EDIT: Many people have been asking why they need to pay to get access to the Store. You do not have to pay money for this code. Users who want the code to get free access to the store must first activate their MSDN account to get this code. We apologize for any misunderstanding.
To celebrate startups and to make it easier to build for Windows 8, the BizSpark team from today onward will waive the subscription fee for Windows Store and offer you a one year Windows Store Developer Account.
These new offers that are exclusively given to members of the BizSpark program is our demonstration of a commitment to startups. We are also changing the terms and requirements for becoming a member of BizSpark, extending the entry level requirement age of new startpus from three years old to five years old. More on that in a bit.
How about those Windows Store and Windows Phone Marketplace deals?
Even our Microsoft Developer Evangelists are building Windows 8 apps. Like GUT, from Developer Evangelist Reza Alizadeh.
We know you’re excited about building Windows 8 apps and we’re excited to announce the Windows Store is now open for app submissions from all developers – including all BizSpark startups – in our supported markets, and we’ve added 89 more app submission markets! The Windows Store is ready for you to join today. To make it an especially great day, the subscription fee is waived for startups in the BizSpark program! BizSpark members now get a free, 1-year Windows Store developer account.
Please visit the Windows Store Blog for full details - the dev tools are free, the SDK is ready, and we have a ton of great supporting content to help you build your app and submit it for Store certification. Sign up now, reserve your app names, and we’d love to publish your app in the Store in time for general availability of Windows 8 on October 26.
Windows Phone Marketplace
BizSpark members can now receive a one-time, 12 month developer account to the Windows Phone Dev Center. It’s got everything you need to create great apps for Windows Phones and make them available in the Windows Phone Marketplace for customers to see, try and buy. The subscription also includes your own personal dashboard to track your apps and your earnings. Take the video tour to see what’s new! Sign up today – simply go to the benefit overview page to get your promo code and start the registration process. Note: Availability varies by market.
New age limit criteria
Effective immediately, more startups than ever will get access to Microsoft BizSpark. Today, we are expanding the age eligibility criteria from three years old to five years old. This means that a startup who is currently less than 5 years old, making less than US $1M annually, privately held and developing software, is eligible for a three-year membership in BizSpark!
Is your startup 4 or 5 years old and you thought you didn’t qualify? You do now! Join today at www.microsoft.com/bizspark.
To learn more about these and the many other benefits of the Microsoft BizSpark program, please visit www.microsoft.com/bizspark/about.
With 525 million Windows 7 licenses sold, millions of people await Windows 8 apps. The think goes -- and this is very accurate -- that in addition to wanting the same apps that they love in Windows 7, which will be operable in Windows 8, people also want new apps that encapsulate a completely different experience.
One of our audience and marketing evangelists, Brett Raffel, sent me this, about 30 to Launch in San Francisco. (you will see another link further down, but you should visit this, it's the most important thing in the blog post).
To help them, we have a Windows 30 to Launch program, which exposes developers, hackers, and other rock star app builders to the Windows 8 methodology and puts them in touch with Microsoft evangelists and engineers who can help them build an app that can get into the app store. There's even a blog all about the Windows Store, in case any of you want to know how the Windows Store can be used and what is in it now.
To brief you on what this opportunity means, here's a blog post about the things you need to know as a developer, and why the opportunity is so big for developing Windows 8 apps-- How to get something in the Windows 8 app store. So what happens at these 30 to Launch events? Well, you basically get all the information you need to have in order to make a Windows 8 app.
One of our audience and marketing evangelists, Brett Raffel, sent me this, about a new 30 to Launch series they are running in San Francisco.
Create a Windows 8 app in 30 days and then attend a Microsoft App Excellence Lab to get your app ready for the Windows Store. If your app meets our quality criteria, you’ll receive a token to register your account and then submit your app to the Store.
To help you get there, we’ve organized a series of 30 to Launch events across the US. Join us over Five weeks to make your app idea come to life.
*Official rules for the Windows 8 events.
30 to Launch is powered by Microsoft Platform Ready (MPR), a partner program designed to help you get your applications compatible with the latest Microsoft technologies. MPR offers the latest tools and resources to help you develop great applications and target them to the right audience. By signing up, you are enrolled into the MPR program and receive partner benefits for no charge. Learn more about MPR here.
Audience: Developers, Designers, Architect, CTO, Hackers and Hustler
Registration Link - http://30tolaunchsfo.eventbrite.com/
How do you know you are winning with consumers? It's not as hard as you think. If you are building a startup, Urban Cargo founder Krishna Gullapalli, a Startup America member, gives us three clues in this interview we did with her this week.
Urban Cargo delivers hair care and skin care products to men in a monthly subscription service. It's utilitarian, handy and makes you look handsome.
The Urban Cargo Team, with Krishna Gullapalli in the middle, smiling. Courtesy Krishna Gallapalli
What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
Krishna: One of the hardest parts of building a technological business is focus. There's so much that we wanted to build out with our company including algorithms and dynamic ecommerce tools, but the best strategy for us has been to strip away all that we want to be to focus on the highest impact tasks in the short-term. It's hard to stay focused on just 1 or 2 key objectives when you have this much broader vision of everything your company could be and all the cool technology that you want to incorporate, but we've always found the greatest return for our time and investment has been by keeping everything simple and digestible for our customers.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
We're constantly talking to our customers to hear what they want to see and what they'd like to see improved. And we try to talk to them in a multitude of different ways including UX testing, product feedback surveys, and even just one on one conversations. We know we're winning when our customers are (1) recommending us to their friends, (2) coming back to us to buy more or (3) just straight up telling us they're happy! We have a great emphasis on customer service, so we want to hear directly from our customers when they're happy and more importantly when they're not happy so we can fix the problem. We also look closely at engagement metrics, such as online conversion rates, email open rates, frequency of visit, etc. to monitor that we're constantly relevant to our customer base. It's this combination of quantitative with the qualitative that we use to make sure our customers are excited about our company.
When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?
We've built up a network of resources that we turn to when we have questions. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we believe that's true for start-ups as well. As a Dream-It accelerator alum, we've been fortunate enough to have different mentors to turn to whether it be investor questions, product development issues or even just general sanity checks. Beyond this network, we turn to our customers and our business partners as well, as they can provide the best product/industry specific knowledge. Ultimately, we turn to the experts within our own network or we look to find the expert when we have questions that we need answered.
What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?
The product came first. I learned from my past start-up experiences that it's important to test if you have customers for the idea before sinking a lot of time into building the product. With Urban Cargo, we actually created the boxes and sold product while our site was still in progress. We had a very bare bones site that couldn't even accept recurring payments, because we wanted to make sure we had customers before investing too much into the tech. This has allowed us to stay lean and really focus on the customer and the product before building out technology that our customers don't want.
From now on you can build a Windows 8 app before the release of Windows 8 on October 26th. How's that for Bazinga!?
