Startup culture. Highs and lows. Dread and exasperation. Glory and elation.
What really sucks about running a startup? What do you love?
We asked the startup community at our Microsoft BizSpark Facebook Page to take a read on their startup experience and answer today's fill-in-the-blank question. By the way, if you have not joined our page and Liked it, you are going to be missing out on some good content and interactions with startup founders. Visit us now and join.
The Question We Asked Today:
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is _____________. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is _______________.
Here are some of the answers:
Greg Gopman, AngelHack -- "unites startup communities nationwide for a hackathon where they build startup ideas and win seed capital from investors."
The most exciting thing about being at a startup (AngelHack) is having the freedom to follow your passions and paint the world with a purple crayon. The most horrible thing about being at a startup (AngelHack) is you have to shovel through a lot of sh*t before anyone gives you the paper to write on.... luckily with persistence and temperance anything is possible. AngelHack Summer 2012 coming soon :)
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is working with cutting edge technology to show the world your own design. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is trying to find resources to help fund the high cost of software development and testing. Bizspark does a great job of giving startups what they need to create the next generation of apps and software.
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is the freedom to create and to succeed at it. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is the constant doubt and fighting them away.
Jason Barnes, iactionable which, according to Barnes, is "a gamification platform built on Azure. We apply game-like mechanics to business processes to increase motivation and engagement in the workplace."
1. The freedom to solve problems and make change happen.
2. The extremely polar emotional rollercoaster from excitement to desperation.
The most exciting thing about a startup is being pioneers and innovators the most horrible things is leaving the company, but to start it all over again is the reward !!!
Vishal Talreja, Xiimo
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is the constant uncertainty, fear and doubt and yet the fighting spirit to create something wonderful - from the heart. Here at Xiimo, we are constantly trying to understand the small business sentiments, pivoting, re-calibrating to get the best experience, powered by Azure, to small businesses globally. Nothing horrible about that :)
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is learning. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is also learning.It is a great feeling to delve in something new, experience something fresh, pick up a new skill, meet new people, understand new technologies, gain new insights. But it is equally as harsh to learn about our weaknesses, our inabilities, the problems with our ideas, the problems with people, the challenges that all entrepreneurs must face. It is by accepting both the bold and fearful nature of entrepreneurism that we can progress. We never really fail, we merely learn harder lessons than others :)
Angela Fisher, Ace Barter
The most exciting thing about being a start up is realizing that the roller coaster up and down doesn't deter me from pushing forward. I feel the same joy and enthusiasm on the up days, and the down days. The most horrible thing about being a start up is that in-between time when you see the forward momentum paying off, but the money isn't coming in yet. I'm with Ace Barter, and we are a barter exchange - basically a cash and credit alternative.
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is "you are alone and can think on your own: your vision, your perception, your company". The most horrible thing about being at a startup is "you are alone and might mess up everything: risks, lack of experience, high pressure".
The most exciting thing about being at a startup is that your are trying to make your dream come true, and every moment of that is exciting - from designing to negotiating with investors. The most horrible thing about being at a startup is that you need time to prove your idea, and you need money to stay alive. Net Beszed and Experts on Cam would like to thank Microsoft for its help! We are trying to stay alive. We are going to stay alive!
Jose Antonio Morales
_Discovery_. _Fixed costs_.Discovery: it is the engine, we wish to know if we can achieve something different and great.Fixed: any obligation that drains cash: subscriptions, passives, unnecessary expenses.
I have met numerous wanna-preneurs over coffee meet-ups where folks have ditched their idea after working on it for long, simply because they found a successful competitor. Really?
Ruchit Garg, CEO of 9Slides, an app which synchronizes speaker tracks with slides -- Photo Credit Yatharth Gupta
Why do you worry about having competitors? I think it’s a reason to celebrate.
Here is why I think so:
If this is your first company, believe me, the above are so valuable that otherwise you would spend tremendous amount of time and money before you are in business.
Instead of worrying about competition, you need to focus on customers. Remember, you are in the business (or trying to be in it) because you have this great idea/product/service you want to serve/sell/provide to your customers and not because you want to beat that competitor.
I personally spend several hours every week talking to our trial and paid users of 9SLIDES in order to understand their motivations and things which would make them happy customers. That contact point will be where new ideas and revenue generation will originate. It won't be happening just sitting in the office, dreaming up something with which nobody can compete. Customers, as it turns out, are just as nimble as you would want to be. You kind of have to learn from them how to adjust your sails.
If you do it right with focus on customers, you can win over customers and change the ball game. But if you sweat about competitor and spend energies on trying to find ways to defeat them, believe me you are more likely to lose it.
Moreover, even if you don’t have competitor today, you would have at least one tomorrow. They could start late and can raise LOT of money and appear to be huge. At that point, what makes more sense -- raising a bigger round than they, or having a cadre of customers who love the product you made for them, and with them? I think it makes sense what the logical conclusion should be.
