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.
MarkedUp, which offers analytics to mobile apps makers, is going after the growing Windows 8 apps market by offering a mobile apps analytic tool that will even tell you what your app is doing in people's hands when they are sitting in an airplane, or in other instances when they don't have their wireless connection on.
Aaron Stannard, CEO of MarkedUp, says that this is a step ahead of what other apps analytics tools do, and that it's the natural progression of analysis tools for applications and user activities that are escaping the web browser and living on any device.
"The diff between a four star and a five star app is something that people can use offline. Look at a news reader that people are going to be able to use on an airplane. You can use MarkedUp to take a look at how many people try to start the app when they have no connectivity whatsoever," says Stannard. This is vital intelligence for developers.
This offer is now live for Microsoft Bizspark members. You can get free analytics for your Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps as of today. Stannard says that they have already done some testing for Windows Phone 8, and when that phone is widely released developers will be able to get functionality for those apps.
This analytics tool will help developers understand what features of their mobile or desktop based apps are working, which parts users like, "They will show you how often content is used by end users, how often the app crashes, and what types of devices or screens they use to access your application," says Stannard. The company has signed on a very large video game company for their mobile based games, but Stanndard is not able to reveal the name. The company is using the analytics tool to figure out how to improve the commercial api for its products.
One of the great things about MarkedUp is that it is positioned to take advantage of the waves of people moving to develop native apps.
Stannard told me, "Our focus is 100% on native applications. It doesn't matter to us if its desktop apps or mobile. In a web app focused world the dev owns 100% of the real estate. They have full control over all of that data that passes through that relationship. In the mobile world, things are different. You have to act within the constraints of the sandbox. You also have to support environments there you don’t have control of the internet connection."
This tool will be available to Microsoft BizSpark members on the offers page.
The Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, Powered by Tech Stars will have its first of two demo days starting January 17 in Seattle. Then they will move down to Silicon Valley to close out the month with a demo day in front of investors there. If you are thinking about applying to the second Windows Azure Accelerator class, you should know the reasons why those before you have taken this challenge. Here are some very short video clips with the founders of the graduating class. Enjoy.
Applications close February 1.
Keller Smith, Appetas
“You are going to learn more per hour than during any other time in your life.”
You can apply to the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars here.
Al Bsharah, Embarke
“You will be surrounded by people who are just as crazy as you are.”
Dana Dyksterhuis, Fanzo
“One of the biggest reasons is getting to know the other teams…we are so close, and we are like family.”
You can apply to the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by Tech Stars here
Anne-Aymone Ferreir -- Keebitz
“The reason why every founder should be able to be part of the Accelerator; they will focus and ask themselves the right questions and do the right thing for their business, and they will do it in the right order.”
Stephen Siciliano, MetricsHub
“The accelerator is the best place to discover what customers need and to deliver it exactly the way they need it.”
Tyler Griffin, Mobilligy
“You should come to the accelerator because of the mentorship and business model guidance you are going to get from meeting such incredibly smart, motivated, and interesting people.”
Jilliene Hilman, Realty Mogul
“This is not fly by mentorship, this is roll your sleeves up mentorship. Get ready.”
Aseem Badshah, Socedo
“You should join the Microsoft accelerator because it gives you access to this great network of mentors, customers, people who care about your business; people who can help you refine your business model and make sure you are on the right track.”
Massimo Andreasi Bassi, Staq
“You should come to the Microsoft Accelerator, because you can use the resources of Microsoft, even being a tiny startup.”
Today, Windows Azure announced enhancements and changes in the Windows Azure Offer available to BizSpark members through their MSDN subscriptions. For a comprehensive review of the changes, you should read Scott Guthrie's two blog posts about the matter:
Windows Azure: Announcing New Dev/Test Offering, BizTalk Services, SSL Support with Web Sites, AD Improvements, Per Minute Billing
Windows Azure: Announcing Major Improvements for Dev/Test in the Cloud
Here are a few highlights that we think BizSpark members might find particularly interesting:
We are excited about today’s announcements, especially the increased flexibility, discounts and per-minute billing that can help BizSpark startups save money as they build in the cloud.