The original blog post by TheAppBuilder CEO James Scott about their release of their Windows 8 app, can be found at their website. Here are the money quotes:
Imagine this – its October 26 and the most hyped Windows operating system launch in years has just gone live –Windows 8. All media focus will be on this – news programs on TV, magazines, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the entire internet – everything! Windows 8 will deliver a radical change to the way in which you will use Windows on PCs, laptops and mobile tablets. Windows 8 ushers in an intuitive new touch interface which takes its lead from last year’s hugely impressive Windows Phone 7 tile user interface..
Ahem (cough, cough), we have an announcement. From today you can now create your own native Windows 8 app in minutes using TheAppBuilder. We are pleased to announce that we are the only do-it-yourself app building service which has risen to the challenge to enable you to publish your own Windows 8 app (even before the store has gone live)!
The company also issued a standard press release in an email to fans. Here's the announcement in full:
DIY mobile app building website TheAppBuilder.com (www.theappbuilder.com), has today launched its hotly anticipated Windows 8 service. With just a few clicks, anyone can now easily and quickly build a Windows 8 app and submit it to the Windows Store.
TheAppBuilder was launched in March of this year as a means for businesses, organizations and individuals to rapidly and easily create mobile apps, without knowing how to code. Windows 8 is the latest platform to be added to TheAppBuilder’s roster, adding to iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone and HTML5. In the short space of time since launch, over 40,000 apps have been created by customers of TheAppBuilder.
James Scott, CEO of JamPot Technologies, the company behind TheAppBuilder is excited by the latest announcement, “When Windows 8 was announced we felt it was an important step to enable customers of TheAppBuilder to be able to publish a native Windows 8 app as the platform opportunity is going to be huge. There is a real sense of industry excitement building for the launch of Windows 8 and given the number of customers we’ve had asking for a Windows 8 service from TheAppBuilder, we’re looking forward to seeing a diverse range of apps created ready for its launch in October.”
With the countdown on to the launch of Windows 8, TheAppBuilder provides the perfect tool to quickly create an app for the Windows Store. Using the simple drag and drop interface, an app can be created by anyone in minutes. Businesses, organizations and individuals that have already created an app using TheAppBuilder will also be able to easily submit a Windows 8 version to the Store by accessing their account on TheAppBuilder.com.
“There is a lot of excitement around Windows 8, especially the Windows Store and the opportunity it presents,” said John Richards, Senior Director, Windows Apps Marketing at Microsoft Corp. “With this huge opportunity in place, it’s great to see TheAppBuilder enabling anyone to easily and quickly create and submit exciting Windows 8 apps using its simple interface.”
Good times are rolling for Hungarian startup Tresorit. After impressive participation at a series of competitions and events last year – they were a finalist at the Global Security Challenge in Israel last September, and won the Central European semi-final at last year’s Intel Challenge in Poland – they incorporated, sat down and immersed themselves in coding. The result: a product in Beta phase, a substantial investment from a local VC fund, and a $60,000 BizSpark benefit to name a few.
This blog post is written by Monika Mork, in Hungary.
Tresorit’s team consists mostly of university students, who invented a smart way of file sharing over insecure channels and on insecure storage. Their solution is unique in providing access control without the need to reissue keys and re-encrypt the files whenever a new user is added or somebody denied access. Tresorit storage is especially convenient for small to medium sized companies who work with many clients, like law firms or accountants, who can share documents with their clients without security concerns or the need for infrastructure investments. What makes the solution special is its ease of use for collaboration scearnios at corporations as opposed to the limited file sharing capabilities that most of the competition offers today.
The Tresorit solution is compatible with some of the major free storage providers, but it was felt that public providers like Google might scare off traditional companies like law firms. Offering their own secure storage was a logical next step – enter Microsoft Azure. As high-potential members of the BizSpark program, Tresorit was recommended to and accepted into BizSpark Plus, and now they can explore various solutions without incurring high infrastructure costs at this volatile stage of the company.
The Hungarian incubation team is fully signed up for beta – you can do so yourself at www.tresorit.com. We’re very proud of this partnership and eager to hear the next wave of good news from the team.
Apps are cultures.
Here is a photo of some Socialize Founders. One of them is jumping in an alley. That bald guy is Daniel Odio. I met Daniel at a Turner MediaCamp dinner that we did with them in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Daniel's team is working on what I see as a marketing intelligence app that allows brand managers (especially of games and certain procedural apps) to truly gain information and intellgience on the ways people are using the apps. They do it by making it easier to socialize with people inside any app. When he first talked about it, my mind clicked. Exactly, I thought, these apps are actually mini-cultures, but what's missing with all the games and the other things (aside from apps like Instagram), is a way to really get to know the people who are using the app you are using.
Well, Get Socialize.
And the picture. They are a fun group. We asked them a few questions about their experience in building an app, and here are Daniel's answers.
Become technical. When I was in college in the 90’s, getting a business degree was OK. In fact, I attended the business school of the University of Virginia. Many of my peers went on to get MBAs. But out here in the Valley, that’s not worth much. It’s fine if you want to work in Corporate America, but if you really want to innovate, if you really want to create something from nothing, you need to be able to use the tools of the trade to make that happen. Learn short-cycle scrum (http://go.DanielOdio.com/scrum). Learn to play your computer like an instrument (http://go.DanielOdio.com/instrument). Become a developer in at least one language, even if it’s an easy web language. Having object oriented programming chops will make you invaluable. Even if you’re a marketing person, learn to hack a scripting language so you can automate manual processes.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
The signal is easy and obvious when it happens: They care. Until you have customers that care about what you’re doing, you haven’t found your product/market fit. Paul Graham drills this into Y Combinator startups: Make something people want. It doesn’t matter if the scale is small to start – it’s better to have a dozen passionate customers than 1,000 that don’t care that much. And Dave McClure has a great take on it as well: It doesn’t matter if the customer loves or hates your product – as long as they care. If they hate it, then it means they care enough to tell you. Being irrelevant is the real killer of new product companies. Dave McClure’s words have comforted me on many occasions when we haven’t executed as well as we’ve wanted to, and we have upset customers. I see it as a signal of validation. Once you have customers that care, iterate like hell to create a world-class product that a larger audience will care about.
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
This is such an easy answer for me: I rely on CloudApp (www.GetCloudApp) over 50 times per day. It’s a massive productivity booster. Almost nobody knows about CloudApp, and even when they hear about it, they have a hard time understanding what it is. But once you “get it,” you wonder how you lived without it. I won’t even try to explain why it’s so amazing here, but I did do a detailed blog post about it at http://go.DanielOdio.com/massive
Is the lean startup process a type of marketing, or is marketing different from customer and product development? How does your company utilize next generation marketing techniques?
Marketing for startups isn’t even called marketing. It’s called “user acquisition.” Startups are all about creating tremendous growth, and being able to efficiently acquire users is a huge part of that. If you want to do marketing at a startup, learn about SEO & SEM techniques. Learn how to talk to developers – technical folks hate marketing-speak. They want you to be real with them. What’s the value they’ll get by spending their time integrating your product. Why should they pick it over others? Learn how to showcase small wins with case studies that you can parlay into bigger wins. Learn to build your personal brand by becoming a subject matter expert (http://go.DanielOdio.com/brand). If you’re in the service industry, learn to become a superstar by productizing your expertise (http://go.DanielOdio.com/superstar).
