In a world where obesity is killing thousands of people a day in the world, it's almost joyous to hear that there are startups and app builders out there trying to use any means necessary to create the simplest apps to defeat life-threatening lifestyles and habits.
The folks at Bodeefit,one of the BizSpark teams I met at SXSW, has actually created a solution that is supposed to take away that mental barrier of not wanting to work out, and they are banking on the ease and simplicity of the Windows 8 (and formerly Metro) interface. And they are doing it fully committed to be in bootstrapping mode.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark
Blake Miller, co-founder of Bodeefit, says that in about thirty days the team will come out with a Windows Phone version of their new lifestyle and fitness app, which uses crossfit and paleo diet fundamentals to help people get off their butts during their work week and get in some cross-training.
The main hurdle was just convincing people that they can do it. The Windows UI made it easier for the team.
"The way that the UI worked out and played was easy," says Miller. "We limit [each workout] to two or three movements. There’s not a ton you have to do. And the way the UI displayed it…it doesn’t look that intimidating. It’s very clean, it doesn’t look like there is a lot you have to do."
The cross-fit app will eventually be on the phone, and when it is, aspects of the paleo diet and recipes that you can surf while shopping will be introduced, as well. Miller didn't say how long it will take to the get the Windows Phone app as fully capable as the Windows 8 app, but from talking to him it seemed like the team works very quickly. In fact, they seem to be wedded to the lean startup model, purposefully not seeking out investors because they want to make their money by generating revenue from consumers.
"We are purposefully trying to bootstrap this. We are investors as it is, we invested our resources to get it to market. The capital we put in is just the resources on our bench," says Miller. This is gutsy, or its necessity. It's apparently very hard for startups / app builders to get anything more than angel investing, given this ongoing rumor about a Series A Crunch, which is keeping serious Series A rounds from making it to the market.
This is even more gutsy when you consider what Miller says to investors with whom he just happens to have casual conversations. Their "addressable market" is gigantic.
"We are going after the entire fitness market. It’s a pie in the sky kind of answer, but this is great for entrepreneurs on the road all the time," says Miller. Though, I think that the market for fitness apps on the phone is bigger than just entrepreneurs on the road. That's a hint, though, about how this app was generated. It came from personal experience, and usually the hardest problems find their best solutions because the entrepreneur personally experiences them.
Miller says that in his work with Microsoft BizSpark, he's found it easier to work on the challenges of building a great app.
"You guys sponsored our accelerator program. We [also] understood and saw the vision [of the App Marketplace], and we could own an entire section in a branded store. Business wise, we looked at it that way. We saw it in terms of downloads," says Miller.
Felienne Hermans is proof that it’s possible to start a successful company while still a student.
Two years ago, Netherlands-based Felienne started applying her research on spreadsheets to build Infotron. And now the company is not only generating revenue, it can count among its customers impressive names such as PWC, ING and KLM. The concept is brilliantly simple but powerful: Infotron analyses Excel spreadsheets so that companies can reduce the risk and cost that hidden errors can cause.
Like many successful start-ups, Infotron combines the vital ingredients of: a great idea; a strong team; and making the most of networking and useful contacts. Infotron’s story started with Felienne’s PhD project at Delft University, co-sponsored by Microsoft and Avanade. Felienne chose to focus her research on ways in which use of spreadsheets can be improved. Says Felienne, “It is estimated that 88% of spreadsheets contain an error, yet they support strategic decisions in over 90 per cent of businesses.”
Here's a slide share of Hermans' PhD work, which she applied in the building of her startup, Infotron.
Felienne – who has been experimenting with computer technology since she was eight – developed software that analyses spreadsheets and then, most importantly, visualises the dependencies within those spreadsheets. In essence, the software (which is built on the Microsoft stack) makes hard-to-find errors visible and easier for enterprises to then address.
The response to her idea was immediate. “As part of my PhD, I created a prototype for Rabobank and they loved it so much they said they wanted to buy it, as soon as possible! So, I talked to my supervising professor, who has himself been an entrepreneur and could see the business potential. We decided to create a company, together with another professor at the university, with myself as the majority shareholder. The university doesn’t have the software rights, but the agreement is that we will fund an additional PhD research student, again focused on spreadsheet development.”