For additional questions on your BizSpark Windows Azure benefits, please email email@example.com
I've heard this question framed in debates online and in offline events. It is as if there is a natural definition of a startup as being exclusively "home grown." If you use anything other than yourself, your laptop, your own team and the funds that you have at your disposal, you are not developing a startup.
Is that true? Can that possibly be true, for all developers and entrepreneurs who are trying to build a business?
We think that this is worthy of discussion. On February 4th at 4:00pm Pacific, we are going to have a discussion about this with one of the founders of a startup. and we are going to use technology created by another founder, FreshTag.
Just enter the chat by using hashtag #bzelance to register. You will be admitted into the chat room immediately, and we will begin promptly at 4pm. That chat is video and text, so you will be able to participate in the discussion and monitor the questions that people ask our founders.
Below are the responses to the questions for Daniel Cowen of Echoer, who used Elance to build his business. We will be talking with Daniel during the online event, and you will have a chance to follow up with questions about this interview and his business strategy.
Microsoft BizSpark members qualify for an Elance special offer. If you are a member, you'll get $100 credit to get started.
BizSpark: What was the first major decision you made to build a company?
Daniel: After we came up with the idea of Echoer the first thing we did was start researching the space. After a month and half of research (which included tech work using other platform APIs) we made the decision to put Echoer on a solid footing and build both a company and a team around it. We'd gotten lucky with Last Night Never Happened, our first app, playing fast and loose. But with Echoer we wanted to take the lessons learnt and build talent, knowhow and channels to resources from the get go. While we knew we were starting small, we also wanted the structures in place that would allow us to grow, both in terms of talent and investment.
BizSpark: Did you ever rely on outsourcing help to build a company, and if you did, what do you say to people who say that’s cheating?
Daniel: We did, and heavily so. We outsourced a lot of our work at first, for example design and early coding. When you are testing ideas and you don't have the funding to hire outsourcing is often the best way to get talent on an ad-hoc basis. For certain capabilities its not sustainable, and you eventually need to bring that talent in-house. But for other tasks you will inevitably be in stop start phase for a while, for example certain research tasks, translation, presentation production, etc. For these and others we have been lucky enough to lean on platforms like Elance, giving us both geographical spread and depth of expertise. There are things we never even expected to do, for example a very targeted PR exercise in Italy, which we could never have done at such short notice or low cost without outsourcing. Is it cheating? Quite the contrary, it's lean thinking at its best, employing just the right level resources at just the right time to get the job done as best it can. Anyone who wants to keep costs down but need to expands beyond their current capabilities would be crazy not to outsource at first. You can always consolidate this later and bring those capabilities in-house, or stop/change the project direction if results point that way.
BizSpark: What comes first in building a company, the design, the idea, the product, or the team?
Daniel: For us the idea came first, then a lot of research, then the design, then the product. The company formed somewhere in middle of that, and the team emerged as and when we need to acquire new skills sets that were beyond our current capabilities. In some senses design should and could have come a lot later, and the product tinkering started earlier. But with Echoer the design is such a core part of the product and user experience that we led with that ahead of the engineering. You live and learn, and in truth it's not this binary. The key is to be lean, adaptable and agile at all times. Validating learning and growing with true and tested needs.
BizSpark: How does outsourcing reduce friction in building a company, and what friction does it eliminate?
Daniel: Outsourcing reduced a lot of time and money related friction. Overheads are NOT permanent and can be scaled as the job scales. Likewise we saved a lot of time not having to interview candidates, deal with employment agreements, etc. That's not to say those frictions go to zero. You still need to choose outsourcers well, but we developed ways of testing several candidates at once, at low time and money cost, in order to find the best person for a particularly job. We were also thrilled in one example where our scaling had zero friction, with one outsourcer training another in the task we had already trained them in. Outsourcing also eliminated geographical friction. In another example we hired an Elancer in Japan for some marketing work. We didn't have to go to Japan. Nor did we have to find a Japanese speaker in Montreal who would have had to market remotely. We were able to find the right person in the right place at the right time with only time differences to compete with.