Added this question: What’s the #1 tip you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Creating something from nothing is incredibly hard. Most people can never get themselves to work outside of a box that’s defined by others. It’s easy to romanticize being an entrepreneur, but it’s back-breaking work. If you think you want to be an entrepreneur, do it around something you’re incredibly passionate about. At the beginning, nobody will listen to you. You’ll feel like you’re the only one who believes in your idea – and you’ll be right, because if others believed in it, they’d already be doing it themselves. Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to be a star employee at a large company, but I respect the hot dog vendor standing in front of the tall corporate skyscraper more because he doesn’t know where his next paycheck is coming from. He has to create value every day and really earn it. You have it in you, even if you may not realize it. If you’re passionate enough about something, go do it. No regrets.
Even though the emotions are powerful, the move towards love is a choice, not some silly romantic puppy dog emotional experience. People often make really strong choices about themselves to get there.
What's true for "romance" is very true in start-ups and the shaping of a product for a market, in order that real long-lasting bonds can form. Why? Founders are looking for committed customers, and customers are looking for design, product function and architecture they can trust. This search takes time. It's hard. It's not exactly as simple and straightforward as four letters and a mono-syllable make it seem. You need to be a listener, and you need focus.
I am writing all of this because I just realized this in re-reading this great interview we are publishing today. We're publishing this interview with Chute, a builder of media-rich apps, because we saw one of Chute's co-founders pitch "Pics of Words" on Sunday at TechCrunch Disrupt. I saw some of the same ardent focus on designing something useful and love-worthy in his pitch that I see in all of Chute.
The following short interview is also part of a new series on business advice and experience for start-ups. From now on, you are going to see more interviews with founders here, focusing on business, running a business, and the experience of building something. While the hope of almost every entrepreneur is that he or she will get funded, the big story here -- for the rest of time -- is how do you build something that people want and what kinds of business strategies do you need to be successful.
Today we talk to the two co-founders of Chute, Ranvir Gujral and Gregarious Narain. Chute is a media startup growing out of the MediaCamp accelerator. They will be presenting in a Demo Day this week. Ahead of that Demo Day, we wanted to ask them what cues they look for in a company or a product that help them fall in love with it. By love, we mean, not ardent romantic lvoe, but choice. They will choose tihs product to use because it fuflills a real need in their lives.
Here's the Chute team.
Chute Corporation can be followed on Twitter here:
@getchute @ranvir @gregarious
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Finding a product you love is much harder than you think. We’re usually using a lot of things that we like or have to use, but not because we truly love them.
The last product I’ve fallen in love with is the Nike+ Fuel application. This is a great app for a couple of important reasons. First, the design is well executed and brings the most important tasks to the front and center for the user. For example, the home screen is focused on your goal - a simple ring that shows your progress along with a strong number centered. It’s a clear, simple way to make sure I know where I am in today’s race. Second, the design encourages, even requires, behavior from me. Nike has put in place a number of gaming mechanics (fuel points, achievements, and social connections) to give me lots of prompts and incentive to take an extra walk.
A great product not only pleases the eye, it helps you realize your goals and brings you back to make sure you’re doing happy and successful while doing it.
While technology powers more and more of our businesses these days, it’s also a convenient crutch that we can often hide behind in the place of understanding. Technology is almost always just a small part of the process of building a business. Perhaps more important than anything is learning how to build and foster productive relationships with people: your co-workers, your customers, and your evangelists (both at work and at home).
What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
Product failures are easy to spot if you use an open process for development. Early and frequent interaction with potential users and customers can help steer you in the right direction. The challenge, of course, is distilling the problems that need to be solved from the specific complaints. It takes a great deal of listening and practice to get right. Your internal team is a great sounding board for the thousands of small decisions that are required to bring any product to market, especially a great product.
For a startup, however, the greatest failure in product development is a failure to launch. A startup’s orientation must always be toward shipping code. It’s too easy for products to get too bloated in the initial product development phase.
Engagement and evangelism are the two biggest indicators we look for as a success metric. A highly engaged customer will spend more and more time working with your product. They will discover new uses and brainstorm bigger and better use cases for you. High engagement means you’ve identified a pain point and provided a solution of merit.
Evangelism is not just flattering; it’s a great indicator of product/market fit. When customers turn into evangelists, you can safely bet that you’re on the right track. Most often, customers will make recommendations without even letting you know so it’s important to ask people how they found you so you can thank (and reward) your most loyal fans. Building in rewards for customers to evangelize your product is a great tactic.
Of course, our own winning is secondary to our customers’, so we want to communicate with our customers as much as possible and make sure they are succeeding with Chute.
Here is a screenshot of a new Chute app, pics of words.
We’re lucky to have a great set of investors, and we certainly ask for their help often around all sorts of issues like hiring, strategy, pricing, and business development. They’ll frequently put us in touch with specific expertise to help educate us about a subject.
What has overjoyed you in the past month?
I think what most entrepreneurs have in common is that they derive an immense amount of utility from customers actually using and deriving value from products that they’ve built. There’s no better feeling in our business then when our customers are loving what we do for them.
Guest blogger Louise Donnelly-Davey is 40 years old, and founder of web startup Scrattch. An active member or our Facebook community, she read recently that famous investor Vinod Khosla thinks that investors should only listen to the young -- implying that you can't succeed in startup culture if you are over 30. She sounded off. Here's her response. Enjoy and make sure to leave us some comments here or in Facebook.
Louise is from New Zealand, where she lives only a very short distance from some great skiing, by the way. Or so she tells us.
Age Ain't Nothing But a Perfect Opportunity to Build a Startup
by Louise Donnelly-Davey, Founder- Scrattch- Search.Store.Share - launching October 2012 in beta. Currently has open seed round.
This article did not make me mad... it kind of made me smile wryly.
The quickest adapters may be the younger people in the room when it comes to new technology but that does not mean that these people are necessarily the best people to be leading the fight.
I am a 40 year old female, currently working on my new start up here in Queenstown, New Zealand. The odds are stacked against me in more ways than one when it comes to securing funding. To be honest my age is 3rd on the list when it comes to barriers to funding. Being so geographically isolated is the first, being a female is a very close second and the fact that I am 40 is somewhat a distant 3rd.
Rightly or wrongly, the venture capitalist (or Angel) who favours the young college graduate over the older, more experienced entrepreneur is discounting a rather large and experienced pool of potentially highly successful investment opportunities. I am not saying all older entrepreneurs are better, nor am I saying all younger graduates are not up to par. I am however saying that with age comes a myriad of traits that only experience can bring.
I have a Masters degree, experience in both public and private sector corporations and 3 successful (non tech) exits under my belt. I also have 3 children and a husband who is more than able to support our family while I work on my start up. My strategic thinking skills are honed, my ability to anticipate problems and quickly pivot is finely tuned, and my tenacity is well exercised. I have had a myriad of experiences and faced a multitude of roadblocks. Each and every milestone hit over the past decade has enabled me to learn through experience.