Ruchit Garg is serial tech entrepreneur working on his next startup called 9SLIDES. He can be followed on twitter @ruchitgarg or can be reached over email at email@example.com
Special Offer from 9Slides for BizSpark members:
Whew. That's over. That was some crazy Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect Business that just went down last week. Here's a review of it, if you have not seen anything about the eleven companies that demo'd their work at the Demo Day on Friday.
Step into the Realm
Links and pictures for your entertainment -- we will add more as they filter in. If you have any links to these that you would like to share, put them in the comments. Or send them to our Facebook Page for BizSpark.
Microsoft helps businesses get into the funding stream with Kinect Accelerator
Kinect engineers compete for funding and attention at the Microsoft Accelerator Demo Day (BBC)
Video footage of demo day from Microsoft
Kinect Demo Day Offers Lots of Options for VCs
Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect: Meet the Companies
Video coverage of Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect startup FreakNGenius (warning, loud blaring ad roll footage first)
What Kinect means to me -- a look at the poetry of machines
How Jintronix went from complicated to Kinect in their search for a stereoscopic solution
With over 16,000 start-ups part of BizSpark in Europe, you’d expect the calibre of the top 15 chosen to pitch in the annual BizSpark European Summit to be pretty high. But this year’s panel of illustrious judges worked hard on June 7th, particularly to agree on the runner-up.
The five who jostled for second place were The Netherlands’ Autitouch, Ireland’s Jampot (also winner of the People’s Choice Award with over 12,000 votes), Israel’s Foresight, Belgium’s miMedication and Italy’s Paperlit. Two healthcare-focused companies, two mobile app innovators and one ingenious cyber-security solution. A great line-up.
But, the judges’ overall prize goes to Paris-based Commerce Guys, who have developed a suite of cloud-based solutions that harnesses the power of Drupal open source content management for powerful eCommerce applications. CEO Frederic Plais says, “Merchants want to match sophisticated content that connects with social media and mobile. What we do is focus our knowledge and expertise on providing online merchants with the powerful, responsive, flexible and innovative eCommerce solutions they need to thrive.” Since its launch 10 months ago, over 15,000 users – ranging from small companies to large - have signed up for Drupal Commerce, which includes software, consultancy and training.
You may be wondering how an open source company gets to be part of BizSpark. In fact, the company has collaborated with Microsoft from its early days and is on Windows Azure. Says Frederic, “We know that when we are targeting the enterprise market, a lot of them are going to be on the Microsoft stack, so this opens up a big potential market for us.”
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Summit than winning the top prize so if you missed the event and want to catch the recorded livestream, you can watch Commerce Guys (session one), the other finalists and of course, our keynote speaker and panel participants in action. Finally, a big thanks to event venue Ravensbourne, the creative & tech college in Greenwich which did a great job of ensuring that London’s first time to host the Summit (now eight years old) did the UK’s capital city proud.
This blog post was written for BizSpark by Bindi Karia, who runs the BizSpark program in the UK for the Microsoft Emerging Business Team.
What makes the difference between a startup’s success and failure? What sets a truly great business apart from an average or mediocre one? It’s not funding, and it’s not the product. It’s the people.
Every day, I talk with startups that struggle to find qualified talent to push their businesses to the next level. It’s apparent that talent is the single biggest lever your business has, but it’s often the most difficult to find. For starters, you are limited to the candidate pool within commuting distance of your office. But even if the best possible person for your business lives within that 50-mile radius, what are the chances that you could you actually find, attract, and afford them, given that great talent has countless options?
Traditional hiring can be painful, especially for resource-strapped startups. But thanks to the explosion of online work, businesses are breaking the barriers of geography, and they aren’t going back — 76% of businesses characterize online work as a long-term strategy, and 90% say it makes their business more competitive, according to an independent survey of more than 7,000 oDesk clients by Genesis Research.
Real talent is flexible and scalable. You can find incredible freelancers anywhere — and online marketplaces like oDesk can help you get started. So how can you use online work to turbocharge your startup and get a competitive edge? Here are some of the ways oDesk clients are leveraging online work:
These are some of the most common ways startups leverage online work, but they only scratch the surface of what’s possible. What will your oDesk success story be? Visit the Microsoft Certified Professionals Group on oDesk to find out — you can start by searching for one of the more than 500 Microsoft-certified developers on the platform!
As CEO of oDesk, Gary Swart has a passion for helping small businesses succeed and more than 17 years of experience in the enterprise software market. Before oDesk, as the VP of Worldwide Sales for Intellibank, he was responsible for building the sales organization, but Gary's enthusiasm for small businesses was born during his tenure as a Business Unit Executive for IBM's Rational Software Product Group, where he led Small and Medium Business sales for the Americas. Gary came to Rational through its merger with Pure Software, where he held sales, management and leadership positions. Gary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.
You're probably going to be at work for most of the Olympics, so how are you going to watch the Sychronized Swimming, or without ducking into the break room every fifteen minutes to get your 4X400 hurdles fix?
One of our BizSpark members, Intelli-Focus, has come out with an app called the OPlanner, and it makes the Olympic Games the Applympic Games (groan).
With OPlanner you can discreetly watch streaming Olympic footage from your desk while you are filling out those TPS reports, or coming in on Saturday at around 10:30. The app is listed in the top ten in the sports category at the iTunes app store.
