know that if you land that technical co-founder, you’ll have the golden ticket to get that meeting with Paul Graham.
You keep going to these networking events and tech events desperately searching for your technical co-founder and still no luck!
After speaking with hundreds of entrepreneurs and running Startup Weekend events in the Bay Area for the past year, I can understand why so many people have issues finding technical co-founders. Here are the top 5 reasons why you still don’t have a technical co-founder, so listen up!
You search for technical co-founders at networking events
The reality is that good technical people are just too busy to go to networking events. In many instances technical people HATE networking events because everybody and their mother pounces on them to build their crazy app.
You are not geeky enough
Like I said earlier, most technical people hate networking events. They want to be in places where other technical people hang out. Maybe they are out playing Halo online with their friends, watching Anime, or even building robots at the TechShop. You need to start understanding what technical people like, and start joining those types of events.
You are really just looking for someone to build your app
At Startup Weekend Bay Area, we have a strict “No Douche bags” policy. Here is a definition of a Bay Area Douche bag: “Man/Woman who pitches an idea, and has no idea how to execute it, and just wants a developer to build their idea to spec.” In other words, maybe you just need someone to build your product for you. If this is you, then you are best served finding a contractor and paying him/her to build it for you. Having a technical co-founder means that you are working together with someone technical to build out something where both parties are contributing. If you are not open to changing your idea and you just need someone to build your idea, you indeed fall under our working definition of a “Douche bag”, and you won’t ever get a technical co-founder – UNLESS of course you are willing to change your tune. NOTE: I have met many converted Douche bags, people can change.
You aren’t leveraging your network
Many people make the mistake of looking for technical co-founders based on specific skills, i.e. I need a Rails developer, or an iOS developer. The reality is that a good programmer can pick up just about any language. So instead of going to networking events and looking for an iOS dude, go through your Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts to find past colleagues and friends that you can partner up with. The best teams are teams with history. That’s why teams of recent college graduates typically work well together: they have a history, they’ve lived together, studied together, partied together, (maybe even showered together?), and they have a good working understanding of each other. Who knows, maybe one of your old college buddies might be up for being your technical co-founder!
You can’t code
I’m actually fairly technical, having worked in the analytics space at IBM for 9 years. Earlier in my career, I rolled up my sleeves and coded, but as time passed, I got more and more into management and didn’t have time to code. When I left to start my own company, I was also looking for technical co-founders, but had such a tough time because iOS guys are just so hard to find! I realized that I needed to go back to my roots and roll up my sleeves and code again. I picked up a book on iOS and dove right in. I still suck at the syntax, but at least I know how the app can be technically architected and can have an in-depth conversation with a developer. In short, I became my own technical co-founder.
So if you can’t code, then I suggest you learn with a real example. You’ve got an idea and now just simplify it, pick up a book, and code! You will learn a ton and even if you don’t get good at it, at least you can have a meaningful conversation with a developer.
In sum, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet found a technical co-founder. Chances are, you are simply looking in the wrong places and perhaps are in need of a slight paradigm shift. Douche bags not withstanding, a relatively intelligent individual who is open to input and collaboration will, sooner or later, find his or her partner in crime!
Post contributed by Ahmed Siddiqui, who coordinates the Startup Weekend events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also founder of Go Go Mongo!, a game company that inspires kids to eat healthier. He can be reached through twitter: @siddiquiahmed
If you are a dreamer and an entrepreneur, and if you think that solving problems and making life better for millions of people is your idea of fun, then you need to apply for this next epic Launch event put on by Silicon Valley Forum.
Launch: Silicon Valley 2012 is designed to uncover and showcase products and services from the most exciting of the newest startups in information technology, mobility, digital media, next generation internet, life sciences and clean energy.