Since then, Infotron has gone from strength to strength, attracting some of the biggest brand names in Europe and earning Felienne around 100,000 Euros in just two years: not bad for a student! “It has sometimes been a struggle juggling my PhD workload with growing a business, but I just finished my PHD, four months ahead of schedule. So, it’s possible.”
Felienne attributes some of Infotron’s early success to the support received from Microsoft. “The local team has been very supportive. We are part of BizSpark, so we benefit from free access to technology, but Microsoft has also given us technical and business advice, helped with market visibility and making useful connections. For instance, we were named as one of the top ten BizSpark companies in the Netherlands and invited to events, including ‘speed-dating’ with potential customers. That one event led to current discussions with a major pharmaceutical company, which has become our biggest client.”
So what’s next for Infotron? The company is about to appoint a CEO, someone with many years’ experience and who Felienne feels will have the expertise to work with increasingly high-profile customers. Felienne has decided that while she has enjoyed the past two years, her heart lies with research, so she is about to become assistant professor for her department at Delft University. She is also passionate about helping other females explore the potential that science and technology has to offer.
So what’s next for Infotron? The company is about to appoint a CEO, someone with many years’ experience and who Felienne feels will have the expertise to work with an increasingly high-profile customers. Felienne has decided that while she has enjoyed the past two years, her heart lies with research, so she is about to become assistant professor for her department at Delft University. She is also passionate about helping other females explore the potential that science and technology has to offer.
You can get the whole overview here:
Every week we show you something that was amazing in TechCocktail., one of our partners. Here's this week's example, a talk on humility by David Crenshaw, a business coach.
We have friends who are into the mobile experience. When we were in Austin, we saw this dude shooting video and interviewing mobile developers about their take on the mobile space.
The video that came out of that explores the future of mobile in the absence of "the next big app" and also captures the energy of SXSW. Here's a blog post written by Appboy's Director of Marketing Cezary Pietrzak that puts the video into context.
Appboy at SxSW 2013 + The Future of Mobile Apps from Appboy on Vimeo.
Here's a paragraph from the video:
This year, Appboy took over SxSW with a camera in hand and a simple mission: to learn about the future of mobile apps. We spoke with leading mobile entrepreneurs, including Ryan Holmes (HootSuite), Adam Goldstein (Hipmunk) and Brett Martin (Sonar), to get their perspectives on what is working and what isn't. We found that even though mobile lost the spotlight at the festival, there was plenty of excitement about the category and plenty of opportunity for disruption. We also found that the rules of the game had changed, with many mobile apps shifting their attention to user engagement and building lasting relationships with their customers. See what these entrepreneurs had to say and experience the energy of SxSW, from downtown Austin and Salt Lick's famous BBQ to Grumpy Cat and grilled cheese sandwiches at the GroupMe Grill, to the epic parties of Foursquare, WSJ and Made in NY:Austin.
Thanks to Jason Calacanis and his Launch team for letting Festomat use its software to help check people into the conference this year. Here is a video showing this BizSpark team proving to thousands of attendees that their NFC-enabled software on Windows Phones can handle massive traffic and then provide a swarm of crowd data to the organizer.
Realty Mogul, an online, equity crowdfunding platform for real estate is going live today and already has its first success story. AH Capital, a real estate investment company in Los Angeles, raised $110,000 using Realty Mogul’s revolutionary platform for real estate fundraising. The money was raised while Realty Mogul was in private beta and is being used to purchase and rehabilitate a duplex in Los Angeles, CA.
AH Capital structured the investment as a secured loan, paying interest of 10% to investors on an annual basis. AH Capital is a real estate company that specializes in finding and creating value in residential properties. They looked to Realty Mogul to raise additional capital to continue growing the business. CEO Nicholas Halaris said, “Realty Mogul allows us to reach new investors and benefit from economies of scale available only through a web platform”.
Realty Mogul provides a unique platform for people who want to invest in real estate but are unsure of how to get started and do not have time to manage investment properties full-time. Users have access to buy shares of investments for as little as $5,000. CEO Jilliene Helman says “we’re introducing our investors to new real estate investments and allowing them to invest in their own backyard alongside some of the best private real estate investment companies, like AH Capital.”
Among the investors in the transaction was Thomas Pham, a real estate investor who historically invested in condos, doing most of the work himself. Thomas said, “Investing with Realty Mogul was great. It’s much easier than dealing with the hassles of property acquisition and property management. The team made it incredibly easy.”