Creative Commons License, courtesy of Paul Gaborit
Here's Bob Wall, CEO of Intelli-Focus, worked with 2 others to build this app last week to schedule the Olympics. You can find it at the iTunes app store, here.
The backend is using RESTful API's on Windows Azure and SQL Azure for the database, and the front-end is hands-down more beautiful and useful than any other apps out there..
Guest blog by Kattayil Rajinish Menon
54 Hours | No Talk | All Action
100 Participants | 68 Business Ideas Pitched | 15 Startups Bootstrapped
3 Startups Declared Winners
Startup Weekend Bangalore was a great success. Microsoft helped organize and host the event which attracted startups, aspiring entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, investors and venture capitalists. The 54 hours were full of great activity. In addition to great keynote sessions and Thursday’s Windows Azure Boot camp session, there were:
Which led to the three winners!
Mistakopedia is an open web platform for live updates of mistakes people make, mundane to important ones. It serves as a search engine of mistakes.
Sharewell is an online platform for member driven, trustable, sharing, and recycling communities.
Shastra is a learn-teach platform that transfers information based on users’ social circles and interests in a gamified environment.
Congratulations to all!
Check out more details at http://bangalore.startupweekend.org/
Post written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist for Microsoft BizSpark
It will go down as BikiniGate. A team of developers flashes images of bikini-clad women on screen during their pitch and Q&A with investors at MEGA Startup Weekend, and one of the investors speaks up. What results is a much-needed and a continual discussion about the role of women in Startuplandia.
As Sharon Vosmek, CEO of ASTIA, told us at the beginning of the weekend, it takes three things to make a successful business and team -- you need imagination; innovation, and women. (Please correct me if I misheard her -- I didn't write it down.)
(Photo Credit: Erica Hsu, Flickr)
Here's something I have learned from watching countless people pitching their products to venture capitalists and other experts of industry -- when you are up there pitching a business, you are also pitching the zeitgeist of your culture. You are presenting a movable feast of the revenue-shaping ideas and the consciousness that makes your company possible.
It's the same as if you are an artist creating great art. It's the same as if you were recording the next great pop song. You are a channel through which your community speaks.
This is one of the reasons why we feel nervous on stage. We are being judged by our peers. We feel a sense of self-awareness.
One of the great things that happened this weekend was not so great. It left me feeling a little stung. One of the companies pitching their product flashed a couple of pictures of women in bikinis on the overhead screen -- a move that was meant to convey how they provide context in their app to people seeking information about an event. But the move was interpreted by more than a few people as a blatant use of women's bodies to get attention for their idea.
Chris Yeh, one of the investors on the judging panel, called them out on it, and then wrote this blog post about the role everyone needs to play in bringing better thinking about gender into Silicon Valley Startuplandia. Yeh pointed out:
Gender balance is rare in Silicon Valley, but the Mega Startup Weekend team did a good job of attracting a diverse set of entrepreneurs and audience members, including quite a few women. I watched a few of them during the pitch; while they didn't display any extreme reactions, I could see at least some signs of (perhaps resigned) discomfort.So when it was my turn to speak on the judging panel, I took a few seconds to do something really simple. I lifted the microphone and said, "I hate to be a buzzkill, but I just have to point out that using that bikini picture seems inappropriate. It doesn't have anything to do with your product."The whole thing took less than 15 seconds, but even before I finished speaking the women in the audience applauded loudly--and because there were a good number of women in the audience, it brought the proceedings to a brief halt.
And Adria Richards, Developer Evangelist for SendGrid, wrote a really powerful post about her emotional reaction. What she wrote is extremely important for any culture maker or app builder:
"A lot was going on in these few minutes when I realized I had another new feeling – As an attendee and representative for my company was that I felt like I belonged and that the guys on stage were out of place. Amazing! Because of this, I had the courage and better yet, the sense of entitlement, to march right up on stage and thank Chris after all the pitches were done. And that’s what I did!
I was there on behalf of the company I work for because we’re global sponsors along with Microsoft, Google and others. I’m a developer evangelist for SendGrid. I talk with developers about how to integrate and leverage our API. I embrace my inner nerd and am becoming a social geek, especially through conferences. This is my third Startup Weekend. The first one I attended last May in San Francisco was a phenomenal! Steve Blank spoke about entrepreneurship, testing your assumption, failure and being memorable. That event gave me a data point to work from to explore and identify the intersection of passion and purpose."
Passion and Purpose
The two blog posts are getting a lot of attention on the Twitters. You can follow #SWBayMEGA to get the constant updates on it.
What Richards and Yeh are saying is a version of what I felt when I was sitting around at my first Startup Weekend. There was a real nexus of people, power, personality, emotion and purpose going on here. The BizSpark team felt it. You could see people standing on chairs when the winners were called. They must have been feeling it.
BikiniGate issues can hit us in two ways, from two different directions.
They can keep us from seeing how deep our real work is in building startups. But, it's also a positive, because things like BikiniGate also help us express what some of us often would hold back -- our real opinions on what matters to us as individuals and as a community.