LAUNCH: SILICON VALLEY
In its 7th year, Launch: Silicon Valley is now firmly established as the premier product launch platform for cash strapped startups . The event, co-presented by SVForum, Garage Technology Ventures and Microsoft, provides the next generation of emerging technology companies with the opportunity to pitch their products to, and network with, an audience of Silicon Valley’s top VCs, Angels, corporate business development executives, prospective customers and partners, bloggers and media. Companies that are interested in presenting their products at Launch: Silicon Valley 2012 should send an Executive Summary of no more than 2 pages to Launchsv@svforum.org by latest Friday April 27, 2012 As in previous years, Launch: Silicon Valley 2012 will feature new companies that are ready for launch, but are not yet well known. These are companies that have a product or service available (as of June 5, 2012), but have not been out in the marketplace for more than a few months. Up to 30 of the most interesting companies will be invited to leverage Launch: Silicon Valley 2012 as the springboard to launch their product or service, and to network with the audience of Silicon Valley’s top movers and shakers at the Pre-L:SV Event Party on the evening of June 4, as well as at the event itself on June 5.
The event is particularly interested in receiving applications regarding products in the following areas:
Artificial Intelligence/Robotics Augmented Reality Cloud Computing Computer visual & audio recognition & response Data Analytics/Business Intelligence EduTech Health-IT Next generation collaboration
Here's a sampling of the kind of action that goes on at the event
Here's Dan'l Lewin sitting down for a chat at LAUNCH: SILICON VALLEY 2011
You've Got Big Plans!
Looking to expand Globally? - Enterprise Ireland may be able to help, with up to $500,000 funding!In a ground breaking agreement, companies selected to present at Launch: Silicon Valley 2012 will be given the opportunity to pitch to representatives from Enterprise Ireland (Irish state agency tasked with growing start-up companies in Ireland), which can provide up to $500,000 seed funding from their recently launched International Start-up Fund.The fund is open to innovative startups with strong teams behind them who can demonstrate that their business has potential to grow in international markets and are willing to locate to Ireland.In Ireland, startups work side by side with global players such as Facebook, Google, Zynga, Pfizer, Boston Scientific, Citibank and IBM to name but a few. Ireland's vibrant start-up ecosystem offers incubators and mentoring, entrepreneur friendly visa scheme, as well as a highly educated & skilled workforce Find out more at: www.startinireland.com
We went around over the past two days and asked entrepreneurs at DEMO 2012 what they were here to get done. Here are some videos of four of the entrepreneurs we found who are trying to build new companies and services for the people.
Rohit Vashisht, CEO and founder of HashTips, says that sharing and social discovery are interlinked. So it should be a common practice to use your friend's sharing history and experiences on social to give you the best tips for immediate decisions for shopping, eating out, or entertainment.
Tim Sae Koo, founder of Hypemarks, wants to make it much easier to discover content you love. The Facebook paradigm works, but if you don't stay on top of it, you lose connections with great content feeds, since Facebook's drive is to share as much information as possible. Sae Koo wants Hypemarks to help people find the content they want consistently; he uses a curating strategy.
Matt Johnson created Omnistrat so that business executives could get more comfortable with using social as a strategy for aligning entire organizations to operational and fiscal goals.
Erik Endress served as a firefighter for 25 years, and then he made Share with 911 because he figured out you could use people's mobile devices to create a realtime social heatmap of a situation and a geography during an emergency. They do not seem to have a URL, so you can find them on Facebook.
When a man running information technology for a limousine company started testing out Windows System Center 2012 cloud feature, he turned his car service company into a company that could help other businesses.
The Wall Street Journal has a great article today about Alan Bourassa, CIO of Empire CLS, a private car service based in New Jersey. He decided to do his service one better than the elegant car picking you up for the airport and decided to use some Microsoft cloud services to radically improve his business model.
Empire had been using UNIX since 1981, and began moving to an internally managed Microsoft Windows system in 2008. A 30-year veteran of the IT industry, Bourassa agreed to test Microsoft’s newest Windows System Center 2012, which allowed Bourassa to automate most of the labor-intensive server and data management functions and move the entire operation to a private cloud environment. The system also allows human resource managers to instantly onboard new drivers and assign them mobile devices loaded with dispatching and trip management software, all without a single manual intervention by IT staff
Bourassa decided to do this because the company's key asset is a software program that allows consumers to reserve cars. They figured out that even though this is Empire's core asset, competitors are going to figure out this technology and leave the company behind. So, they decided to sell it to their competitors, making them the distributor of the system. This is a great use of the cloud and it shows that cloud technology not only creates interesting vendor and consumer dynamics, but that cloud technology can also transform a company and develop new revenue streams.