Realty Mogul looks forward to many more success stories as it launches the web platform to a broader audience today. For accredited investors, Realty Mogul offers two types of investment opportunities: Loan Purchase for Residential Rehab and Equity Purchase for Commercial Buy and Hold.
Realty Mogul will first launch in California and Washington.
About Realty Mogul
Realty Mogul is a marketplace for accredited investors to pool money online and buy shares of real property like office buildings, apartment buildings and retail centers. For accredited investors, Realty Mogul gives them tools to browse investments, do due diligence, invest online and have 24/7 access to an investor dashboard to watch how their investments are performing. Realty Mogul partners with private real estate companies to source quality deal flow and curates all the investments. For these real estate companies, they have access to a broader capital pool and tools to do investor reporting, investor communication and distributions.
About AH Capital
AH Capital is a real estate company that specializes in finding and creating value in residential properties. Founded in 2009 during the height of the Great Recession, AH Capital has grown rapidly through its commitment to providing buyers and renters with high-quality, inspiring and affordable living spaces. AH Capital currently has active operations in Southern California, Atlanta and Research Triangle Park.
If the discussions over the coffee breaks were any indication, delegates at the annual IAMCP Summit in Brussels all seemed to agree it was a great success, but for me the highlight was the first-ever EU AppCup competition.
This post was written by Soha Hohnecker, Software Startup Lead at Microsoft.
Taking place on the second day, this gave some of the leading lights from the European BizSpark and IAMCP communities, plus some very impressive young entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their talents (and win some great prizes!) For anyone who hasn’t come across the IAMCP before, it is the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. As well as providing a supportive network to help members grow their businesses, the IAMCP also likes to give something back (after all, many of its members can remember what it was like to be a fledgling business owner), so the EU AppCup was a great opportunity to do just that.
Co-sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark, a program that provides free software licenses to startups, the EU AppCup gave 10 contestants (6 start-ups and IAMCP developers and 4 in the young entrepreneur category) a chance to present their Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps to the panel of judges (including myself).
The winners were:
1st place: BulldozAir from France
2nd place: Practice Your Music from Spain
Young entrepreneur category
1st place: Spelink from the UK
2nd place: Hearing Test from Spain
As is so often the case, it was hard to pick a winner and I’d like to briefly mention the other entrants, who came from all over Europe: ExpensesFL from France; My Sorting Game from Denmark; Human Encyclopedia from Portugal; Taxibokning from Sweden; Metroduino from Spain; and Trashout from Slovakia. You can read more about them all in a blog by my colleague Bertrand Salord.
Differentiation is key
I get to attend a lot of startup showcases and competitions as part of my job, but one of the things that really set this one apart is how the 10 entrants really made use of the features within Windows 8 and Windows Phone features to differentiate their apps, which is essential in this highly competitive marketplace. For example, My Sorting Game makes use of the tilt feature to make an educational game even more fun, while Practice Your Music makes use of collaborative tools to enable musicians spread across the world to work together.
You’ll be hearing more from me about some of the winners and runners-up in the coming months, but in the meantime, congratulations to everyone who took part in the first ever EU AppCup Competition. I look forward to hearing more about your future progress!
Few things in life leave an impression quite like meeting Dave McClure….
The first time we met in person was at Le Web in December 2011.
Here we are at Brian Solis’ birthday drinks at the Intercon in Paris, sandwiched between Oren from Mashery and our mutual good pal, 500 Startups mentor and champion coach to startups, Mike Sigal. At that time Dave was mostly myth and legend to me. Our first exchange was ‘colorful’ (I had a lot of fine white burgundy on board by then) and I quickly realized that – beneath the controversy and Tasmanian dust devil persona – was a uniquely talented, smart and interesting, passionate and inspirational entrepreneur – and a leader.
Since then I’ve had the extreme good fortune to leave the sub-zero temperatures and sub-optimal transport systems of London and Paris behind me, relocating to sunnier climes in Mountain View, CA. The home of 500 Startups.
Quite by coincidence (not truly by design), I was just down the road witnessing 500 Startups growth and expansion (into Russia, India, China, LATAM and beyond) as they became a real player on the international scene. What a year they have had. Next stop for Geeks on a Plane is SE Asia. One of my colleagues will be on that plane. Lucky Peking duck.