As I have written about before, we are culture builders here. We are channeling the thoughts, values and beliefs of our time into the world we are making as developers, entrepreneurs, hackers, programmers, venture capitalists. the work being done here is what makes Silicon Valley and Microsoft BizSpark such a special place. We are distributed all over the world, but something important and culturally necessary is at play here in Silicon Valley.
So, what Yeh and Richards are saying is very important. We need to be thinking about inclusion. Inclusion spawns innovation.
When a man running information technology for a limousine company started testing out Windows System Center 2012 cloud feature, he turned his car service company into a company that could help other businesses.
The Wall Street Journal has a great article today about Alan Bourassa, CIO of Empire CLS, a private car service based in New Jersey. He decided to do his service one better than the elegant car picking you up for the airport and decided to use some Microsoft cloud services to radically improve his business model.
Empire had been using UNIX since 1981, and began moving to an internally managed Microsoft Windows system in 2008. A 30-year veteran of the IT industry, Bourassa agreed to test Microsoft’s newest Windows System Center 2012, which allowed Bourassa to automate most of the labor-intensive server and data management functions and move the entire operation to a private cloud environment. The system also allows human resource managers to instantly onboard new drivers and assign them mobile devices loaded with dispatching and trip management software, all without a single manual intervention by IT staff
Bourassa decided to do this because the company's key asset is a software program that allows consumers to reserve cars. They figured out that even though this is Empire's core asset, competitors are going to figure out this technology and leave the company behind. So, they decided to sell it to their competitors, making them the distributor of the system. This is a great use of the cloud and it shows that cloud technology not only creates interesting vendor and consumer dynamics, but that cloud technology can also transform a company and develop new revenue streams.
Ever felt frustrated that you can never dig deep enough, and reliably enough, into Twitter to find the right influencers or connections for you to proceed with conversations and media strategies?
Social media information really translates into signposts that direct you to potential community members in what is essentially an expeirence of community building. If you are in social media for any length of time you realize that you are not consuming as much as you are building up reputation and clear communication that drives people to you, in order for them to gain some insight from you and you from them.
So you need an app that clears the clutter, uses targeting efficiency to show someone you like what they do, and draw them to you. I found something that does this. They are recently made BizSpark members.
Try Whosin App. This is a perfect app for the disrupted media channels genre, and for advertising and marketing. I am completely excited about the current state of Whosin, and its future. I recently spoke with one of the founders, Dev Kanel who came by the Microsoft BizSpark offices to talk about some backend ideas for his startup.
Today the BizSpark team is pleased to announce BizSpark Plus, an extension of the Microsoft BizSpark Program. BizSpark Plus will provide exceptional Microsoft offers to high-potential startups through a global network of BizSpark Plus Partners selected from leading incubators and accelerators.
BizSpark Plus Partners are chosen from local markets based on their track record of attracting and working with world-class startups. Here are just of few partners who have already joined as BizSpark Plus Partners:
There will be several offers from Microsoft through this program, the first being Windows Azure for BizSpark Plus, that allows our partners to provide up to $60,000 of Windows Azure compute and storage per startup over two years.
Our goal is to help startups grow their business and by offsetting startups’ cloud computing costs, this enables startups to spend time and money elsewhere – focusing on solving their business challenges, learning from their users, hiring more developers, investing in marketing and promoting their business or getting new customers.
Over time, we will be extending additional offers through our BizSpark Plus Partners. For more information about the program, visit http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/plus.
By Sharon Koshy
Over the past few weeks, here’s a sampling of news highlights of members of the BizSpark One program, identifying a small number of the best companies in BizSpark, which is now comprised of over 45,000 startups.
Week of January 22-28, January 29-February 4, and February 5-11:
Guest blog by Seaton Gras
SURF will be opening over 15,000 square feet of class A office space to over 100 entrepreneurs this March.
SURF Incubator is dedicated to providing the resources that startup entrepreneurs need in order to build their businesses. The community wants entrepreneurs to be successful and will offer the following support:
Applications for residency welcome!
30 to Launch Opens Today
If you haven't heard of this before, prepare to engross yourself in a new opportunity. 30 to Launch -- a thirty day boot camp to get your business-as-an-app up and running in the Azure Cloud, with a chance to win $4,000 while you're at it.
Take thirty days to invest in your Cloud Business with 30 to Launch.
Join 30 to Launch | Windows Azure. Here's a little more information:
If you are looking to start a cloud business, port your app to the cloud, or extend an existing app – 30 to Launch is for you. From technical and business consulting time to daily tips to keep you on track, your cloud business you can really kick start things with this program.
Also, what’s new with this challenge is that you can get competitive and stay on track with the 30 to Launch Timeline App. The Timeline App enables sharing of your progress with the entire 30 to Launch community. You’ll have the chance to showcase your app development and see where your app stacks up against other participants. At the end of the challenge, not only will you be equipped to jumpstart your cloud business, but you will also have a shot at winning $4,000 to invest in your cloud business. Sign up to the challenge which runs from April 23 to May 22, 2012.
