By Claire Lee
The Windows team is in town this week from rainy Redmond to give you world-class, expert training on how to build Windows 8 apps that rock!
If you haven’t heard, Windows 8 is currently in preview and is going to be the next version of Windows that runs great on tablets, laptops, desktops and more… so if you have already signed up for Mega and fancy coming in a bit earlier on the Friday afternoon, we’re running a really cool session specially for Bay Area developers at our place, from 3 to 5pm.
Sign up here http://mega.startupweekend.org/tickets/ (scroll down to view Friday sessions).
The training will give you an overview of Windows 8, including demos, the business opportunity and developer platform before getting straight into hands-on building apps coached by experts from the Windows team. You’ll also hear advice and insights from a startup in the Valley that recently built an app for Windows 8 and had it published to the Windows Store – they’ll tell you why they decided to build an app and how they did it.
The Windows Store will be the only way that users can download the new style, touch friendly apps and since it’s early, now is the time to take first-mover advantage and get your app in the Store!
Of course, we’ll be sticking around to help mentor at the Mega Startup Weekend (Mobile track) and we’ll be on hand to answer any questions you might have about Windows 8. Come and find us.
Register Now for bonus Friday training, as seats will go fast.
You can still register for the weekend too. See you at Mega!
On Thursday, April 5, the Microsoft Silicon Valley team hosted Stanford’s StartX accelerator class in session for tacos and conversation. We’re stoked to see StartX (based in Palo Alto at the AOL campus) become the newest member of the BizSpark Network Partner community on the West Coast.
Last week, a crack team of Microsoft’s expert engineers and evangelists were able to meet with various companies working with StartX and find out more about the applications they are creating. There are some really interesting startups at StartX and we’re excited to see how we can help them on their journey. Founders in this class are building companies in edtech, medtech, enterprise, cleantech, consumer internet, mobile, and hardware industries.
Then it was time for entrepreneurs to hear from Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, who gave a great insight into the Valley and his own experiences, both professional and personal. During the Q&A, StartX founders fielded questions for well over an hour – asking about how Dan’l makes decisions and to what prompted him to move across the country to the West Coast from the Northeast, and of course his time working with Steve Jobs at Apple and NeXT. Dan’l spoke from the heart and the StartX startups appreciated his candid approach.
In this interactive conversation, Dan’l also shared more details on what we (in SEBT) actually do to via the Microsoft BizSpark program, providing support to the global startup community. Many of the founders told me later they were not aware that Microsoft was investing so much in helping startups and, since we met, companies are already signing up for BizSpark (and accessing Windows Azure through BizSpark Plus).
“We’re thrilled to partner with Microsoft in helping our founding teams reach their potential. Through BizSpark and BizSpark Plus, our student founders will have access to a variety of world class resources, experts, and technology to help them develop,” said Jeff Mounzer, Senior Managing Director, StartX.
“Through Bizspark, StartX founders can utilize Microsoft’s premium tools and technology, get training, and connect to other community organizations and investors. They will get 1:1 support from Microsoft engineers and be able to learn more about Microsoft platform technologies. They can also amplify their solutions to a broad global ecosystem and gain exposure through BizSpark.”
StartX (formerly SSE Labs) is the Stanford student start-up accelerator designed and developed to provide a place for the best Stanford founders to quickly develop. Their mission is to accelerate the development of the highest-potential Stanford founders through experiential education, enabling them to create serious impact. They represent and support all students at Stanford (from undergrads to PhDs and postdocs, in any discipline), and, as a non-profit 501(c)(3) there is no charge (equity or otherwise) for participating in their program. They provide access to a community of the best Stanford founders, serial entrepreneur mentors, real time and individualized information, and resources that startup founders need to accelerate the growth of their companies.
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 2,400 partners to connect members with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters. Since it was established in 2008, more than 45,000 companies in over 110 countries have joined BizSpark. Learn more about our BizSpark partnerships.
Guest blog by Ruud De Jonge
The world of employment is changing. There is a huge trend towards contractor-based relationships, where employers use teams or individuals for specific projects or timescales.