Pretty much everyone who spends time with McCrazy develops a fond memory or two…
Dave does have an extensive vocabulary and amazing energy and, with it, a boat load of insights, eager to challenge the status quo. One of my favorite memories is watching him on stage at Mega Startup Weekend @ MSFT Silicon Valley – where he encouraged everyone to ‘give failure the finger’. Everyone loved his Friday night motivational speech. Teams were sending Dave pics of the bird gesture all weekend and they worked on ideas, formed teams and built prototypes.
(If you didn’t make it to Mega you can watch the video for a flavor of the event)….
Now on their 6th class, 500 goes from strength to strength. We are witnessing the “rise of the angels"..
We recently hosted the 500 Startups Mexican Demo Day at MSFT SV – some of the companies are brilliant. We wish them well. So many entrepreneurs, domestically in the US and from all corners of the globe, aspire to join the program in Mountain View. Their grads and alumni speak highly of their experience.
Last we heard, Dave was in Brazil.
At least his flip-flops are not out of place there. Check out his slides from the Startup Weekend Organizers Summit in Rio this week. F-bombs aside, I am tempted to use the same approach in my next team meeting: the sun is shining, the air is warm and the beer is cold. Let’s go and enjoy it. Life is too short for slides.
With that – let’s just say that we’re delighted to announce the next chapter of the Microsoft partnership with 500 Startups.
We love their energy, their mission, and their impact.
Felix is here to help startups @ 500 make the most of Microsoft platform technologies (like Windows 8, Windows Azure and Windows Phone) and the BizSpark program. We’ll post some updates during the year on our site and in the meantime, please welcome Felix to the Bay Area and feel free to reach out to him. Maybe Dave and he will get along (note: similar glasses)…. and I’m sure Dave can teach Felix a thing or two.. about birds.
Claire Lee is head of Strategic Partnerships for Microsoft Startups (@Claire0h)
If you have not read Dave McClure's thoughts on the 500 Startups business model, stop now, and go read it.
If you are maybe looking for a bit of light reading that explains the whole theory, culture and practice of startups and why he does what he does, instead, go to his slide presentation given at #sosummit, which I will embed here.
The second round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program is now live: it pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate during focused 6-13 month “tours of duty” to develop solutions that can save lives, save taxpayer money, and create new jobs.
Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique opportunity to serve our Nation and make an impact on a truly massive scale.
The PIF Program brings top innovators, entrepreneurs, and change agents into government for 6-12 months to develop game-changing solutions that benefit the American people in a myriad ways -- saving lives, saving taxpayer money, and creating new jobs. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, this is a wonderful opportunity to engage in improving our country.
Each team of innovators is supported by a broader community of interested citizens throughout the country. The 1st round of five projects was launched in August 2012 with 18 inaugural Fellows. This round includes nine projects – four that are the second phases of Round 1 projects and five new projects.
They are looking to put together a dynamic, diverse, innovative class that will produce tremendous results for the American people.
Applications are now open for Round 2 Fellow from February 5th and close this Sunday March 17th
We encourage the innovators in our BizSpark Community to apply for this program.
You can apply here
More info http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/InnovationFellows
If you went to South by Southwest this week and were overwhelmed by garish colored posters proclaiming the next big app, then you were not alone. Oddly, it seemed as though there were a lot of pitches and a lot of judgment of those pitches, but that there was not a lot of buzz about any special apps. That's a good thing, I think. Spotted this week by Rebekah Ilif, co-founder of a new PR company called AirPR: a renewed focus on human capital, at SXSW, the interactive mecca for geeks. She wrote a good piece in Young Entrepreneur about a subtle shift in the conversation about startups at SXSW.
Her point: it seemed the conversation was more cultural and business-focused and that people seemed to be the most interesting aspect of every panel-- whether it was Elon Musk or Al Gore talking about the future of space flight and our ecosystem. It seemed that people were weighing human impact in the business world.
During a brief conversation with Microsoft BizSpark’s Doug Crets, he adeptly described an emerging theme in the startup world, validated by activity during SXSW: “I see a focus on business…entrepreneurs looking to create long-term sustainable solutions to systemic problems in the business world. There has been a recent shift to finding people to solve problems, rather than looking to technology to solve a problem.”
So what does this mean? In short, entrepreneurs will start focusing on infrastructure and processes by leveraging the wildly abundant (and cheap) technology solutions currently in existence. And people, smart people who can solve complex problems, will be a valuable asset during this re-engineering process.
You see this in a lot of the conversations we have in our Facebook community about what it takes to make a startup into a company.