Opportunities like this are popping up all the time with Microsoft. It's a great chance to supercharge your startup efforts and make sure you are surrounding yourself with the right resources and the right people to get you off the ground and running.
You can also focus completely on building a Windows Phone app in thirty days.
*This contest will begin on April 23, 2012 and is open only to hobbyists, professionals, and developers in the field of software technology who are legal residents of the 50 U.S. + D.C. 18+. Please visit http://www.30tolaunch.com/WindowsAzure/Contest/OfficialRules on April 23rd to receive full details on how to participate
All sorts of guessing and excitement about the new Microsoft investment in Barnes & Noble today. One thing is certain, Microsoft is all about the cloud and putting apps on devices.
From the press release:
One of the first benefits for customers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8, which will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore by providing one of the world’s largest digital catalogues of e-Books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally.
From the TechCrunch story, Microsoft Makes $300 Million Investment in Barnes and Noble....
This is also a progression — a very big one — of the funding etudes that Microsoft has been making to developers to make sure they are making apps for the Windows Phone platform, a way of getting more content on its platforms, which, it can be argued, may have come too late to the market. The first product to come out of the door? A Nook application for Windows 8, the companies say.
Venture Beat says it's a gateway into the lucrative higher education market.
The inclusion of B&N’s higher education business also gives Microsoft a gateway into that potentially lucrative market. The subsidiary will push forward B&N’s Nook Study software to deliver digital education goods — which could potentially remove the need for expensive textbooks.
The Next Web focuses on the push to make a dent in the e-reader market against Amazon and the Kindle and Kindle Fire:
One of the first things that customers will be able to experience will be Barnes & Noble’s NOOK app for Windows 8 (Amazon has also built a Kindle app) that will push e-book, magazine and newspaper content to Windows customers.
The two companies will also push education incentives via Barnes & Noble’s College business, providing students and teachers will digital tools and content via Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Study software.
The Portable Future
The really simple way to look at it is that Windows Phones and then the future devices that will use the Windows 8 platform -- like the really hot looking tablets coming out -- are preludes to a future of portability. Developers now have an even bigger doorway through which to walk through their apps ideas.
Microsoft is hosting, through BizSpark, a competition to build web and mobile apps for Windows Phones. You can do this at Seed Philly. You can also, presumably, do this anywhere from now until June 3, when you take the 30 to Launch Azure Challenge, which gives you an opportunity to work with Microsoft Windows teams to put your business in the cloud with an app for the phone or the web.
Startups and cloud developers face challenging opportunities while building a business in the cloud. Monetization of apps and how to manage talent in a wireless world are among the most important.To bring us through this, Wired UK editor David Rowan will moderate the BizSpark European Summit on June 7 in London.
By Ruud de Jonge, Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft Netherlands
I’m delighted to announce that this year’s BizSpark European Summit takes place on June 7th, in London. Now into its 8th year, this event will once again bring together the great and the good in the European entrepreneurial community. As well as top investors, visionaries and guest speakers, the line-up includes 15 of our top BizSpark startups from across the region. You may remember that at last year's European Summit, the winners aligned along a fantastic spectrum of entrepreneurial talent.
Picking the finalists for the event was a tough call, as we have literally thousands to choose from in Europe, but here are the 15 who will present on stage to a panel of judges, as well as the audience:
6wunderkinder (Germany), Autitouch (The Netherlands), Commerce Guys (France), Entertrainer (Finland), Fitting Reality (Russia), Foresight (Israel), Jampot (Ireland), miMedication (Belgium), MobileBits (Germany), Paperlit (Italy), Parking Defenders (Greece), PlaceChallenge (Poland), Red Badger (the UK), The Oblong (UK), and xBrainSoft (France).
Among the people they will be trying to influence are Reshma Sohoni, Partner, Seedcamp, Phil Cox, Head of UK, Europe and Israel, Silicon Valley Bank, Saul Klein, Partner, Index Ventures, and Curtis MacDonald, Investment Manager, High-Tech Gründerfonds.
Speakers and panel sessions
The day is being MC’d by David Rowan, editor of Wired UK, who will oversee a range of keynotes and panel discussions, covering a wide range of topics, including the monetisation of apps, the cloud economy and how to manage talent. Presenters and participants include Bob Dorff (co-author of the Startup Owner’s Manual), world-renowned Professor Jerome S. Engel, last year’s Summit pitch contest winner Alessandro Rizzoli (CEO of Mobapp), plus our very own Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft.
The venue is Ravensbourne, next to the 02, close to TechCity and the Old Street area (fast becoming a major hub for startups in the UK) and not far from the Olympic stadium – London is definitely an exciting place to be this summer. In fact, some of you may have spotted that the date is the same week as the British Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations (50 years in the same job is an impressive track record) so we can safely expect London to be buzzing with lots to see and do.
We look forward to finding out who will be crowned our own BizSpark ‘royalty’ on June 7th.
Related content: Here are some case studies of some of Microsoft's work in Europe:
The TechCrunch Hackathon starts at 12.30 in NYC. We have three companies there.