In the IT sector alone, our research shows that the percentage of contractors within the workforce in the UK & Ireland has increased from just over 8% to 29% in two years. Other research suggests that contractors could represent as much as 60 - 70% by 2020.
Clearly, the world of work as we know it is changing fast.
But, for many employers and contractors, finding one another can be difficult and time-consuming. Sure, recruitment agencies or advertising can help, but that can be expensive and often isn’t targeted enough: many contractor roles are very specific, so while on the face of it three hundred candidates may be suitable, the reality may be that only three fit the criteria. Filtering candidates is frustrating if you are trying to build up a team very quickly.
On the other hand, there are a lot of contractors out there struggling to find projects. Even in a buoyant market, contractors can at times struggle to find projects and this can be heightened in a challenging job market with many people out of work, is something that has to be addressed.
This is what gave me the idea for RoleConnect, based on my experience first as an IT contractor for 10 years and then as the Chief Technology Officer for a major Irish company. I could see that there had to be a better way to ‘matchmake’ employers and contractors. We sometimes call it ‘speed-dating’ for employers and contractors, so that they can very quickly make up their minds about each other.
Cloud-based RoleConnect creates a direct relationship between prospective contractors and employers and, most importantly, the depth of information is very rich. Immediately, employers can see not just a contractor’s experience, but their availability, their proximity and their rates. This is the kind of information that wouldn’t normally be available on a more public skills-matching site and saves a lot of time spent filtering candidates.
Other cool features include a networking feature, where an employer can see that a contractor also has ex-colleagues who could also form part of a team. Contractors can also use the site to go through background screening (essential for many public sector jobs) and proficiency testing (for instance, to show that they are up-to-speed in a particular technology).
When I first started planning the IT infrastructure for RoleConnect, it quickly became obvious that we’d need a lot of servers to make this a scalable service able to operate in different countries. That was going to take a long time and be expensive. Then Microsoft launched Azure and it was the obvious solution for us: not only could we avoid building our own IT infrastructure, the service can scale as we grow. The support we’ve had from the Microsoft team in Ireland has been great: being part of the BizSpark program has meant we haven’t had to spend lots of money on software licences, as well as giving us considerable support, networking and market visibility. I’m not sure that we could have launched RoleConnect so quickly, so successfully if we’d gone with another technology vendor.
RoleConnect’s beta site has attracted thousands of users in just a few months and will be going live in the first quarter of 2012. We’ve also attracted quite a few employers – from large organisations to quite small – with more joining us all the time. Apart from IT, other industries we are looking at include construction, marketing, accounting and legal.
As we all know all too well, we have a jobs crisis in much of Europe, with people struggling to find employment. Smarter, faster matching of employers with potential employees may not be the answer to the jobs shortage, but it at least helps to make the most of what is available.
Guest blog by Ruud de Jonge
When we lifted the hood on Windows Mobile 7 for developers a while back, there was a lot of excitement from the BizSpark startup community here in Europe. While we’d like to think that was just about the quality of the platform, the other reason has to be that startups here in Europe are ahead of the game when it comes to realizing the potential of mobile apps.
The figures speak for themselves: IDC predicts that app downloads will soar from 10.7 billion in 2010 to 182.7 billion in 2015. The revenue for mobiles apps in Europe alone is estimated to increase nearly 40% up to 43 billion Euros between 2011 and 2014.
Every day, my colleagues and I hear about or speak to entrepreneurs in Europe who have impressive ambitions and some very cool apps. But, great ideas are rarely enough, especially in the region’s tough economic environment. Startups – particularly young entrepreneurs just starting out in their careers – need all the help they can get.
One way in which we can provide more assistance is through the ‘AppCampus’. Announced at the end of March, this is a mobile apps development program in conjunction with Nokia and Aalto University in Finland. We already partner with these two organizations – our relationship with Nokia is pretty well-publicised and both Microsoft and Nokia will each invest up to 9 million Euros in this venture. Perhaps less known is that Aalto University is one of our premier and longest-established BizSpark Network Partners in Europe, who have been doing great work to support local startups.