BizSpark: What happens when the company is ready to launch, do you get rid of our your outsourcing help, or keep them and roll them into the company?
Daniel: It depends. As I mentioned above, you should build the team alongside the capacity needed. That means that as some roles become "permanent" you may want to bring that person in house. Likewise as some projects fail or phase out you may not need that outsourcer. Or you keep going on an ad hoc basis. We haven't yet taken an outsourcer in house, but we would do it if the circumstances were right. And there is at least one person we have worked with who would be ideal if we ever needed a full time candidate for that role. And in other cases we have used outsourcer X for job Y, only to find job Y was no longer needed. Did we lose outsourcer X? No chance. We had built such a good level of trust and understanding that we simply retrained them for the next job, even though very different. If you've taken the time to train and get to know an outsourcer and they are talented and driven then my guess is there will always be a place for them in that company or in other related and non-related projects. Again, why start fresh when you can take yet more friction out of the system.
EDIT: Many people have been asking why they need to pay to get access to the Store. You do not have to pay money for this code. Users who want the code to get free access to the store must first activate their MSDN account to get this code. We apologize for any misunderstanding.
To celebrate startups and to make it easier to build for Windows 8, the BizSpark team from today onward will waive the subscription fee for Windows Store and offer you a one year Windows Store Developer Account.
These new offers that are exclusively given to members of the BizSpark program is our demonstration of a commitment to startups. We are also changing the terms and requirements for becoming a member of BizSpark, extending the entry level requirement age of new startpus from three years old to five years old. More on that in a bit.
How about those Windows Store and Windows Phone Marketplace deals?
Even our Microsoft Developer Evangelists are building Windows 8 apps. Like GUT, from Developer Evangelist Reza Alizadeh.
We know you’re excited about building Windows 8 apps and we’re excited to announce the Windows Store is now open for app submissions from all developers – including all BizSpark startups – in our supported markets, and we’ve added 89 more app submission markets! The Windows Store is ready for you to join today. To make it an especially great day, the subscription fee is waived for startups in the BizSpark program! BizSpark members now get a free, 1-year Windows Store developer account.
Please visit the Windows Store Blog for full details - the dev tools are free, the SDK is ready, and we have a ton of great supporting content to help you build your app and submit it for Store certification. Sign up now, reserve your app names, and we’d love to publish your app in the Store in time for general availability of Windows 8 on October 26.
Windows Phone Marketplace
BizSpark members can now receive a one-time, 12 month developer account to the Windows Phone Dev Center. It’s got everything you need to create great apps for Windows Phones and make them available in the Windows Phone Marketplace for customers to see, try and buy. The subscription also includes your own personal dashboard to track your apps and your earnings. Take the video tour to see what’s new! Sign up today – simply go to the benefit overview page to get your promo code and start the registration process. Note: Availability varies by market.
New age limit criteria
Effective immediately, more startups than ever will get access to Microsoft BizSpark. Today, we are expanding the age eligibility criteria from three years old to five years old. This means that a startup who is currently less than 5 years old, making less than US $1M annually, privately held and developing software, is eligible for a three-year membership in BizSpark!
Is your startup 4 or 5 years old and you thought you didn’t qualify? You do now! Join today at www.microsoft.com/bizspark.
To learn more about these and the many other benefits of the Microsoft BizSpark program, please visit www.microsoft.com/bizspark/about.
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
With 525 million Windows 7 licenses sold, millions of people await Windows 8 apps. The think goes -- and this is very accurate -- that in addition to wanting the same apps that they love in Windows 7, which will be operable in Windows 8, people also want new apps that encapsulate a completely different experience.
One of our audience and marketing evangelists, Brett Raffel, sent me this, about 30 to Launch in San Francisco. (you will see another link further down, but you should visit this, it's the most important thing in the blog post).
To help them, we have a Windows 30 to Launch program, which exposes developers, hackers, and other rock star app builders to the Windows 8 methodology and puts them in touch with Microsoft evangelists and engineers who can help them build an app that can get into the app store. There's even a blog all about the Windows Store, in case any of you want to know how the Windows Store can be used and what is in it now.