Post written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist for Microsoft BizSpark
It will go down as BikiniGate. A team of developers flashes images of bikini-clad women on screen during their pitch and Q&A with investors at MEGA Startup Weekend, and one of the investors speaks up. What results is a much-needed and a continual discussion about the role of women in Startuplandia.
As Sharon Vosmek, CEO of ASTIA, told us at the beginning of the weekend, it takes three things to make a successful business and team -- you need imagination; innovation, and women. (Please correct me if I misheard her -- I didn't write it down.)
(Photo Credit: Erica Hsu, Flickr)
Here's something I have learned from watching countless people pitching their products to venture capitalists and other experts of industry -- when you are up there pitching a business, you are also pitching the zeitgeist of your culture. You are presenting a movable feast of the revenue-shaping ideas and the consciousness that makes your company possible.
It's the same as if you are an artist creating great art. It's the same as if you were recording the next great pop song. You are a channel through which your community speaks.
This is one of the reasons why we feel nervous on stage. We are being judged by our peers. We feel a sense of self-awareness.
One of the great things that happened this weekend was not so great. It left me feeling a little stung. One of the companies pitching their product flashed a couple of pictures of women in bikinis on the overhead screen -- a move that was meant to convey how they provide context in their app to people seeking information about an event. But the move was interpreted by more than a few people as a blatant use of women's bodies to get attention for their idea.
Chris Yeh, one of the investors on the judging panel, called them out on it, and then wrote this blog post about the role everyone needs to play in bringing better thinking about gender into Silicon Valley Startuplandia. Yeh pointed out:
Gender balance is rare in Silicon Valley, but the Mega Startup Weekend team did a good job of attracting a diverse set of entrepreneurs and audience members, including quite a few women. I watched a few of them during the pitch; while they didn't display any extreme reactions, I could see at least some signs of (perhaps resigned) discomfort.So when it was my turn to speak on the judging panel, I took a few seconds to do something really simple. I lifted the microphone and said, "I hate to be a buzzkill, but I just have to point out that using that bikini picture seems inappropriate. It doesn't have anything to do with your product."The whole thing took less than 15 seconds, but even before I finished speaking the women in the audience applauded loudly--and because there were a good number of women in the audience, it brought the proceedings to a brief halt.
And Adria Richards, Developer Evangelist for SendGrid, wrote a really powerful post about her emotional reaction. What she wrote is extremely important for any culture maker or app builder:
"A lot was going on in these few minutes when I realized I had another new feeling – As an attendee and representative for my company was that I felt like I belonged and that the guys on stage were out of place. Amazing! Because of this, I had the courage and better yet, the sense of entitlement, to march right up on stage and thank Chris after all the pitches were done. And that’s what I did!
I was there on behalf of the company I work for because we’re global sponsors along with Microsoft, Google and others. I’m a developer evangelist for SendGrid. I talk with developers about how to integrate and leverage our API. I embrace my inner nerd and am becoming a social geek, especially through conferences. This is my third Startup Weekend. The first one I attended last May in San Francisco was a phenomenal! Steve Blank spoke about entrepreneurship, testing your assumption, failure and being memorable. That event gave me a data point to work from to explore and identify the intersection of passion and purpose."
Passion and Purpose
The two blog posts are getting a lot of attention on the Twitters. You can follow #SWBayMEGA to get the constant updates on it.
What Richards and Yeh are saying is a version of what I felt when I was sitting around at my first Startup Weekend. There was a real nexus of people, power, personality, emotion and purpose going on here. The BizSpark team felt it. You could see people standing on chairs when the winners were called. They must have been feeling it.