So what is the AppCampus all about? Well, it comes down to how we can help startups turn their ideas into something with real economic potential. AppCampus will help them not just with tech support, but also access to business expertise too, including mentoring from mobile industry veterans. It’s kind of a hothouse for mobile innovation and program participants will be able to retain the full intellectual property rights for their innovations. AppCampus kicks off in May 2012 and will be managed by the University, but it’s important to point out that applications are welcome from students and entrepreneurs all over the world. Successful applicants can expect
Helping the next generation of mobile entrepreneurs succeed is in everyone’s interests: in Europe alone, the mobile industry is responsible for the direct employment of 370,000 people and induced employment of 1.3 million more (according to the GSMA’s European Mobile Observatory, December 2011).
For Microsoft, it also helps us to interact with our rapidly growing Windows Phone ecosystem, which by the end of March, had more than 100,000 registered developers, 65,000 apps and 300% year on year growth in the number of new apps being published every day. And it’s a great complement for our BizSpark program, which already provides startups all over Europe and worldwide with free technology, support and market visibility.
I’m very excited by the AppCampus and I look forward hearing more about the successful applicants later this year.
More information on AppCampus can be found at http://appcampus.aalto.fi.
Blog by Steve Seow:
On March 16 in Seattle, I partnered with Luis Aburto, CEO of Scio Consulting (a local Azure consulting group) to host Startup Conversations. Pitching in with organizing the event was Red Russak of Startup City with the exquisite space sponsored by Seaton Gras of SURFIncubator (GeekWire story).
About Startup Conversations
Startup Conversations was an expression of our commitment to partner up with the entrepreneur community to provide value back to the community. In this case, this event was about creating a casual environment that fosters candid conversations between startups and the institutions and other influential entities, such as investors, incubators, etc., that support these startups.
Startup Conversations, startups met with investors, incubators, and other influential in a casual setting.
A good way to think about the format of the event is the following: most events center on a unidirectional communication from speaker to audience, with very little time devoted to Q and A at the tail end. Startup Conversations, on the other hand, is all Q and A, with only a few guiding themes, allowing an “organic” exploration of topics that the community cares about.
Meet the I’s: Investors, Incubators, and Influentials
Luis and I were very fortunate in securing a very good mix of professionals to serve as panelists. We had representatives covering angel investment, incubation and accelerator programs, and even the local media. Here’s the list of I’s:
Mike Crill CEO, Atlas Accelerator
Seaton Gras Founder, SURFIncubator
Rahul Sood Founder, VooDooPC
Chris DeVore Founder, TechStars & Founders Co-op
Rebecca Lovell CBO, GeekWire
Adam Stelle COO, Startup Weekend
Yi-Jian Ngo Managing Director, Alliance of Angels
A total of about 50 entrepreneurs attended the event. (Some showed up without registering, thus the approximation). About 20% identified themselves as ‘Creatives’, about 25% as ‘Engineers’, and 60% as ‘Business’.
The conversation started with my asking the panelists what are the biggest “fails” (more specifically, things, words, actions, etc. that they have witnessed that any intelligent startup shouldn’t try or repeat). This kicked off a great discussion by both the panelists and the audience. Here’re the some of the key topics of discussion:
An animated discussion…
One of the first topics centers the hackneyed use of the term ‘hockey stick’ in pitches, typically shown visually showing exponential growth of revenue over a short period of time. The general advice here was not to use the term. Mike Crill related how a startup used a similar term in their pitch – “money volcano”. Others related similar accounts of “fails”.
I pointed out to Chris DeVore that on TechStars Demo Day every team seem to use the term ‘disruptive’ and if that may have become the buzz word to use in pitches. This triggered a great discussion around overused buzzwords. Rahul Sood pointed out the danger in a startup proclaiming that they are in ‘stealth mode’ in the context of “we’re in stealth mode, so we can’t tell you what we are doing but we need your funding”. This triggered discussions on other red flags. Later we turn that around and discussed red flags on the investor side that startups should be wary of.