To brief you on what this opportunity means, here's a blog post about the things you need to know as a developer, and why the opportunity is so big for developing Windows 8 apps-- How to get something in the Windows 8 app store. So what happens at these 30 to Launch events? Well, you basically get all the information you need to have in order to make a Windows 8 app.
One of our audience and marketing evangelists, Brett Raffel, sent me this, about a new 30 to Launch series they are running in San Francisco.
Create a Windows 8 app in 30 days and then attend a Microsoft App Excellence Lab to get your app ready for the Windows Store. If your app meets our quality criteria, you’ll receive a token to register your account and then submit your app to the Store.
To help you get there, we’ve organized a series of 30 to Launch events across the US. Join us over Five weeks to make your app idea come to life.
*Official rules for the Windows 8 events.
30 to Launch is powered by Microsoft Platform Ready (MPR), a partner program designed to help you get your applications compatible with the latest Microsoft technologies. MPR offers the latest tools and resources to help you develop great applications and target them to the right audience. By signing up, you are enrolled into the MPR program and receive partner benefits for no charge. Learn more about MPR here.
Audience: Developers, Designers, Architect, CTO, Hackers and Hustler
Registration Link - http://30tolaunchsfo.eventbrite.com/
If you want insight into the next billion entrepreneurs to generate new ideas, disruption and business in the future, here is a great infographic that we found at Funders and Founders. By the year 2020, the "third billion" starts doing business. Have you made plans to compete with this third billion, work with this third billion, or join it?
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
We subscribe to this great board on Quora for infographics. It turns out that most of those infographics are about startups and the life of entrepreneurs. Because that syncs so well with the life of the community in Microsoft BizSpark, we would like to display those for you from time to time.
Here's one from Funders and Founders
How do you know you are winning with consumers? It's not as hard as you think. If you are building a startup, Urban Cargo founder Krishna Gullapalli, a Startup America member, gives us three clues in this interview we did with her this week.
Urban Cargo delivers hair care and skin care products to men in a monthly subscription service. It's utilitarian, handy and makes you look handsome.
The Urban Cargo Team, with Krishna Gullapalli in the middle, smiling. Courtesy Krishna Gallapalli
What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?
Krishna: One of the hardest parts of building a technological business is focus. There's so much that we wanted to build out with our company including algorithms and dynamic ecommerce tools, but the best strategy for us has been to strip away all that we want to be to focus on the highest impact tasks in the short-term. It's hard to stay focused on just 1 or 2 key objectives when you have this much broader vision of everything your company could be and all the cool technology that you want to incorporate, but we've always found the greatest return for our time and investment has been by keeping everything simple and digestible for our customers.
What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?
We're constantly talking to our customers to hear what they want to see and what they'd like to see improved. And we try to talk to them in a multitude of different ways including UX testing, product feedback surveys, and even just one on one conversations. We know we're winning when our customers are (1) recommending us to their friends, (2) coming back to us to buy more or (3) just straight up telling us they're happy! We have a great emphasis on customer service, so we want to hear directly from our customers when they're happy and more importantly when they're not happy so we can fix the problem. We also look closely at engagement metrics, such as online conversion rates, email open rates, frequency of visit, etc. to monitor that we're constantly relevant to our customer base. It's this combination of quantitative with the qualitative that we use to make sure our customers are excited about our company.
When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?
We've built up a network of resources that we turn to when we have questions. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we believe that's true for start-ups as well. As a Dream-It accelerator alum, we've been fortunate enough to have different mentors to turn to whether it be investor questions, product development issues or even just general sanity checks. Beyond this network, we turn to our customers and our business partners as well, as they can provide the best product/industry specific knowledge. Ultimately, we turn to the experts within our own network or we look to find the expert when we have questions that we need answered.
What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?
