One of the real benefits of technology we have been able to provide to rural Nepal has been to teach digital literacy skills to middle-aged women who need to get connected with their family members working abroad. Nepalese members of the diaspora are responsible for sending millions of dollars back to their home country to provide for underemployed or non-working members of their familes. This action is responsible for returning revenue back to the economy. Anything we can do to ensure this reality is easier to experience can help this generation.
This post was written by Allen Tuladhar, director of the Microsoft Innovation Center in Katmandhu, Nepal. MIC Nepal has been responsible for some of really interesting tech innovations in this part of Asia. For example, even before Nepal received Windows Phone technology, MIC Nepal held a hackathon and encouraged a group of hackers to build an app that was downloaded over 32,000 times outside of the country.
Historically Nepal has been exporting manpower to foreign countries. From very early in the 1900s and later, Nepalese workers have filled the ranks of the British Gurkha, Singapore Police, Indian Army, the Sultan of Brunei’s security and in the modern days the Middle East and the factories of Korea and Malaysia. On average there are 1,500 youths going abroad each and every day to earn a living. And many of the women back home need to get connected with them over Skype and other means, which is comparatively more economical than using conventional telecom facilities.
We set up training periods with low cost equipment and teach these women how to use the technology to expand their communications efforts overseas. The participants get to carry the laptops home during the training periods. They feel very empowered, literally showing it off to all the villagers that they are now learning a must-have skill.
MIC Nepal's Samjhana Bhandari, a 20-something who is passionate about this outreach, carries these laptops in a suitcase and literally carries it from village to village to share her knowledge and skills, living for months as a paying guest in some of the villager’s houses. She gets to come back to her home every 3 months or so to spend some time with her family and then to hit the roads again.
During this holiday season, a training is currently going on the rural village of Bharatpur. We took some shots and would like to share that with you.
This is a question we get so many times, its worth having a blog post about it to point people to, so here goes.
Many people ask us every day how they can get some attention for the Windows 8 app they are working on, or the solution they have built on Azure, through the free access to tools they have received from Microsoft BizSpark.
We look for a few things, and here are the requirements, so to speak.
1. Does your app or your solution do something compelling, and does it solve a problem? We tend to say no to blog posts about apps that are really features -- a calculator, for example.
2. Have you created and do you possess media assets that are easy to share on the blog? Do you have a video demo, or a video interview of you or your team? Do you have pictures, a logo, and links back to your work, so that we can check it out? The more stuff you have to show off your great work, the easier it is for us to find you a place in our editorial calendar.
3. Do you have a vision, and do you have ideas about how to sculpt that vision? We find that many of the thousands of people who read our blog tend to do so becuase they are solving problems. They are very interested in how other people look at problems, and how they make solutions.
I hope that helps.
If you would like to be featured on the blog, you need to do only a few things.
Follow @bizspark on Twitter and say hello.
Send a pitch to dcrets [at] microsoft dot com. The pitch should include what your solution does, why you built the solution, which parts of the stack it uses, and your vision. We will send you further information and set up a time for you to send us the meat of the blog post in subsequent emails.
Join our Facebook group -- Microsoft BizSpark.
And we will be in touch with you very shortly.
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If you have been in any kind of investing and building game while trying to get your startup traction, you are probably aware of the singlemost nagging problem entrepreneurs face: building a startup is just not very easy to accomplish.
The reason is really structural, and it's not just because startup building is inherently hard. In fact, if you took away some artificial constraints or if you took away some unnecessary thinking, you could change this and empower hundreds of thousands of founders.
What am I talking about? Investing is about distribution just as much as it is about finding ideas. You invest big money into a small company, you make a big return. You invest small money into a large distribution of startups, you make less by each company, but you make more in terms of volume. Volume investing in startups just like you would volume invest in stocks. Here's what I mean.
First of all, it's really cheap to build scale and find customers. There is no need to give as much money as is usually given in a series A round, by exponential numbers. If I want to keep making the same kind of money off of the same investment distribution.
Therefore, the issuance of money is artificially small, because you can have more impact with more money if you invest in fewer startups. But not all startups are born to be great, they are born to fail. So, in a world where traditional business and corporate infrastructure is eroding, why continue on this course? There's a really large universe out there, and money has to reach it for it to survive.