I don't have to adapt to change- I anticipate it before it comes ! ... there in lies the difference between me and my younger counterparts. I have insight and forethought. I am able to focus on my mission all the while being responsive to the environment. The quick adapters may be amongst the smartest people in the room, but those who anticipate the environment prior to these changes are streaks ahead of them. :)
From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies. Startup Weekend is a global initiative which started in the USA and over 500 events have been held in 90 countries to date.
On August 31st Cape Town hosted the 54-hour idea fest, for the second year running. Of course Microsoft BizSpark was there in force as a platinum sponsor. This year’s event was held at Bandwidth Barn and saw 39 participants pitch 29 ideas on Friday night kick-off, which then became 9 teams.
Winners of the competition (top two teams) were offered the chance to having mentoring and support via Microsoft BizSpark and receive a scholarship to attend DEMO Africa taking place in Nairobi, Kenya in October. How exciting for them!
Read about the winning team Virtual Firehouse: “Brandon Wilson, an emergency services veteran, who has experienced the inadequacies of current solutions first hand created a system aiming to overcome the management and reporting challenges that emergency services teams face due to outdated systems”.
The second-placed entrant, WiselyDone, aims to provide an employment portal for retired individuals to leverage their experience and skills.
"The winning solution addresses a clear need in the market, and despite the impressive output and creativity displayed by all teams, the judges were pleased with their final decision” said Invenfin’s Executive Director Stuart Gast who was on the judging panel.
Here are some pictures from the event.
Today, CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer, dropped by RocketSpace on Fremont Street. He came to show support for developers and to announce that Microsoft would be creating a Windows 8 App Lab there, so that developers can get cracking on building Windows 8 apps for the expected market boom when it is released.
Here are some photos, taken by our colleagues Claire Lee and Darryl McDade.
Watch our Microsoft Evangelist team present their app, Play it Forward, which they hacked together in 24 hours at TechCrunch Disrupt.
It's an app that allows you to give people good karma points for helping you, while keeping track of all the good karma you earn. They will be presenting in spot 42.
If you would like to follow the Evangelists on Twitter, we made a list for that. Free live streaming by Ustream
An app that makes it easier for emergency services to connect in the field has won the Startup Weekend in Cape Town, South Africa. The winners will head to DEMO Africa in October to compete and to present in front of a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and other people.
Virtual Firehouse’s winning idea is the brainchild of Brandon Wilson, an emergency services veteran who has experienced the inadequacies of current solutions first hand. The system aims to overcome the management and reporting challenges that emergency services teams face due to outdated systems.
“The winning solution addresses a clear need in the market, and despite the impressive output and creativity displayed by all teams, the judges were pleased with their final decision” commented one of the Startup Weekend judges, Stuart Gast of Invenfin Venture Capital.
The top two teams won mentorship and support from Microsoft BizSpark, which will also send them to attend Demo Africa taking place in Nairobi, Kenya in October this year.
Photo Courtesy: © Mark Koekemoer 2012
DEMO Africa is getting close, so we are really excited to see more and more companies being brought into the experience. This team will spend some time on stage in Kenya, and it should be interesting to see if the idea that started in South Africa will gain some exposure and traction for emergency services in other countries.
The registration process was supposed to end on August 31, but If you want to register your company for DEMO Africa, you should visit this link. You may be able to still get something in there. "Only 40 startups will be able to launch at DEMO Africa and another 15 pre-product pitches will be selected from student groups and the Startup Weekend process. “We will have the best of the best from Africa launching at DEMO Africa, and this is very exciting to use,” Harry Hare, the DEMO Africa Executive Producer has said. “We will be able for the first time show the world what Africa is made up of."
This is great stuff. according to the folks at DEMO Africa, the chosen 40 startups will be announced within two weeks.
If you have not already signed up to become a BizSpark member, you can sign up here. You shoul dhave a company that is less than three years old, and you should be under $1 million in revenue per year. You can start the process with only an idea. You do not have to have anything other than a business website and email, and you should sign on via the Microsoft Live ID login.
You can connect to other companies and startup founders who are talking about their projects and processes every day at the Microsoft BizSpark Facebook page.
For the first time ever, Microsoft has entered its evangelists in the Tech Crunch Disrupt Hackathon. You can follow them on Twitter. You can follow this list on Twitter to connect with them: The TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 Microsoft Hackers
Tech Crunch Italy rocked it.
This blog post is written by Mario Fontana, Microsoft Architect Evangelist in Western Europe.
On 27th September, the inaugural TechCrunch Italy kicked off in Rome, giving some of the country’s coolest startups a chance to showcase their talents, as well as bring together some of the key influencers in the industry to talk about what’s driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the region right now. Just like other TechCrunch events, this was a lively, informative day that was also a great opportunity for networking. And venues don’t get much more impressive than the Globe Theatre at the Villa Borghese!
I’m personally very delighted that the local Microsoft community is very involved in the event, which is also supported by the Mind The Bridge Foundation and the US Embassy in Italy. And I don’t just mean Microsoft sponsoring the event and providing speakers and experts (though we’re pleased to be able to do that). What I’m really proud to see is that some of the top start-ups belonging to the Microsoft BizSpark program in Italy are among the companies that presented.
What a diverse group of startups these are, showing that innovation comes from all kinds of sources. Here are some of the start-ups delegates at TechCrunch Italy:
Appsbuilder – a DIY platform for mobile applications development. No coding skills are needed! Through a single build process users can create an app for multiple mobile platforms.
Paperlit – a finalist in our own European BizSpark Summit 2012, Paperlit provides publishers with a simple way to get their content online and mobile, supporting branded apps and digital services across all main mobile and social media ecosystems.
Risparmiosuper – this online service compares grocery store prices helping consumers save money and retailers and brands check competitors prices in real time
Save the Mom – a great name for a web and mobile platform that simplifies the communication among family members (or to connect with other families) making it easy to share important information.
Stamplay - helps marketing professionals create and manage engaging marketing campaigns and loyalty programs, through a catalogue of white label software solutions, with ready-to-use apps that are easy to customize and simple billing.
Stereomood – a music service that delivers curated playlists from independent artists and labels to best suit the user’s current mood, while making it easy to find fresh sounds from the top 150 music blogs from across the web.
Yoodeal – an online shopping platform for personalized deals and offers that users a clever search and ranking algorithm to gather and personalize offers for each shopper.
Today is the first ever Microsoft Accelertor for Windows Azure -- Israel Demo Day.
Today, dozens of investors and startups from Israel come to Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View to experience pitches from some dudes and dudettes who have flown over 8,000 miles to experience the deep connections we have with the Valley. Here is a Twitter list of all of the entrepreneurs who are presenting. Be sure to follow it all day to keep in touch with them.