The product came first. I learned from my past start-up experiences that it's important to test if you have customers for the idea before sinking a lot of time into building the product. With Urban Cargo, we actually created the boxes and sold product while our site was still in progress. We had a very bare bones site that couldn't even accept recurring payments, because we wanted to make sure we had customers before investing too much into the tech. This has allowed us to stay lean and really focus on the customer and the product before building out technology that our customers don't want.
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.
Last night, we listened to a great evening of stories from Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky. The event was hosted by PandoDaily, and it was the best conversation I have ever witnessed with a founder of a startup. Did you know that at one point Brian was so deeply in debt, he ate dried cereal? The story I recount in this Quora answer, (not sure why I answered it anonymously), but I will reprint it here.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark.The company at one time was fueled only by a baseball card collecting binder of maxed out credit cards, is now valued at over $2 billion. He and his co-founders literally had no money. They had taken out credit card after credit card in the hopes that someone would eventually get their idea. Chesky was introduced to 21 angel investors (may have to check the math), eight of whom agreed to talk to him. One of them, he said last night, met him in University Cafe, and ordered a smoothie. The investor got to halfway through his smoothie and then promptly stood up and left. Chesky and his co-founder took a shot of the smoothie, because they thought it was so bizarre. Where is that shot now, I wonder?
here is why I think you don't need much money or even a strong pedigree to build a great startup. I answer someone's question in Quora about why you don't need money to make money -- ostensibly saying that it has nothing to do with the money. It has to do with the product outcome:
You actually do not need money to make money. In some cases that is true, but take Brian Chesky, who co-founded Airbnb, worth now $2 billion. Yes, he got an angel round and then VC investment, but prior to that, he borrowed money from a long list of eventually maxed out credit cards. He got to $30,000 in debt.Then he started selling Obama O's and Cap'n McCain cereal at $40 each during the election that saw President Obama get into office. He goes to try out for Paul Graham's Y-Combinator and one of his co-founder's Nate, tells him and the other co-founder to not take the cereal boxes, which they were going to bring to Paul Graham as a gift. Keep in mind, at this point, Chesky is eating the dry cereal because he has NO MONEY at all. He goes to the meeting, Paul Graham listens, and can't undersatnd why anyone would want to use Airbnb. The meeting finishes up with a perfunctory, "well, that's it, thanks." And one of the co-founders at the end of the meeting pulls out the two cereal boxes. Nate, who warned against it allegedly looks on in amazement. What the....???Paul Graham asks, what is this? Co-founder explains, oh, we made this cereal to pay for our company. Pause.Paul Graham allegedly says, "You just don't quit. You guys are like cockroaches!" Eventually Paul Graham calls them back and asks them to join Y-combinator. The reason he gave was that if they could convince people to buy $4 cereal for $40, they could convince someone to rent someone's bedroom for a night. You don't need the money. You need the faith in your idea, the right network, and the conviction to keep struggling, because your startup or your investment or your idea is born out of a struggle. Your crisis is your salvation. Forget the money.
Here is what I learned from Brian's talk: 1. Entrepreneurs have no clear path to a successful project / product, but they have a very strong focus on how other people make choices.2. Things that come out of left field will not be understood by the majority of people because, as Chesky said, "people listen for patterns." And patterns are what people already know.
The Windows 8 launch is right around the corner and recently Microsoft and New York Tech Meetup teamed up to host a workshop and hackathon @WeWork Lounge in NYC.
This blog post was written by Neha Bhaskar, SR CHANNEL & ECOSYSTEM Marketing Manager at Microsoft, in NYC.
There were some really cool demos there with Purpella winning the hackathon with their supercool app and design. Here’s a brief interview with their Chief Designer Lena and Co-founder. Daniel.
Tell us a bit about your app
Purpella is a tool to build human connections and the best app you can find to meet with people with similar interests in small groups. We help people start small gatherings before or after cool events in your city-maybe grab a dinner or drinks together before a concert. You can choose the venue, time around the event.
It really helps build genuine human connections amongst people with similar interests.
What came first for you-the team or the idea?
For us, the team definitely came first. We’re a bunch of designers, developers and marketers who’ve been involve with the startup community for long. Lena-our Chief Designer graduated Rhode Island School of Design. Dan is the co-founder of Startups.hk
aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship among the youth in Hong Kong.