If you pay attention to the blogs that report on funding, you get the illusion that only a few startups are worth investing in. That's because by discovery there are few startups being found. So, tech blogging is helping us continue making the assumption that a real startup is rare. Do you really believe that is true?The truth is that there many more times that many startups worth investing in, but with a limited amount of money artificially being driven into startups at too high a valuation correlated to the cost to drive them, there is the illusion that the universe is small. And with media and investment distribution that does not enter those markets, these potential startups live in dead pools around the world.
The tech bloggers are saying there is a series a crunch. I am pertty sure that this is not true. There is a shift in funding. That's really what is happening. There are now more startups to invest in. The challenge is finding them!
Going down the startup tunnel
While there may be some structural problems with markets, but every aspect of building a startup that is really really hard is also pretty much the same from startup to startup.
Get scale for your product.
Everything else is defeated right away by your prowess as a listener, a coder, a programmer, and a boss.
But that's not news to entrepreneurs. Many of them became entrepreneurs precisely because they encountered something difficult in their everyday experience. We have these discussions all the time in Facebook. We have almost 50,000 members in our Facebook group who have these problems, and that's just the people who reach out to us on Facebook. There are droves more in lists all around the Internet, some of which we own.
Here's where these startups are pretty similar, by founder:
William Wilkerson says he got into building a startup, because there are no jobs available for people with loads of talent.
Most people have to go elsewhere after school to find work. When I started my company the local college sent us 90 in 2 days. More than we could even afford to hire.
Marsh Cochran Sullivan? Well, he just gets pissed that there are problems out there and nobody to solve them.
Danny Rodriguez blames it on his imagination:
The catalyst has been my imagination. My imagination fueled my passion for robotics, software and computing in general. As a child I dreamt of the future and what lay ahead. Being a part of inventing this future is my main purpose. Being entrepreneur is something I see as part of the steps I must take to get there.
And Ben Jackson, who is working on BagsUp, a social travel app, at the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, says that for him it was just a natural extension of what he does in his day to day life.
Agree about the struggle. It's hard to change the world. My catalyst was growing up seeing my father always working for himself. My first company was just a company. I wanted a company. I wasn't passionate about it and it didn't fly. Once I teamed my passion for computers with the passion to be self employed things happened. It gets you out of bed in the morning. Thanks for sharing everyone.
We think there is more to starting up a company than just building a great product. This is a real human endeavor. You are trying to help others. When ideas clash, they breed new ideas. Our Facebook page is a place for you to make more of that happen.
If you want to see your thoughts on this blog, you need to join us at www.facebook.com/bizspark and engage the community. You should also follow and tweet out to @bizspark, so that we know you exist. Leave a comment below, too.
Developers and entrepreneurs can get frustrated over a great many things. But one thing I have noticed that they don't get frustrated about is what people think about them. They are too mightily focused on doing something new to worry what someone's conformity will seem like to them.
This post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark, a community created for the distribution of free software and the development of technology solutions.
Besides, people's greatest adulation and praise for you, and people's worst complaints for you, will be saved for when you are gone. You will never hear the last of it anyway. There is no last of it.
I've gotten to know a lot of you in Microsoft BizSpark as your community manager, and you have taught me a few things. Here is what you so far have taught me.
And pay attention, because this really is the mission of BizSpark.
We have a choice to live in one of two realities. The reality we are introduced to is the one formulated by our habits. The second is the one discovered by exploring other people's habits. Entrepreneurs, developers, and people of high technical skill are really good at taking their own problems and their search for a solution and identifying with the lives of others. This simple choice, or gesture, enables them to live in a new reality. They live in one where through facing the struggle of what it means to be alive, they can give a sense of freedom to other people through their work and their choices. That's a more satisfying life.
All great success is born out of struggle. Where life is absent of struggle, there will be no success. But it is a unique kind of struggle, one only the real hacker or the real entrepreneur must experience.
Carl Jung, the great modern psychiatrist and thinker, said that in an individual's crisis lies his or her greatest opportunity to grow and evolve into something great and unique, in comparison to the rest of the world and the other suffering bastards around you.
Inherent in that observation is a deep truth.
Your crisis, though it is unique to you, is also something relevant and experienced -- in its own ways -- by the great wash of humanity.
Your choice, as many of you have so elegantly set out to do, is to develop something that someone else can use, because your hunch, at first, tells you that someone else might feel this way, too.