Chris Devore (2nd from left) talks about his and TechStar’s perspectives
on the high-caliber startups that he has worked with.
A member of the audience asked about how to go about finding co-founders and how one should go about assess how much equity to grant a partner. Seaton Gras mentioned this following tool: http://foundrs.com/calculator/index.php. There was a great discussion around pattern matching to find the right partners and many related finding business partners to marriage. Enough said.
We briefly touched on how most I’s view the choices and directions in technology stack, etc. The general agreement here is that investors care about the growth of the company they invested in, and not any specific technology stack unless there is a salient business reason that proves otherwise.
Congruence between Domain expertise and idea
Another question from the audience surround whether a startup should take on a project that touches a domain in which the startup has no expertise. The ensuing discussion proves that there is no consensus. Many pointed out that it is common sense not to jump into unknown territories. Others cited several success stories of founders taking on totally unchartered domains.
Startup Conversations was a great success and an informal poll towards the end of the event strongly indicated that the attendees want such an event again, likely at a quarterly cadence. We are projecting a sequel of Startup Conversations in the middle of the year!
(From Left to Right) Luis Aburto (co-organizer), Chris DeVore of TechStars and
Founders Co-op, and Seaton Gras of SURFIncubator
Guest blog by Ilana Bercovitz, CloudShare - Interview with Arpan Shah, PrintEco
Arpan Shah is co-founder of PrintEco, a Microsoft BizSpark startup company that helps companies and consumers alike save paper and minimize their environmental footprint.
How does PrintEco do it? An add-on for common applications like IE, Excel, & PowerPoint. Just choosing File à PrintEco optimizes for efficient printing.
Arpan tells me customers don’t want to have to think about reformatting their work, so PrintEco has automated the process. With just one click, any of your documents, presentations, or web pages can transform into environmentally friendly, printer ready formats. If for any reason you decide you don’t like the new version, you can return to the original instantly.
Their product offerings don’t end there, however. PrintEco also has a product named PrintEco Analytics. This is a web-based dashboard that tracks PrintEco’s financial and environmental impact. You can see how much money, how many pages, trees, and CO2 emissions you have saved.
PrintEco has been on the fast track largely due to help from Microsoft BizSpark, a program that helps startups succeed by giving them access to software development tools, connections to key industry players, and greater market visibility.
Arpan found BizSpark through a random web search. 80% of PrintEco plugins are developed for Microsoft platforms; he tells me “joining was a no-brainer” for his company. Arpan has nothing but good things to say about the BizSpark experience: “It’s so great the way they’re reaching out to the startup community like this.”
When PrintEco was in the development stages, Arpan was looking for something to help the company do compatibility testing for their add-on across all types of platforms. A quick search through BizSpark partners led him to CloudShare.
“Honestly, CloudShare was really unique in its offering, introductory pricing, and capabilities. It was the obvious choice for us. I didn’t see anything comparable. It’s such a great product for startups, in particular, because of its affordability. CloudShare has already paid itself back 10x over.”
PrintEco has product enhancements in the pipeline -- a PDF sharing option for example -- and Arpan sees both BizSpark and CloudShare as playing integral roles in the company’s future development.
Currently, PrintEco is only using CloudShare for testing and development, but as their client base grows they will need tools that scale out with them. So when they need demos and POCs, they will use CloudShare.
CloudShare in one word? Heavenly.
Arpan Shah is CEO & co-founder of PrintEco, a VC-backed start-up out of Chicago, IL. PrintEco was founded in 2010 out of frustration with wasteful printing found in homes, schools, and the workplace. Arpan’s mission is to eliminate wasteful printing through easy to use software. He recently graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoys working in the intersection of technology & sustainability. He has been featured in publications such as CNET, ZDNET, & FastCoExist.
Ilana Bercovitz (@iberco) is a social media and marketing professional at CloudShare. She comes from a higher education administration background where she played an integral role in the student experience and expanding the University’s social media efforts. Ilana recently completed her MA in Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, where she studied the intersection of technology and society. She never leaves home without all of her Apple gadgets and she is obsessed with all things food and restaurant related.
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