What inspired you to work on this idea?
There are a lot of applications that let you do things offline-such as order food from home instead of sharing a meal with friends. A lot of our lives are losing that human connection.
We wanted to change that and get people together to do something together and build those personal connections. We feel that those connections are best built in small groups–so you could meet over a meal before a concert or share a cab ride together.
And how far along are you in your app development?
We’re still a small team of about 10 people. We’ve been working on this since mid-April and just did a soft Beta launch with friends and family. We hope to have a website up and running in November for a broader launch.
We’ve been totally blown away by the new Windows Phone and Windows 8 User Experience and hope to have a Windows Phone app in December followed by a Windows 8 app. We’re looking for developers to come work with us on that!
What motivated you to start in NYC vs Silicon Valley?
We feel our app is very applicable and valuable to NYC. A lot of people, when they finish school, move to NYC. You lose old connections and it’s a new circle of friends you need to make. So we wanted to launch this in the city. Sometimes it’s hard to make those personal connections in a huge city like NYC and we help you build that. NYC is also the capital of events in the country- everything from exhibitions, performances, events etc.
Though NYC still has some catching up to do with Silicon Valley, the tech scene here is growing very fast. We see 3-4 tech events every night here! And Tech Talent has not been an issue for us –most of us have known each other from before.
Who would you like to be your mentor, and why?
Well, there’s the three everyone says-Paul Graham, Peter Theil and Ron Conway.
We really like meetup.com and that has a lot of lessons for us. Scott (co-founder) did a really good job of building the first offline community and would have great input for us.
Another personal favorite is Steve Ballmer. The past couple of years have seen amazing innovation from Microsoft and we can’t wait for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. We love the User Interface!
When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Lena: Since I’m a designer. I love the new focus on Natural User Interface and touch in the industry.
We are really blown away with Windows Phone. It’s a really consistent design language, with authentically digital content before chrome. It’s quick, responsive with a clean and concise experience. Very impressive how the Microsoft design strategy has evolved
Daniel: I love DropBox. lt’s so elegant and easy to use-very applicable to startups.
Any Advice to others?
Daniel: It’s good to have many ideas but get focused on one. Have a clear plan on what to do and start with putting your team together.
Lena: Success requires a true combination of great talent coming together from all fields-marketing. Biz Dev, design and development. Make sure you have fun along the way!
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.
Thanks for being a part of the Relentless Revolution. We support entrepreneurs.
We walked around and talked to the founders of some of the incredible BizSpark companies presenting in the pavilion at DEMO Fall.
You can get inside information and a free peek at one of the most important conferences for startup, by visiting our live feed page (watch this instead of doing your work at your desk!), or by checking (and getting jealous about) all the great pictures people are taking at the parties, the presentations and during the chats in the hall.
Also, don't forget that Douglas Crets, Microsoft BizSpark community manager, is going around and finding other BizSpark companies to interview. He ran into Michael Jacobs and Jordan Syms, who are making iSocialite, at lunch.
Here's Victor Karkar, co-founder and CEO of Scrible, which is helping people do smarter online research using collaborative note-taking.
He was joined at the kiosk by another company that offers backend support via Azure for apps developers. Curvanade CEO Mikael Eriksson says that his support system is so good that they can theoretically support LinkedIn in the backend. He showed me how it worked, and I like the collaborative aspect to his company, as well as the blindingly fast speed, "nearly greater than realtime".
I thought I would also show you this very quick (and rather messy) photo I took of his app on the iPhone. Kind of cool to see the Metro design on the iPhone device.
We got a kick out of talking with Ami Gal, from Israel. He uses Windows Azure in the back end -- along with some other Microsoft Stack Technologies -- to process big data loads for banks and other institutions. SQREAM Technologies basically has a kind of set top box for the big data clients.
Lastly, we have Frank Chiang, of Phorego, a kind of trip-matching software for the mobile. This app works by connecting people who need rides with people who can give rides. Here's the pitch on this:
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.