It turns out that you are not alone. It turns out, your customers are not alone. They also know people who have that problem, too.
You build to solve.
Aseem Badshah will be graduating soon from the Azure Accelerator. He is BizSpark.
The BizSpark program was born out of a desire to help those who build, to help those who need a problem solved. And that is what we have set out to do. You can get free software from us, true. You can also network with us in the community groups that we have set up in Facebook and LinkedIn.
But the greatest thing that you receive -- if I may humbly submit it -- is membership. Not entitlement. Not access. Not reward. Membership. You belong. You are a tribe of people that has found other people, and other problems to solve.
Yours is the incredible momentum that inspires us to create things like the first and now second class of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure.
If you are working on an app, or trying to build a company using the cloud, mobile, or any other device you have laying around the house, you may want to check out this new Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure. It's the second in what is looking to be a series of Accelerators that help startups partner up with Microsoft mentors, Microsoft stack technology and a global network of advice-givers, information and networks.
Here's the application, so try it out. As Scott Guthrie says on his blog yesterday:
As the first class approaches Demo Day on January 17th, I’m happy to announce that today we are opening applications for the second class of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure. The second class will begin on April 1,, 2013 and conclude with Demo Day on June 26, 2013.
If you are currently working at a startup or considering founding your own company, I encourage you to apply. We’re accepting applications through February 1st, 2013. You can find more information about the Accelerator and the application process here.
It’s been truly inspiring to work with the current class of startups. This inaugural class has brought with them incredible energy and innovation and I look forward to reviewing the applications for this next class.
If you have any questions, you can join the Microsoft Accelerator Facebook Page, as well as the Microsoft BizSpark Facebook Page. You can tweet at us at @msaccel or @bizspark. Your community manager is @douglascrets on Twitter.
Thanks, and good luck.
Here's what happens when you do a Startup Weekend at Microsoft.
A little bit about what happened at The Garage.
Facebook has a really poor way of archiving and curating great conversations. Since Facebook is basically collecting all the data for itself, you can't really keep track of it. That's why every week we take the time to archive the great conversations here, so that you can use them for your benefit, and find access to them easily.
You can participate in these daily conversations with over 36,000 developers, entrepreneurs, and investors by joining us on Facebook, but you have to Like the page, or you will miss out. These are the best conversations that have occurred in the past week. To take advantage of these conversations, join us on Facebook by liking us. Conversations are selected for veracity and included in weekly announcements here and on LinkedIn. You can also join us there, for consistent knowledge sharing. Leaving a Legacy Problems Travel Entrepreneurs Solve How to Find a Co-Founder What To Do Well, What To Avoid In Startup Building If you have questions, concerns, or help with anything, please message me@douglascrets on Twitter
We're running a live stream of this really fascinating iOS camp for Windows 8 Development.
About Big Nerd Ranch
BNR is a training company focused on teaching iOS programming languages. They actually started out training Apple developers’ Cocoa API. It’s co-founder, Aaron Hillegass, is the author of “Objective-C: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide”, “Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X” and “iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide” and has been consistently named one of the top 25 most influential people in the Mac community by MacTech.
We caught up with ZenDeals co-founders Chris Couhault and Alexi Suvacioglu at the BizSpark CoWorking Lab holiday party last night. It was fortuitous because they were about to launch out of stealth at midnight.
I asked them a few questions about how they got started, and was amused to learn that ZenDeals was born out of a need for diapers. During a product meeting for a completely different business idea, Chris's wife asked him to shop for diapers online. He was asked to use a coupon. The headache this caused led to Shopply, which was the name Chris and team used while ZenDeals was in stealth mode.
Here's the video interview, shot during the party, so forgive any party noise you hear in the background.
These three videos explain what many of the digerati fail to mention -- software is not really eating the world. It's really creating new growth. It is now so easy to get software -- you can get free Windows and Azure stuff through Microsoft BizSpark -- and it is so easy to get information about the software ecosystem and the problems faced by consumers and enterprises -- that we are seeing a huge order of magnitude increase in use cases that show software is actually bringing ideas, jobs, economies and people together.
In the consumer market and the enterprise market, it's not about the bright shiny device. It's about solving a problem. And software is just another tool in the hand that creates solutions.