Aviary, an awesome photo software app, is showcasing at the hackathon. Aviary will help showcase their Windows Phone app and SDK. here is a link that hows how to integrate the SDK into your W7 project.
Objective Logistics, which helps restaurant owners increase sales, will be showing off how they work on the Azure platform.
And Psykosoft, a photo-painting app, allows users to paint their images using a variety of color sampling techniques. They are showcasing a Windows 8 app.
Here's a rundown of the dates and the companies.
And here are some videos of the companies, to whet your appetite.
And Psykosoft in Boston delivering an amazing pitch, in which the CEO tells people they suck at painting... But not anymore!
On June 7th, fifteen of Europe's best startups are going to be competing for the top prize in front of a panel of investors and influencers, not to mention an audience consisting of a couple of hundred peers and others from the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve created the People’s Choice Award, an extra prize that ANYONE can cast their vote for – so this is YOUR CHANCE to influence who the winner is! All you have to do is cast your vote between now and midnight BST June 6th. Check out these fifteen finalists and the start-up you think has the greatest potential to succeed.
Visit the page to see all of the potential award winners, and to cast your vote.
We will also be blogging about the candidates this whole week, starting tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the term Other People’s Money. In fact, some believe Other People’s Money is the simplest definition of doing business. There is another OPM that is in many ways just as important, and that is Other People’s Marketing.
Adam Peterson, CEO of Vipecloud writes about new marketing strategies for startups in social, as part of our guest blogging series at BizSpark.
New companies are popping up at hyper-speed making it challenging to stand out to potential users. So how do you capture the attention of your market?
Answer: The same way you operate your personal social media.
Build relationships with your customers by re-using other people’s content. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply be the contributing source of interesting content to your audience?
90% of the content on sites like Twitter, YouTube, and other similar services are created by 10% of the users (GigaOm). Even President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondent dinner joked that the Huffington Post has done a fantastic job of providing news by linking to real news articles.
So roll with it. The simple secret to building a loyal following is to regularly stay in front of your users. That presence can come via emails, Twitter conversations, Facebook pages, blogs, and your product itself. Most every major social network sends out weekly update emails showcasing top content created by others. You can too.
What content is the best to share with your customers through these various channels? The following can all be found in blogs, on Twitter, and for the most engaging content, on YouTube (there is an enormous amount of business relevant videos on YouTube that are not being utilized effectively).
Being the source of interesting content by taking a few minutes to find relevant information on a regular basis will help you build a following so you can focus on building a beautiful product.
About the Author
CEO, VipeCloud (www.vipecloud.com, @VipeCloud)
EIR, StartX (http://startx.stanford.edu, @StartX)
#video, #videomarketing, #businessvideo, #youtube, #startup, #startups, #bizspark, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurs, #sales, #marketing
A little over a month ago, hundreds of developers and hackers packed into AOL's Palo Alto headquarters, and in three other cities around the country, to take part in AngelHack, an organized chaos run by Greg Gopman and his team. The purpose was to build, code and shape web and mobile apps that made people's lives better. One of those teams, Fashion Metric, a Santa Monica, California-based company that calls itself the "Pandora for clothes."
At the last AngelHack, they succeeded handily at building a cool app, so we asked them a few questions about the AngelHack experience to find out why anyone in their right mind would spend all day, all night, and all weekend, building something that might not work out for the best?
You'll love the answers. And the video that explains FashionMetric.
As background, the Windows Azure team is a backer of AngelHack, and BizSpark regularly serves as a media partner for AngelHack, driving some coverage of the events on the ground and supporting Gopman's efforts to grow this enterprise to scale so that elite hackers and hard-core builders of apps have a place to create and a channel into bettering the worlds of the consumer and enterprise.
What did you do before the event to prepare for AngelHack?
FashionMetric: Fashion Metric competed and won the startup competition Lean Startup Machine in Santa Monica the weekend prior to AngelHack. We focused on talking to as many potential customers as possible before going into AngelHack. This allowed us to have the confidence to know we had more than an idea, we had a real validated problem. We discovered that men have difficulty finding shirts that fit their body type well and although they would want to shop online for convenience reasons, they didn’t due to concerns about fit.
Why compete in AngelHack?
FashionMetric: After winning Lean Startup Machine (LSM) we had serious team momentum, we knew that AngelHack would drive us to continue forward with the same intensity and excitement that LSM had. While LSM is focused on validating the business idea, the next logical step was to build the prototype. AngelHack offered the perfect framework to build our solution and get more feedback on both the problem and the best approach to solve it.
Why build? / Why take the road of entrepreneurship? Why now?
FashionMetric: This has been a dream of ours for a long time now. After winning LSM and making it to the AngelHack finals we realized we had a unique opportunity to turn our dreams into a reality. Morgan and James are quitting their day jobs and Daina is leaving her PhD program at UCLA to make this happen. Daina and Morgan are excited to get married in August and want nothing more than to work together full time. Team synergy is the key, we all are ready to take a risk to change our lives and do something that we love.
What does it mean to you to Hack?