BikiniGate issues can hit us in two ways, from two different directions.
They can keep us from seeing how deep our real work is in building startups. But, it's also a positive, because things like BikiniGate also help us express what some of us often would hold back -- our real opinions on what matters to us as individuals and as a community.
As I have written about before, we are culture builders here. We are channeling the thoughts, values and beliefs of our time into the world we are making as developers, entrepreneurs, hackers, programmers, venture capitalists. the work being done here is what makes Silicon Valley and Microsoft BizSpark such a special place. We are distributed all over the world, but something important and culturally necessary is at play here in Silicon Valley.
So, what Yeh and Richards are saying is very important. We need to be thinking about inclusion. Inclusion spawns innovation.
by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft Bizspark
Apps for Culture
Whenever you see the name Ahmed Siddiqui, you think good things. He’s part of Startup Weekend, the organizer of the 54-hour startup-building non-profit conference series that camped out at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Headquarters this past weekend.
Its non-profit status and its ethos are geared towards doing good for people, something that is at the heart of startups.
I wrote about how we kicked this party of app building, gaming and robot-building for Fast Company – with a profane and profanity laced mega talk by Dave McClure, but even McClure's talk was about something deeper in us, some kind of passionate human resolve to get things done to better mankind.
Scott Case, CEO of Startup America was also there, with his Xbox Guru son, Ryan. He made the same case. He called the developers and entrepreneurs in the room "our nation's heroes," because they are kind of like the early NASA astronauts, eager to go anywhere others have not gone.
Photo courtesy of Tim Reha, New Media Synergy
The 300 entrepreneurs, developers, business development people, and roboticists got cracking after that. What followed was 54 hours of hacking, scripting, seeking validation, building MVPs, and all the things any good startup would do. And what was really awesome about it was that most of these people didn't know each other beforehand.
What did all this building bring them? Well, apps, and robots, for one thing. But also culture.
See our Facebook Page for a whole catalog of photos.
Building a Startup is Building a Culture
What was common from all these MEGA Weekend winners? Collaboration, assistance, helping others, seeing things through someone else’s eyes and ontology – what do things mean?
It takes a pretty strong sense of character and self to be able to listen. In my experience, one has to go through quite a few tests of will and tests of community to know that the radar should always be pointed out, trying to take in the feed of other people’s wants and wishes. the focus and dedication of the programmer is synonymous with nation builders, or the signers of new constitutions. They work through anything to get something done. And what they get done, if it's really good, will make life different. It will be liberating.
In Startup Land I see this activity writ large. Teams everywhere over the weekend were testing their ideas and asking feedback from other teams. Mobile devs are talking to Gamers and Robot people are playing with robots in front of mobile people. The whole community was inherently mixed up. It was a mash up of people who had never tried robotics, or had never thought about making visual aids for the blind. But someone had a good idea, and it clicked. They started something.
Assumptions Make Great Thought Bubbles, But They Are Better Off Dead
I keep thinking of developing with empathy, every time I walked by a table and sat down with startups to figure out what they were doing.
The central activity – other than hacking out code and soldering circuit pieces was going beyond assumptions and listening to others.
It’s called “seeking validation” in Startuplandia. You have to be very good at that in order to turn your MVP into a solid state rocket booster of an app or a service.
It’s called "putting yourself in someone else’s shoes," in whatever high school or elementary class you learned it. But in Startuplandia it goes a little further, and behaves a little differently. It’s not about assuming you know what another person is feeling because you think you are feeling what they are sensing. It’s certainly not always listening to an investor tell you what he or she knows. It’s really about asking deep, sometimes simple but emotional questions of customers you are trying to develop into "users."
It's kind of a scary proposition, because when you are developing a product and asking for feedback you are marrying the shaping of the product with the question. You could be wrong. You might have to start over. The $400 you spent to fly here might seem immediately worthless (more than a couple teams disbanded after the first 24 hours and a few people went home; someone else gave up on her idea entirely at the end of the 54 hours).
Kind of Like a Marriage, But Different
You are creating a kind of marriage, or a partnership, between your product and the people who will use it.