First, a demonstration that provides context: Donald Leka at New York Tech Meetup this week demonstrating Glide, which syncs software for music and photo sharing through all devices running Windows 8. It looks like this app gets out ahead of Dropbox and Box.
Then there is Steven Guggenheimer, who just took the helm of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism division, explaining at LeWeb the context around what makes the Windows 8 value proposition so worthwhile for developers. He takes a crib off of the concept that Leka leads with -- that there are three types of device platforms -- the Apple way, the Android way, and now the Microsoft way. Microsoft ends up being a happy medium between the rigid, hardware-mostly position of Apple, and the fragmented, software approach of Android, which is so multi-device led that apps makers are not going to be sure whether their software / app will work on a device.
Then I leave you with this -- a measure of how small affordable platforms are for any kind of coding team to build on. Developer Evangelist Sonal Mane, based in Chicago, sits down with a Startup Weekend team and figures out what they are doing to eat the world with their software.
I encourage you to listen to how the two developers describe the culture they work in, and the people that they interact with -- at the end of the day, it's not the wonderful thing you build. It's the solution that brings people together and helps them.
General Manager of Bing Fund Rahul Sood showed up in NYC this week to open up the new Windows App Lab. Here is how things went down at We Work Labs.
In many developing countries, the barriers to building rapidly a medical personnel and infrastructure are so huge that millions of children die every year due to complications from easily treated illnesses. One of those illnesses is pneumonia, which actually kills more people than HIV in Africa each year. And the sad thing about it is, a simple diagnoses of chest complications is all that is needed to distribute penicillin to the patient. The problem there is twofold: sometimes field doctors don't have the right equipment. And worse, sometimes they don't have any training.
So a team of doctors, researchers and hackers came up with StethoCloud, which takes a regular stethoscope and hooks it up to a smartphone so that a simple set of code can diagnose the patient quickly. The system runs on the Windows Azure cloud.
But here is what is interesting about it. With the cloud, it would make it entirely easy to treat the disease as a living, breathing data set. Uploading to the cloud data from millions of diagnostic tests would enable doctors and researchers to see how the disease behaves in the community. Inherent to this, I think, is a switch from treating the disease at every individual source - which is kind of reactive -- to understanding the disease as an organism. It's kind of like every Aspen tree is really one single Aspen tree. Disease moves through communities the way ideas do, passing from each susceptible source to each able spreader.
Right now, medical infrastructure, even in the developed world, masses huge resources against treating the individual. It spreads out a ratio of, say, 5000 possible patients to each doctor, and creates a workflow that is reactionary rather than predictive. That's really because all a doctor can do is apply her basic knowledge against a series of presentable symptoms. What if you reversed that? What if, by using smartphones, you were able to build, at scale, a platform of disease data?
What I think happens then is that you can leverage the huge power of the cloud to make a predictive diagnosis of where the disease will be next.
We don't often see disease as a collecdtive organism, because we don't treat it collectively. StethoCloud will be one of the first steps to understand that behavior, and I would bet that with more of this kind of smart phone technology, we might also see a huge decrease in the presentation of pneumonia, and, who knows, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis and more.
StethoCloud placed second place in the Microsoft Imagine Cup and was presented with $50,000 yesterday at the Microsoft Silicon Valley headquarters.
Starting this evening, it is now possible for BizSpark startups to use RightScale to ramp up quickly on Windows Azure. If you haven't looked into Microsoft BizSpark yet, this would be a good time to do so. BizSpark gives young startups making less than one million dollars in revenue some free software and access to low-cost computing hours on Windows Azure.
We also offer hands-on support at many of the incubators and accelerators around the world.
It's super simple to qualify. For more about the community of founders, engineers, and developers we serve, you should visit our Facebook page for BizSpark.
RightScale Cloud Management is the bridge between your applications and your cloud infrastructure. The MultiCloud Platform provides a universal remote to conveniently access your public, private, and hybrid cloud resource pools from one Dashboard and API. The Configuration Framework provides intelligent cloud blueprints to configure and operate your servers in a dynamic and completely customizable fashion. The MultiCloud Marketplace™ provides a one-stop shop of cloud-ready components. The Automation Engine gives you the power to provision, monitor, scale, and manage entire server deployments efficiently and reliably. Governance Controls allow you to keep watch over access, security, auditing, reporting, and budgeting through a “single pane of glass” view.