We've invited the few dozen investors and some friends from Startup Land to listen to the pitches and drill down into the mechanics of the business models of these Israeli companies. To give you some context (though admittedly not that much), here is a video that explains why these hot startups are piling into the accelerator, based in Tel Aviv, and run by Microsoft evangelist Hanan Levy.
This research and development center project in Tel Aviv has also recently inked a deal with Georgia Tech to help train Accelerator participants in innovation thinking.
Here's a brief list of some of the companies presenting, and, when available, their Twitter handles. You can follow the entire conversation today on Twitter at #MSaccelIL and #bzIsrael. You can follow #BizSpark for all Microsoft BizSpark related items. If you have every considered running your own startup and if you would like to be given free software and support, you should sign up for the three year program at Microsoft BizSpark. As long as you are developing web and mobile software, are less than three years old, and making less then one million in revenue, you will be considered.
Over the course of the next two days, we are going to go a little deeper than a general showcase of some of these startups. We thought we would let you get more connected to them by publishing some of their brief memoirs. By brief, I mean a couple of paragraphs about their experience starting up a company in Israel, arguably one of the hottest startup capitals in the world.
Keep coming back to this blog post, because we will be adding the links to this post over the week after September 6. We will also post some live photos of the event on Twitter and Facebook.
Here are some of the companies presenting, with a description of what they do:
You can follow us on Twitter by following @bizspark, and you can follow us on Facebook by subscribing and liking the page for Microsoft BizSpark
Belfast built the Titanic. They can build apps -- or an app builder -- too. An app store model that lets you build complicated apps without developers has made something of a splash in Northern Ireland. JamPot has amassed 25,000 users building an untold number of apps. JamPot Technologies was a winner at the EU Summit back in May, and they have come up with a way to build apps without developers. Perfect for anyone who wants to build a Windows Phone app, but has no developing experience.
You can read more about JamPot Technologies here.
JamPot Technologies, Northern Ireland
Build your own app for any platform – without any code or development experience
The Big Idea
Using JamPot Technologies’ product, TheAppBuilder, users can bypass the need for developers and build fees, and can instead build their own mobile apps today, without requiring any technical expertise, simply, quickly and cost-effectively. Users (businesses, organisations, personalities) use TheAppBuilder’s online editor to create fully customizable native Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad and Android apps which are published to the major app stores, in addition to HTML5 web apps.
Users can build and preview apps for free. TheAppBuilder generates revenue when users submit their apps for publication. TheAppBuilder is the leading service of its kind. JamPot Technologies CEO James Scott says, “We think that the ease-of-use combined with a sophisticated feature set means that TheAppBuilder beats the competition hands down. A stand out feature which elevates TheAppBuilder above its competition is that the app content and structure can be updated in real-time, around which we hold Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).”
Over 25,000 users have used TheAppBuilder to build an app in the three months since launch at Mobile World Congress 2012, with around 80% based in the USA. JamPot Technologies is currently building partnerships to support its global ambitions.
Now an interview with JamPot Technologies Co-Founder Andrew McCarthy, part of our Experience project series, where we look into the life and choices of startup founders and developers.
You must have an amazing team behind the technology business that you are building, as there will be days that it all goes wrong and you need a strong team with full faith in the technology to rise to the challenge of sorting it. It is easy to deal with customers being unhappy, deadlines creeping or technology not working when you have a team that do not judge the situation but just get on with fixing it with full conviction.
Also whenever you have a great idea and want to create that technology and form a business make sure that you have a strong mentor to support you in the areas that you are weak and have honest criticism so you can improve in that area.
Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
I was very lucky to take on an investor and friend, Stephen Gunning from the very start of the building of JamPot Technologies who has mentored me at every level of the business and been available at the other end of the phone any time day or night.
It is hard to single out a particular comment or phrase that has stood out. Rather, it has been Stephen’s actions that have been so inspirational. He has always been very supportive of the team, the vision and myself. He has continued to invest in the future of the business even when the agenda of the business has changed.
And despite all the twists and turns along the way he still tells the team, “You Guys Rock”.
Who inspired you the most this week, and why?
This is very simple to answer; the JamPot Team in Belfast, Ireland. As we work towards growing the business to meet global demand, we are meeting many new challenges. Our current business and technical model is under going fast--‐paced change. Every single member of the team has risen to the challenges with excitement and worked tirelessly, going way beyond what could be expected of them to
Specifically I would like to highlight James Scott (CEO), although we may not always see to eye to eye about where to focus our resources, I greatly appreciate his hard work and candor as he takes on the
Pressure of growing the company. And secondly, Michael Barr (CTO & Co--‐founder) who is leading the
Tech team in pushing back the boundaries of what is possible always with a ready smile and constant
Stream of Irish banter.
Definitely growing the business. We did not anticipate such a rapid expansion in our user base.
Things seemed to explode after we launched our product www.theappbuilder.com in March 2012. We knew that we had great technology but as soon as we made it public the user base grew quickly and with it the demands on the technology.
This meant that we could no longer have a small team of software developers in Ireland but had to start making room for all that was required to grow the company to support this new demand at a global level.
The area that has always amazed and excited me is the ability to communicate from anywhere in the world in so many ways, text, video, pictures, sound, etc. from mobile, TV’s, game consoles and even now
In car systems. Honestly, I am very thankful to be working on the technology that I really love in this arena of cloud integration with TheAppBuilder.com.
This technology has given me the ability not only to experiment with the capability of cloud computing but to demonstrate what is actually possible now. How cool is it that anyone; from a large Fortune 100 company to an 80--‐year--‐old DJ can now interact with his audience in minutes through any cloud--‐enabled device!
I love this technology!
You can read another interview with Andrew here.
Belfast-based JamPot Technologies has three founders, with varied business and software development experience. CEO James Scott has worked for a decade in the mobile industry. The company currently employs 12 people and is 100 per cent seed and angel funded. TheAppBuilder has been featured as a stand out service by Fast Company, Engadget, ZDNet, BBC, as well as being invited to present at both Mobile World Congress and SXSW.
TheAppBuilder supports multiple platforms, including Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android and HTML5 web apps. Regarding the future, the company will be looking to strengthen their relationship with Microsoft. Scott comments, “We’ve had great support from Microsoft so far, including people’s time, access to handsets and technology for development, and help with introductions. Microsoft has been great at getting us connected to the right people quickly.”
Michael Ocansey, CEO, Kuzima is one of ten entrepreneurs we are featuring during our run up to DEMO Africa, October 26, 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?
Mark Davies is the CEO of eSoko and a great user interface, information design and user experience architect.
He has been my mentor since 2005. I learnt a lot of user experience and information design stuff from him.
Last week I presented him with a prototype of product and he said "You have really improved. I love the experience. This is clean."
It was great hearing that from someone who had taught me mostly all I know today as far as design is concerned. I felt encouraged to raise the bar.
From Microsoft in Bangalore, a world record has been broken.
"Thousands of developers from all over India and beyond attend Windows AppFest to build apps for Windows 8 and made history by setting a Guinness World Record for the Most Participants in a Software Development Marathon in One Location."