Make Stuff, Dev. Make Stuff.
It’s Not about You, It’s About Us
Which brings me to an interesting conversation I had with a team of PR people, all women, who talked to me about dating and relationships. One of them told me that when her brother and his wife face a problem in their marriage, they have to look at the marriage like it’s this third entity.
That’s your product. When you are talking with a consumer and getting feedback, the product is held in isolation, in a creative space. What can be done? What is it not doing right? Where can we take it? It’s not about you, or your failure. It’s about US. You and the consumer. The product is your marriage.
We Are Making a Culture
That’s why I am thinking it’s best to practice active empathy. To not only put yourself in someone’s shoes by imagining them. Put yourself in their shoes by asking them to try on the shoes. Ask really really deep questions. Get to the freakin’ core.
When you think about it, it goes beyond the marriage metaphor. What startups do is create a culture. All the talking and the asking questions is really just like all the pop culture that floats around us every day, but since these dudes and ladies are sitting down and doing it, making things, they really are creating a fundamental backbone for the living, breathing animal that is our global culture.
They are truly cultural heroes.
Teams hammer out plans and operations during the second day of #SWBAYmega at Microsoft's BizSpark hub
If you watch relationships in the movies, they never show you the four years after the marriage or the romance. That’s because that part is not easy. It’s not fun. It is sometimes hard as hell. But if you want that product to work, feel free to feel defeat.
Making a culture is hard. A movement requires constant energy, constant communication. It’s the perpetual running start.
BizSpark saw a lot of genius on display over the weekend. Over the coming weeks, we are going to be highlighting that genius with interviews, videos and podcasts.
Welcome to your culture, Startup Heroes.
By Claire Lee
If you are signed up for the Mobile track @Mega this weekend (starting tomorrow) we have a load of awesome expert engineers landing on our campus to talk to you about Windows 8 and Windows Phone. You can still sign up to attend the Windows 8 pre-session from the registration page (scroll down to choose one) or Kinect for Windows if you’re signed up for Gaming.
Then there’s Windows Phone…
You heard about the new Nokia? Well if you’re looking to develop a phone application as part of your Startup Weekend project, this is a great start. Come and meet our phone dudes (Warren, Kevin and Reza) on Friday, 3-5pm. This session will take any developer from a cold start to being ready to start developing their application on Windows Phone 7.
You will see why WP7 is the best choice for developing a quality application *FAST*. You might even get to play with (and keep) a Nokia handset during the weekend hackathon. Please arrive at 2pm (sessions go 3-5pm) and don’t forget: Friday training should be purchased in addition to your ticket for Mega Startup Weekend.
We promise Friday 13th April will be a good day. No horrors.
This weekend – if you are signed up for the Gaming track at Mega Startup Weekend, you have the chance to meet with Adam Smith – Lead Developer, Kinect for Windows SDK. He and the rest of the Kinect for Windows team bring Kinect technology to the Windows platform, unlocking a broad range of novel applications and exciting opportunities in user interaction, 3d vision and more. Adam has been building SDKs and client frameworks for the past decade, and loves being a force multiplier, providing the tools to unlock other people's ideas and creativity. He's looking forward to introducing folks to the Kinect sensor this weekend, helping out coding and learning about as many novel uses for Kinect technology as possible!
Adam is here @Mega to enable folks experiment with an experience leveraging the Kinect – even if you don’t have any Kinect skills (yet) if you are an adept programmers, he’ll help you understand how to build something this weekend. Much of the focus is game oriented (of course) so we can tell you (and show you) a bit about the development, e.g. how to create a control scenario for a punch… so check out the Kinect developer demo stations with Kinect for Windows devices.
Check out the winning company from the recent Startup Weekend in Seattle – Freak’n Genius, who built a Kinect enabled game. After they won Startup Weekend they went on to get a coveted spot in the Kinect Accelerator. So you never know what can happen!
There’s still time to grab a ticket to take part. Go on! Good luck, have fun, and say Hi to Adam when you see him.