Recently, we had a long discussion about the value of nearly free software and the impact that could have on building a strong business. The lower the cost of software and even hardware, the greater opportunities for iteration. While it takes a while to build a company, if it takes fewer dollars, you are eliminating some forms of risk -- risk to your balance sheet; risk that you can't pay your staff; the risk that you will run out of marketing dollars.
With a free software program, you can focus on your team and your business. And how valuable is that?
Alan Weinkrantz ran into Kobi Stok and his guitar at SXSW this week. Weinkrantz asked Kobi what it was like to develop something for Windows Azure and if it was easy to work with Microsoft in their Accelerator program in Tel Aviv. Kobi answered in the affirmative, even saying that the folks at Microsoft went out of their way to help him in almost every step of his app development.
Careful what you say in a pitch. Speek CTO Danny Boice, a Microsoft BizSpark member and fully tattooed dropout from Harvard, said at the end of his pitch in front of TechCocktail's pitch contest crowd at SXSW that if they won the pitch contest, then John Bracken, his CEO, would get the Speek mascot tattooed on his rear end.
Lo, and behold.
They won. He did.
Here's the full story in the Wall Street Journal, written by Danny.
And here is the full color slide show of the monkey tattooing.
What a thrill to land in Austin two days ago and immediately start answering tweets and text messages, setting up meetings and designating meetup spots for official and unofficial -- business.
When BizSpark travels, there is never a city we land in where there is not an entrepreneur, a partner organization or a awesome event that is bringing the startup community together. And SXSW is where so much of what makes startup culture alive happens in a very real way.
Today we are camped out at the Startup America Studio and Lounge. Click here for a whole series of gallery images from the day.
Steve Blank is here. Bob Dorf is here. They wrote "The Startup Owner's Manual," which Startup America is giving out to founders and developers today. I thnk about 1,200 copies have already flown out the door.
Startups and Media will happen at 12.30pm Central. That's where startups get to pitch members of the media and have their pitches filmed for a possible inclusion in a CBS News program. Hamish McKenzie from PandoDaily will be there. And Sarah Needleman from the Wall Street Journal.
Then from about 1.45 to 3.15pm Central, Douglas Crets will be doing a live radio show with founders and press. You can save the livestream link here.
Then at 3.30pm, get ready for "The Future of Crowdfunding" with Steve Case, Senator Mark Warner, Jason Best, Candace Klein, and Slava Rubin, from Indiegogo.
That's all happening on the Fourth Floor of the Downtown Austin Hilton, in the StartupLive studio. You can find the proceedings on Twitter by following #startuplive.
Below you will find the automatically uploaded videos that were captured at SXSW.
The team at BizSpark knows that mobile video is the thing this year. So, to make it even more a thing, our evangelist team asked Chicago-based startup, Sparkreel if we could use their app to promote the awesome stuff that is happening at SXSW.
So, if you have a Windows / Android / iphone, download the app or sign up via the window below, and enable an awesome experience for everyone attending SXSW. You will be able to share your videos of the tragically hip on the go, and when it comes to eating food at our MeatUp barbecue party in downtown Austin, you can share your favorite vid of your favorite developer getting sloppy with the ribs.
Here’s how it works:
To quickly register your username and share past SXSW video moments, click the JOIN button on the Reel below:
Startups in Microsoft BizSpark now qualify for Yammer.
Get it while the getting is good.
So, you all have probably seen the Learn to Code video.
How can you not be inspired by this?
Well, one of our BizSpark members, Prateek Gupta, is heading to SXSW as we speak, on the Startup Bus. And he and a team of coders and hackers are working on a project called Coders without Borders, a riff on the Medicens Sans Frontiers project. He wants to make sure that everyone who can teach someone to code can find someone who wants to learn how to code.
Want to help? Well, it starts here.
thanks for being a good person, Prateek!
Prateek is on the left. The other members of his team are on the right -- Reuben Lemmens; David Deghan; and Kate Scisel.
BizSpark! Getting ish done since 2008.
Microsoft BizSpark attracts great people who really do want to change the world. go ahead and apply today and not only receive free software licenses for software that helps you build a company in the cloud. Get the support and the human network filled with people like Prateek, who want to get stuff done.
We are at Launch Festival 2013 today. San Francisco weather is gorgeous, and startups are jumping off the walls.
Here's a live stream widget that will let you watch everything that is happening on stage.