Here's a video of the event:
A global nomad, Sindhu Joseph has created a company that uses machine learning from previous business agreements and customer service interactions and makes complaint resolution more efficient.
Microsoft Evangelist Ruud DeJonge interviews CogniCor CEO Sindhu Joseph on an application that could transform how businesses interact with customers.
When we sponsored the inaugural Tech All Stars Europe competition earlier this year, it was open to any start-up, but of course, we were pleased that some of the finalists who made the grade were either part of BizSpark or had been supported by Microsoft in one way or another. So we were delighted when we heard that the CEO of the overall winner, CogniCor, attributes some of her early success to fast-track business incubation program run by Microsoft in Spain.
Photo Courtesy: Sindhu Joseph, Via Twitter
CEO and founder Sindhu Joseph took time out of her busy schedule running her very successful business to tell us her story, talk about working with Microsoft, winning Tech All Stars and what it’s like being an entrepreneur in a tough economy.
“I’m originally from India, but we also lived in the UK and have been in Spain for the past seven years, so I like to think of myself as a global citizen. Following several years working for a large multi-national in India, I came to Spain as part of family relocation. In an year I was into a PhD program from the prestigious Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA-CSIC). After my thesis I started my own business when I had the idea for CogniCor.
The idea is simple but fills a very big gap in the market and, according to Sindhu, is pretty unique. Using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, CogniCor provides an automated complaint resolution service that minimizes the need for human intervention in resolving complaints.
To give that some context, it means that customer complaints get dealt with immediately and that resolutions – for example about a product order – are resolved much more quickly, when compared to manual procedures that can take weeks or months to deal with. As a result, customer satisfaction improves and companies have a more efficient and cost effective resolution process.
But having a great idea is one thing – putting into action is quite another, as Sindhu explains: “I had little experience of running a business and it can be very hard to know where to start. By becoming involved with the Microsoft BizSpark pre-incubation program that the company had in place with Barcelona Activa.” (This has subsequently evolved into a much bigger program called Emprendedor XXI Digital” in conjunction with other partners.)
“I found out how to create a business plan and learnt the basics of marketing, human resources, finance and everything else that is essential to running a business. It gave me a fast track into entrepreneurship."
“Over the past year, we’ve come a long way and we have pilot systems with some big global brands, which we cannot discuss just yet but hope to be able to soon. In the meantime, being named the 2012 Most innovative European Startup Award Winner at the Tech All Stars event in Brussels in June has given has a great boost. It also gave me the chance to network with lots of very interesting people, including potential investors.”
While it’s very exciting to win awards and get recognition, CogniCor has to face the same challenges as any other startup. “Because we’ve thought of ourselves as a global business since day one, we have not allowed the difficulties that are facing the Spanish economy to affect us. We’ve had a lot of great support, first of all we are a spinoff from IIIA-CSIC and hence great talent is within hands reach, and we are based at the Telefonica Wayra Accelerator, which means we have access to world-class facilities and great contacts. However, if I’d like to see governments change one thing, it would be to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and taxation that start-ups have to deal with in setting up and running in the initial years. And, for a Spanish business, it can be hard to attract customers and investors from elsewhere, so we really need to have offices in either the UK or USA.”
So what’s next for Cognicor? Says Sindhu: “We’re continuing to build our team of top talent and looking at expanding our presence on a more global scale. But that’s not to say that we don’t appreciate what Spain has to offer: Microsoft, other organisations and people here have given CogniCor great support and with its work/life balance, this country is a wonderful place to live. It’s hard to say what the next few years will bring, but these are exciting times.”
Yesterday, about 40 VC / Angels showed up to the Microsoft Silicon Valley headquarters, and listened and interacted with a few Israeli startups that are a part of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure running in the Israeli
Here are some notes taken from Laura Wigod, who curates some of the news and blogging information for the Microsoft BizSpark community.
VCs advice to companies pitching:
Presenter: Tal Shoham
Online event planning – create a web page for your event that brings speakers, marketing, collateral and social media under one roof
“Social is the new standard”
(Note: the shot on screen in her photo is a photo of her younger self in one of her first gigs as a meeting planner – for her mom)
Presenter: Ophir Zardok
Increasing event ticket sales through social engagement – a Facebook app for promoting events – see where your friends are seated – send them invites
“Creating social explosions”
Presenter: Omri Shor
Phone app to remind you to take your medication – when you take your medication, you update your app or call in – if you don’t, a call goes out to one of the loved ones you have listed who can then check in on you
Idea came up after founder’s father accidentally double-dosed his insulin. (He is fine now, btw.)
(Personal Note: I think this is a really great idea. But I think they should create a website, too – for all the people in rural areas without cell phone coverage.)
Presenter: - Gal Rotem
360 degree product viewer – allowing anyone to create 360 degree views of products they are selling online – they also plan on creating a stock image library, so if Store A shoots a Jill Spade bag, Store B can purchase the image, rather than shoot it themselves
Presenter: Gal Frenkel
Back office cloud service
Presenter: Yael Givon (did the talking) and Gil Rimon (ran the presentation)
Content aggregator aimed at teens/young adults that creates an online “tv show” from your social media feeds
They are a husband/wife team and new parents to a 4-month old
Designed to help determine whose twitter handles you should follow
Photo below is of Zach Weisfeld, Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy, ILDC
“Turning a natural behavior into a social process” - “natural behavior” referring to the now ubiquitous pose of people holding their cell phones aloft at events – Vidit allows multiple attendees of events to upload their individual videos and then create new video using all of the uploaded video footage – allowing users to choose the best angles and audio tracks – or they can let Vidit do it automatically
(Note: My personal favorite pitch – the one I wished I could play with right away – I think it would be fun to get a bunch of friends to lip sync to a song and then use Vidit to edit the final video)
Remember how MacGyver used to take pencils, a piece of gum, a mirror shard and an armadillo paw and make a nuclear detonator out of it to escape his captors? Yes, that's how you build a start-up.
It's not that far from the truth. Startup founders need a more than a healthy dose of ingenuity -- to get around the people saying "No"; to find solutions where only problems seem to exist; to make from scratch something that is not real, yet -- so taking inspiration from a mythological TV pop culture icon should make a lot of sense. This is another one of the many interviews we are doing with startup founders and developers about what it's like to really build something.
In a continuation of this series, we talk with Chris Hartley, the CTO of SwitchCam, a web app that helps you stitch together multiple angles of an event to watch them seamlessly, just before the Media Camp Demo Day happening on September 13.
Media Camp is an accelerator helping push through development of media-based startups on the web and an in mobile.
Here's the SwitchCam team. You can follow them on Twitter.
Chris Hartley, CTO Switchcam Opening Statement (I guess you could even call this a pitch)
Switcham is redefining interactive video by creating immersive, non-linear video experiences that harness the video taken by the people closest to the action. I've been a developer of submarine sonar systems, stock market trading algorithms and now run technology for switchcam.com.
Honestly, a simple comment left by a total stranger on the Switchcam website: “thanks internet for letting me relive the best concert of my life”. When people talk about the broader termed “internet” they're referring to those internet treasures that shape it – wikipedia, Facebook, icanhascheezburger, etc. To be contributing to the wonder of “the internet” and having that level of impact on people, I couldn't be happier.