Startups in Microsoft BizSpark now qualify for Yammer.
Get it while the getting is good.
This will make your geeky little heart skip a beat.
So sick and tired of Valentine's Day. Right? If only there was something much more interesting, someone much more captivating, someone who really understood me for me. Someone who knew what it means to de-dup and use cloud storage like it was really meant to be used.
Someone who went to something like... Big Data Date Night in Mountain View. Live, on the Silicon Valley Microsoft Campus, in our brand new BizSpark Labs.
On February 13, we are hosting a big talk on big data for all the lonely hearts out there who want to know what to do with the heart-throb Hadoops in their lives. Need a warm MySQL to wrap your arms around at night? Well, we have you covered.
We will be doing this talk with folks like Bruno Aziza, VP of Marketing at SiSense, and some of the big names in data analytics at Facebook, Netflix, and Microsoft.
If you register before January 31, you will get discount pricing.
Read below for the night's full lineup.
Registration and Networking
Opening KeynoteBruno Aziza, VP Marketing, SiSense
Lightning Presentations John DeGoes, PrecogMoises Nascimento, PayPalMichael Hollenbeck, Predixion
The New World of DataKamal Hathi, General Manager, Microsoft
Panel: Big Data for Business SuccessKen Rudin - Head of Analytics - FacebookChris Pouliot - Director, Algorithms & Analytics - NetflixFedor Dzegilenko - Director of Analytics - SurveyMonkeyEric Mason - Director, Com. and Technology Evangelism - WixModerator: Dave Feinleib, Forbes Contributor, Founder of Big Data Landscape
Closing RemarksNicolas Kardas, Director Startups & VCs relations, Microsoft
Register before January 31 to get Early Bird pricing. Space is limited, so don't wait to claim your seat!
From now on you can build a Windows 8 app before the release of Windows 8 on October 26th. How's that for Bazinga!?
The original blog post by TheAppBuilder CEO James Scott about their release of their Windows 8 app, can be found at their website. Here are the money quotes:
Imagine this – its October 26 and the most hyped Windows operating system launch in years has just gone live –Windows 8. All media focus will be on this – news programs on TV, magazines, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the entire internet – everything! Windows 8 will deliver a radical change to the way in which you will use Windows on PCs, laptops and mobile tablets. Windows 8 ushers in an intuitive new touch interface which takes its lead from last year’s hugely impressive Windows Phone 7 tile user interface..
Ahem (cough, cough), we have an announcement. From today you can now create your own native Windows 8 app in minutes using TheAppBuilder. We are pleased to announce that we are the only do-it-yourself app building service which has risen to the challenge to enable you to publish your own Windows 8 app (even before the store has gone live)!
The company also issued a standard press release in an email to fans. Here's the announcement in full:
DIY mobile app building website TheAppBuilder.com (www.theappbuilder.com), has today launched its hotly anticipated Windows 8 service. With just a few clicks, anyone can now easily and quickly build a Windows 8 app and submit it to the Windows Store.
TheAppBuilder was launched in March of this year as a means for businesses, organizations and individuals to rapidly and easily create mobile apps, without knowing how to code. Windows 8 is the latest platform to be added to TheAppBuilder’s roster, adding to iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone and HTML5. In the short space of time since launch, over 40,000 apps have been created by customers of TheAppBuilder.
James Scott, CEO of JamPot Technologies, the company behind TheAppBuilder is excited by the latest announcement, “When Windows 8 was announced we felt it was an important step to enable customers of TheAppBuilder to be able to publish a native Windows 8 app as the platform opportunity is going to be huge. There is a real sense of industry excitement building for the launch of Windows 8 and given the number of customers we’ve had asking for a Windows 8 service from TheAppBuilder, we’re looking forward to seeing a diverse range of apps created ready for its launch in October.”
With the countdown on to the launch of Windows 8, TheAppBuilder provides the perfect tool to quickly create an app for the Windows Store. Using the simple drag and drop interface, an app can be created by anyone in minutes. Businesses, organizations and individuals that have already created an app using TheAppBuilder will also be able to easily submit a Windows 8 version to the Store by accessing their account on TheAppBuilder.com.