FashionMetric: To hack is to do something different, to innovate. In our case, we set out to bridge the gap between the physical and online worlds, enabling men to buy shirts online that not only fit their body type but also match their personal style. Only 7% of clothing shopping takes place online, our hack is the foundation of something much bigger that we think is going to change the way people buy clothes online.
Why do you think your team was able to succeed at AngelHack?
FashionMetric: We knew from day one that it wasn’t just about having a great idea, it was about solving a real problem. It takes a great team to solve a big problem. We weren’t fixated on solving the problem one particular way, but instead stayed laser focused on getting consistent of feedback to drive innovation in our product.
What platform will you be developing for and why?
FashionMetric: We are initially developing a web application. In the beginning we want to keep things simple while reaching the widest group possible. Our web app will be easy to use on any computer or tablet without requiring a huge development team to make it happen.
What are the biggest challenges for you at this point?
FashionMetric: Our biggest challenge is ensuring that what we build provides the best possible solution for our customer segment. As a team we love the fit problem, but we also realize that the ideal solution might be different than our current hypothesis. By keeping customer development at the core of our feedback loop, we are consistently improving the platform and learning from our users.
Adding this email that just came in that gives some new information about the Showcase discussed in the previous post:
The Founder Showcase is less than a week away, and tickets are almost sold out. As a loyal customer, you get 25% off using the code 'showcase_veteran' at http://foundershowcase.com/tickets. The 11th Founder Showcase is next Wednesday, July 25th in Mountain View, and will feature perhaps our best speaker lineup ever; with Kevin Rose (Venture Partner at Google Ventures), Aaron Levie (Co-Founder and CEO of Box), and Hiten Shah (CEO of KISSmetrics) scheduled to talk. We also have a great lineup of Investor Judges, including George Zachary (Charles River Ventures), Jed Katz (Javelin Venture Partners), James Cham (Trinity Ventures), and Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures). Applications to the Pitch Competition have ended, but there is a still a chance for startups to present on stage to hundreds of investors and press by participating in the Demo Table Competition. For this event we also upped the ante on the Demo Table Giveaway. Instead of just one table, we will now be giving away four tables to those who help us spread the word. Simply tweet a message with the hashtag #FounderShowcase and the URL http://bit.ly/9OlVo8, or RSVP for the event on Facebook, Linkedin, and/or Plancast, and, on Friday, July 20th, we will randomly select one winner from each of these networks to receive a free Demo Table (4 tables total)!
Resume previous post:
A while ago, the folks at Embarke.com made a video about their involvement with BizSpark Plus. We want to share that with you in the runup to the Founder Showcase that is running on July 25 at Microsoft's sunny campus in Mountain View on July 25.
The Founder Showcase promises to be hardcore:
Guests will be treated to an entertaining Pitch Competition featuring 8 promising seed-stage companies, as well as talks by Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg, Venture Partner at Google Ventures), Aaron Levie (Co-Founder & CEO of Box), andHiten Shah (CEO of KISSmetrics). Appetizers and drinks will also be served in a networking hall full of other hot startups demoing their wares in the Demo Table Competition.
There will be a Windows 8 workshop prior to the day. You can sign up for that here.
This informative workshop will review how to design apps with Metro principles and the Windows personality, and the business opportunity Windows 8 represents for app developers.
Windows 8 experts on hand include;
Will is Microsoft’s User Experience Evangelist for the western U.S. Will has been leading experience design teams to successful launches for the last 10 years. Will leads the Windows 8 Evangelism business and is an expert on Metro style design across Windows 8, Phone and Xbox. You can follow him on Twitter at @wctschumy.
John P Alioto
John is an architect at Microsoft specializing in Windows 8. Formerly he was the CTO at VeriTrainer. You can follow him on Twitter at @jpalioto.
And you may be able to win your own Demo Table, if you know how to tweet and use the #foundershowcase hashtag:
We will be giving away four tables across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Plancast to those who help us spread the word. Simply tweet a message with the hashtag #FounderShowcase and the URL http://bit.ly/9OlVo8, or RSVP for the event on Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Plancast, and, on Friday, July 20th, we will randomly select one winner from each of these networks to receive a free Demo Table (4 tables total)!
But here is some real fun. Here is a video from Embarke.com, a graduate from the Founder Institute. They share the benefits of working within the BizSpark Plus program. It's worth at least five minutes of watching to get an idea of the scope of help you get from Microsoft and the community interaction each company experiences. It also confirms that FS companies are pretty cool.
Written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist, Microsoft Bizspark
What is the most amazing thing about building a startup? Entrepreneurs tell us that more than anything else, it's the ability to change the world in some way. That's speaking kind of broadly, and usually it means they have found a problem somewhere and then decided to fix it.
And with the world being so huge, you can imagine the problem sets are huge. Find a big problem, and then build a solution, and you are on your way to something scaleable. To build rapidly and at scale, you need partners, and that's one of the things that Microsoft BizSpark offers.
We had our own problem here at BizSpark. How do we offer our startups access to the partner network that exists all over the world? Thousands of startups have signed on to work with Microsoft technologies and build in the Azure cloud, and as we promised, we connect them with partners who can provide them with tools, advice, ideas, and innovations.