Don't fall for the hype – great businesses are built rather than chanced upon. It's true that large empires are being built faster than ever thanks to the internet but the deciding factor on which ones succeed is the ability to stick to your guns and deliver something valuable. Keep laser focussed on creating value and doors will open.
As a video entertainment platform we have a tonne of monitoring in place for the qualitative metrics but we really sit up and listen to the qualitative feedback. Any consumer entertainment business is about making people feel something – hopefully something good – and the beautiful thing about an online business is that your customers are never more than 140 characters from telling you how they feel. And trust me, they aren't shy to tell you.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and what would you ask him or her?
Definitely MacGuyver. As a startup CTO, time is always against you and you never quite have the resources you need – I would definitely want to ask him “how do you consistently create innovate solutions from nothing, no matter what your adversaries throw at you?”.
Watch for the Media Camp Demo Day on Twitter. Follow @themediacamp to get more information. They will be using hashtag #mcdemoday.
If you would like to apply for your startup to be a Microsoft BizSpark-supported startup, you can find more information and a link to the application at our website.
You wouldn't think that launching a Twitter handle for BizSpark support was worthy of a party, but that's just what we're going to do. Well, in our heads, we will.
There are so many requests for applications -- literally thousands each month -- and we are launched in over 125 countries, globally, that we decided it would be best to help you 24/7 (or as close to that as possible) by being available to you on Twitter. We have been overwhelmed (in a good way) with all your requests for support, your really great questions, and your very much appreciated offers of your own assistance as members of our community.
So, we are doing the right thing. From now on, if you have questions, support issues, or if you are curious about your pending application, or you want just to help and to have a your opinions heard, you can tweet to @bzsupport, and you will be heard. Someone will respond to you.
How's that for customer service?
You can continue to use @BizSpark as the Twitter handle you use to offer us great ideas on links to share with the community, to introduce us to other people, and to genuinely show your affection. You know we will be showing it right back.
In other news, it's worth checking out some of the recent interviews we have done with BizSpark members and Israeli startups who were here during the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Demo Day. They were in Silicon Valley yesterday to pitch their products and tour around the Valley.
There was Atav, and RotaryView, as well as Vidit and Evolero. And don't forget Stevie.
And coming up is MediaCamp Demo Day. These guys are rock stars.
MediaCamp is an accelerator program sponsored by Turner Broadcasting, which helps media-focused startups get the legs under their highly tractionable businesses.
The folks there will be tweeting from @themediacamp Twitter handle on September 12, and will be using the hashtag #mcdemoday to track the conversation.
We will be running a series of MediaCamp founder interviews on this blog. Here's a sneak peek, though, with MediaCamp startup founder Daniel Odio, who runs Socialize.
Startups @ Media Camp
Chute (http://getchute.com/ | @getchute)
Chute's platform enables publishers, brands, and app developers to seamlessly add any photo or video functionality to their apps or sites. Chute handles the entire backend from uploading, image processing, and API integrations, to features like moderation, commenting, and sharing.
Matcha (http://www.matcha.tv/ | @matchaTV)
Matcha is the easiest way to find the best Movies and follow your favorite TV Shows across digital video services such as Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Amazon and more, in one place. Matcha's guide goes beyond aggregating 200,000 premium titles and adds rich social elements and a proprietary recommendation engine to create a robust, personalized video experience.
Showbucks (http://www.showbucks.net/ | @Mike_Yuen)
Showbucks develops fun and engaging apps that combine social video with social games.
Socialize (http://www.getsocialize.com/ | @Socialize)
Socialize believes people strongly influence each other even when they aren't 'friends.' Anyone who shares a common interest is influenced by others with that same interest. Socialize is creating a social platform that can predict user intent by mapping an interest graph across users and content.
SocialSamba (http://www.socialsamba.com/ | @SocialSamba)
SocialSamba is the leading social storytelling platform, enabling fans to "friend" their favorite fictional characters, and experience personalized stories with them. SocialSamba has served more than half a million scripted social experiences to fans.
Switchcam (http://switchcam.com/ | @switchcam)
Switchcam creates interactive video experiences that allow the viewers to direct the show. By syncing and combining fan footage with professional footage, fans can experience events, concerts and sporting games like never before.
Our champions in DC area, Ashish Jaiman and Ed Donahue, were mentors at StartupWeekend Blacksburg just last week (Sept 14th - 16th ) held at Rackspace in Blacksburg.
The event was a huge success, and our guy Ashish says “Wow, what a great event. We learnt a lot to learn about the students and team’s passion, community mentors and coaching support… and we saw unbelievable entrepreneurial energy”.
Ed also hosted a dev camp in Virginia Tech, where participants of the Startup Weekend were able to get to know Windows 8 (and Microsoft BizSpark) prior to the kick-off of the event on Friday. More than 90 entrepreneurs and students registered – with a great line up of mentors and judges:
Teams that built a Windows 8 application in the coming two months were offered a shiny new Windows Phone and the chance to participate the awesome investor day that The Fort is hosting on December. Read more about this new accelerator in DC.
After the initial pitches on the Friday evening, 9 teams formed to build products over the weekend. Here they are:
ORZUPORZUP.com allows our customers to create beautiful custom renditions of satellite imagery of an area at a given point in time. Our process modifies satellite imagery into beautiful works of art. Some of the wonder is in the customer’s ability to personalize the art by specifying a place and time they deem meaningful. We have seen the wonderful connection this allows our customers to have with such works. A much deeper connection than merely selecting a piece from an art gallery.
ImagiPrint 3DImagiPrint 3D’s mission is to provide the ability for anyone to bring their ideas to life. No experience with 3D modeling is necessary. Simply send us your sketches, pictures, or any idea and our capable design team will be reproduce a 3D model and 3D print it into life. Custom jewelry, figurines, accessories, you name it; we print it! Targeting the everyday imaginator, ImagiPrint 3D. Imagine. Print. Done.
Sign TravelerSign Traveler’s goal is to help all of the historical sites that most people pass by become better integrated into our society. This mobile service would sent historical information to your phone that is normally found in small, unreadable print on roadside signs. Our company will tailor to two different customers; the traveler and the advertiser. Our advertising plan allows for a small area in the application to be designated to corporate sponsorship.
Home Grown TradeHome Grown Trade is basically an online farmers market. We want you to be able connect with you clients and gain more clients outside the market on Wednesday and Saturday, by creating a profile online that you would enter in all of your produce so people could do online shopping either to pre-order for the market or for you to be able to meet up with clients one-on-one.
ResumeXCreating an enterprise application that will facilitate the digital transfer of resumes between applicants and business at career fairs. Applicants will upload resume then scan a QR code for the job they desire and this will transfer their resume to the business. The business will then pull up the resume on a tablet or other mobile device and they will be able to see the resume and take notes on the applicant while discussing the position.