“There is a lot of excitement around Windows 8, especially the Windows Store and the opportunity it presents,” said John Richards, Senior Director, Windows Apps Marketing at Microsoft Corp. “With this huge opportunity in place, it’s great to see TheAppBuilder enabling anyone to easily and quickly create and submit exciting Windows 8 apps using its simple interface.”
At Jintronix, we use the Microsoft Kinect for Windows to capture a patient’s motions, allowing them to participate in meaningful and fun physical rehabilitation. This was not always the case. This post was written for BizSpark by Max Graham, Jintronix Public Relations Director. Jintronix is a member of the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect.
We first began by developing our own hardware solution, and it was messy. We had two web cameras working in parallel stereoscopically, tracking an infrared LED band attached to the patient’s hand. It was not quite that simple though. We had to remove the IR filter that is built into most web cameras, then replace it with a visual light filter, so it would only track the IRLED band. Once all that was said and done, it actually worked quite well, and we were happy with the results for the most part.
Then there was the issue of trying to get that produced on a mass scale, without much capital. It was going to be a nightmare. Logistically it was going to drain all kinds of resources we just didn’t have, and would require implementing whole new infrastructure for tracking and distribution. We didn’t want to have to think about this. We are a software company, and the only reason why we built our own 3D positioning system was because nothing else on the market was good enough, or within the price point we were looking for. Queue the Kinect.
People started doing some crazy things with it, things Microsoft did not anticipate when they first released the technology on the Xbox 360. Thank you Hackers! I think you all know the rest of the story, and the happy ending is that now we have the Kinect for Windows.
It was not perfect, and we had to do a lot to make the switch, but in the end it was worth it. Now we are able to focus on what we do best, developing fun, engaging, and meaningful activities for therapist and patients. And the best part is, it is only going to get better.
The Jintronix team, photo credit: Jintronix
Did we need the Kinect? No. Could we have used our own hardware? Sure. Would we have wasted time, money, and energy on things we didn’t really want to do? Absolutely. So in the end, making the switch to the Kinect just made things simpler, and when you are part of a start up, that is a good thing.
The next Microsoft Accelerator class begins in just a few weeks. Deadline July 13 for applications.
We got word this morning that BizSpark company Wappwolf, a cloud automator app, has just released a version of the app in the Windows Store for Windows 8 charmbar, the toolbar that runs on the Windows 8 interface.
You can check out the Wappwolf Windows Phone app here.
Image of the Charm Bar from Calling All Geeks.
Good times are rolling for Hungarian startup Tresorit. After impressive participation at a series of competitions and events last year – they were a finalist at the Global Security Challenge in Israel last September, and won the Central European semi-final at last year’s Intel Challenge in Poland – they incorporated, sat down and immersed themselves in coding. The result: a product in Beta phase, a substantial investment from a local VC fund, and a $60,000 BizSpark benefit to name a few.
This blog post is written by Monika Mork, in Hungary.
Tresorit’s team consists mostly of university students, who invented a smart way of file sharing over insecure channels and on insecure storage. Their solution is unique in providing access control without the need to reissue keys and re-encrypt the files whenever a new user is added or somebody denied access. Tresorit storage is especially convenient for small to medium sized companies who work with many clients, like law firms or accountants, who can share documents with their clients without security concerns or the need for infrastructure investments. What makes the solution special is its ease of use for collaboration scearnios at corporations as opposed to the limited file sharing capabilities that most of the competition offers today.
The Tresorit solution is compatible with some of the major free storage providers, but it was felt that public providers like Google might scare off traditional companies like law firms. Offering their own secure storage was a logical next step – enter Microsoft Azure. As high-potential members of the BizSpark program, Tresorit was recommended to and accepted into BizSpark Plus, and now they can explore various solutions without incurring high infrastructure costs at this volatile stage of the company.
The Hungarian incubation team is fully signed up for beta – you can do so yourself at www.tresorit.com. We’re very proud of this partnership and eager to hear the next wave of good news from the team.