So, we made a map. Visit the site to check it out. You can use the map to find locations and names for every partner in the over 2,400 member network. Let us know if you have any questions, and feel free to drop ideas in the comments.
By Brett Laffel
Due to overwhelming demand from our 30 to Launch Series in San Francisco, we’ve decided to host an additional series in Seattle as well!
Come join us at SURF Incubator in Seattle over the course of 4 different Wednesday nights to build great Windows 8 apps. Throughout the course of this four-part series taking place in June and July, guests will have a chance to learn from Microsoft experts about the world’s largest opportunity for app developers.
We’ll also have great food and drink each night – deli one night, hummus and cheese one night, meatballs and quiche on another! You’ll also have the opportunity to win great prizes! (See Official Rules here)
Register now! https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032514870&Culture=en-US.
821 2nd Ave., 8th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
Wednesdays, June 20, 27, July 11, 18 from 6pm-9pm
June 20 - Week 1:· Business Opportunity for Windows 8· Designing Apps with Metro Principles and the Windows Personality
JULY 4 – SKIP – HOLIDAY WEEKEND
July 11 - Week 3:· Bring Your App to Life with Live Tiles and Push Notifications· Integrating with key Windows 8 features
June 18 - Week 4:· Applying the finishing touches· The Business Opportunity Continued: Monetizing your app· The Windows Store
Based in San Francisco and interested? Limited spots remain, register for SAN FRANCISCO here (taking place at RocketSpace on 6/4, 6/11, 6/18, 6/25): https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032514381&Culture=en-US.
Sitting in your office? Look around. Notice anything weird? That guy chewing on brains? A whole host of new gamification companies are trying to zap zombies at the office, so that project managers can focus more on productivity and less on brainsssss.
This blog post was written by Brian Gorbett, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft.
According to a recent study from the American Society for Training and Development, most of your co-workers are zombies.
You know these employees. These are the employees that are considered “Actively Disengaged.” Last year they cost businesses an estimated $328 billion in lost productivity. A bunch of new startups are jumping on this opportunity, trying to harness lost chances at work by building badges and tokens and unlock features into the enterprise in ways that tug at the emotions and feed the eagerness of the ego.
The enterprise is showing more and more of a consumer side. Gartner Group is recommending that every CIO investigate the use of gamification. They also say that over 70% of Global 2000 organizations will deploy at least one gamified business application within the next two years. Major brands like Delta, Nike, American Express and thousands are already using gamification as the key to unlocking the secrets of employee engagement.
Gamification is the application of game mechanics into non-gaming software. Specifically, this is software that uses a combination of virtual points, leaderboards, badges, and rewards that are tied to productivity-producing or otherwise desirable behaviors in employees. For employers who see hours of work productivity drained by people playing Farmville on work computers, this makes a lot of sense.
The people building this software – and some consulting companies – are calling this Business Gamification, to differentiate it from plain old gamification. And they think it can transform corporate culture by increasing worker productivity, engagement and retention simply by adding an emotional layer to our day-to-day business software.
We’re not talking about playing Angry Birds at work. We’re talking about creating or enhancing existing business systems with a social gaming layer. When done properly this fosters teamwork by encouraging brief frequent updates, worker transparency and acknowledging accomplishments. But be careful. It’s not about flipping a switch and adding badges where there used to be the tough slog of the performance review.
“There is a lot that can go wrong, but when a company gets it right there is a tangible change in the culture and a perceptible buzz in the office.” – said Mike Beaty, CEO of RedCritter. The company – also a Microsoft partner – has seen over 35,000 downloads of its gamified enterprise software in six months.
“It’s important that companies start with proven, ready-to-deploy gamification packages initially before committing to long term consulting and custom code for gamification deployments. One-offs with untested game mechanics can open a Pandora’s box of unexpected results,” says Beaty.
RedCritter is one of the earliest pioneers in the business gamification space and its RedCritter Tracker cloud service has demonstrated the power of game mechanics in business. While those who haven’t tried gamified software in the workplace sometimes dismiss concepts such as virtual badges as frivolous, RedCritter has revealed these types of game mechanics to deliver business benefits on many levels.
RedCritter Tracker - Agile Gamification from Mike Beaty on Vimeo.
For example, it’s proven that earning badges for completing difficult tasks is an effective way to acknowledge accomplishments. Those employees using RedCritter proudly display their badges on their social or inter-office profiles as a status symbol. In addition, HR and Project Managers are discovering that properly implemented badges actually paint a “visual map” of each employee’s work-style, preferences, skills and behavior.
They visually capture intangible qualities of a person. In the past, this type of incredibly valuable information has been hard to identify or utilize. But with RedCritter Tracker, managers use these visual maps when choosing cohesive team members for a project or for broader ascension planning. Without this management often can’t see the nuances that make a great team.
RedCritter is slated to deliver pre-built cloud-based gamification solutions for every area of business. Their goal is no less than to increase every employee’s productivity, engagement and to actually make work fun. We’ll be watching for the transformation as the entire business software industry sits on the verge of a revolution in productivity.