InVille.coGamification of company culture and workspace to produce health and culture reports and info-graphics based upon social network LinkedIn and internal health reports/surveys. This will tie the company internals to the likes of FarmVille to show health by village.
QuizzTakerQuizzTaker improves student classroom interaction and response collection at an industry unique price point. A proprietary software application allows teachers to seamlessly integrate technology enhanced items into their daily lesson plans to better engage students with important material.
Project Free AirfareDon’t let a plane ticket stand between you and a great travel experience. We partner with businesses in your destination to subsidize your airfare. This is can also help you plan for you trip as you save by getting coupons for businesses where you are going to travel. Let’s make airfare free!
QuitWaitingQuit waiting in line at fast food restaurants, grocery stores, sporting events, bars, cafes and ANYWHERE else! We are building a mobile app that allows consumers to order and pay… leaving you to simply pick up your purchase.
First Prize went to ResumeX; Second Prize – QuizzTaker (Public Sector); Third Prize - ORZUP
Here are some pictures from the event, view more photos on the Microsoft BizSpark site:
"The gummy bears are fed up with being eaten. They plot to destroy humanity. Who's side are you on?" That's one of the teasers for a social storytelling software Social Samba presenting at the Media Camp Demo Day on September 13 in San Francisco. MediaCamp is an accelerator program for media startups. You can follow it on Twitter by searching for #mcdemoday.
SocialSamba is a social storytelling software. You know all that fan art and all of that free-floating social media paraphenelia floating around in the social web? Why isn't anyone using that to create narrative? I mean, that's the ral problem with media these days.
Mostly, it's just collections of bits of things, of scraps really. Who is telling the stories? Well, we've got something for the narrative makers among us. Basically, by using SocialSamba, you can create stories using all the available social media available online, regardless of who created it. Literally, there are endless possibilities. This video explains how it works.
And to think this all started out with a beer (read the interview below to find out how).
How did this greatness happen, and what are the implications it brings to social, media, and the entertainment industry? We interviewed SocialSamba CEO and co-founder Aaron Williams to find out.
Aaron Williams, CEO and Co-Founder of SocialSamba, photo courtesy Aaron Williams and Turner MediaCamp
In March, we made an important pivot. While our traditional business of providing our platform to networks like USA and MTV was doing very well (we were nominated for an Emmy, we had hundreds of thousands of fans using our platform), we recognized that there was not hockey-stick growth serving just those large companies. We needed to go down the long tail, and get storytellers of all sizes and audiences to use our platform (ala YouTube) in order to see the explosive growth that we wanted. So, we shifted some of our resources and launched SagaWriter, our free tool for creating social stories. It was the right move, but it was very hard to let something successful go in order to try for something bigger.
We provide our customers with weekly reports on how their stories are doing on our platform. We can tell we're winning when our customer's executives start using those numbers in their public speeches and press releases. That means we've delighted them, and made them look good, and that is a huge win for us. Executives are always looking for the easy to consume, easy to repeat sound bites about how their innovations are going. They're not going to go dig it up, they may not even know enough about it to know what to look for, but if you show them their project is setting a new standard in the industry for fan engagement, you can bet they'll love to talk about it.
I rely heavily on my co-founder and CTO. He's a rock-star technically, but he's also been through start-up life and exit before, so he's got a great nose for tough decisions. We've assembled a board of advisors outside the company – 8 entertainment leaders that we rely on for advice, introductions and guidance. We're really blessed to have a smart, diverse team for me to leverage when I need it.
Fans are amazing, and their reaction to the stories that are built using our platform always make me smile. We spend our time behind the curtain, where we know all the tricks and it's easy to forget the experience that the fans have connecting with the characters and experiencing their lives. About once a week we see a tweet or a Facebook post from a fan of Teen Wolf on MTV talking about how they feel like they're flirting with the characters when they participate in Teen Wolf: The Hunt, the social story we built with the show. When we can give fans that deep of an experience, I'm overjoyed.
What does something in your business vertical need in order for the product to be successful?
The media and entertainment industry can be a little overwhelming, with a lot of large companies playing interlinked, well-entrenched roles within the value chain. Creatives write and act, studios produce, networks market and broadcast, and operators deliver into the home. In order to be successful, businesses need to understand this complex value chain, and target a specific link that has the rights, the need, and the money to use their product or service. Of course, the internet has only added to the complexity over the past decade, but I would caution small companies to not overestimate the pace of change. There are billions of dollars at stake, so no one in the chain will be ready for massive disruption until something new is proven.
Our product idea came first, from a great night of beers with my co-founders. (Like all good ideas, right?) We got to talking about how we were relatively late users of Facebook, but how much we liked it for connecting with friends and family. After a couple beers though, and looking at our news feeds, we were laughing about how boring our lives really were. We all had one or two friends doing really interesting things, lumped in with pictures of cobb salads and barely-coherent political rants. Until someone said, “Imagine if one of your interesting friends was Homer Simpson, or James Bond,” … and the idea for social storytelling was born. We spent the rest of the evening trying to one-up each other with a better character to friend. We didn't get a presence on the internet for another 9 months, after we looked at the data, and vetted the idea with friends and TV industry mentors.
You can follow SocialSamba and Aaron on Twitter:
You can follow the #mcdemoday hashtag today on Twitter to take part in the Media Camp demo day.
The future is made of collaborators working in innovation strongholds like StartX.
This post was written by Claire Lee
Last Thursday evening StartX Stanford, the university accelerator, hosted their Summer Class Demo Day. This was the largest class so far and – with my front row seat – I witnessed each of the 18 companies deliver incredible pitches and showcase truly innovative startups. The diversity of both the individuals and the solutions, is second-to-none. Wow. They rocked.
StartX also announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft on the same day; with the powerful triumvirate that comprises AOL, Kauffman and Microsoft lending support to take StartX to new places and accelerate their growth and expansion, StartX is understandably excited:
“For many founders in StartX, access to top mentors and technical expertise is a crucial element for their long-term success,” said Cameron Teitelman, founder of StartX. “Working closely with Microsoft is a great opportunity for StartX founders to leverage the products, resources and connections they need to accelerate their business.”
We were delighted to engage with StartX for the first time in the Spring 2012 class, where we had the pleasure of meeting companies such as Appfluence, a StartX company that builds priority-management software solutions for executives and managers. Microsoft is providing extensive technical, business, and design resources for Appfluence to migrate their award-winning product, Priority Matrix, to the Windows 8 platform.
We also met MindSumo, a platform for companies to actively engage with students by posting real-world challenges for them to solve, has also been working with Microsoft.
“StartX’s vision is to combine the wisdom of the private sector with the energy and imagination of founders coming from an institution like Stanford. This vision comes to life now because of the rich bench of mentors and advisors from the venture and entrepreneurial world that offer their time and expertise to the program.
“We are honored that Microsoft BizSpark can support this effort.” – Dan’l Lewin.
Very excited about what the future holds for StartX and Microsoft.
StartX founders get all the benefits of BizSpark – and of BizSpark Plus – available to select leading accelerators around the globe.