Championing student innovators

The following is a post from Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism at Microsoft.

Many people know Microsoft as a world-leading global corporation. But at its heart, Microsoft is a student startup founded by a couple of passionate young innovators with an idea. Students are often vanguards for the future of technology – and with the right tools and support, they have the potential to create innovations that can redefine our lives. It’s in that spirit that Microsoft launched the Imagine Cup student technology competition in 2003.

Now in its eleventh year, the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals are underway this week in St. Petersburg, Russia. The finals event is the culmination of a year of hard work, with more than 300 students from 71 countries advancing to the finals from local, regional and online competitions. We are thrilled to see these student technologists and entrepreneurs take center stage as they demonstrate their amazing ideas brought to life through software.

Today’s students are digital natives who easily see beyond a single technology or app to envision how software, hardware and the cloud can work together in new and inventive ways. More than a third of this year’s Worldwide Finalists are using Windows, Windows Phone and Windows Azure together across platforms and devices. Following on the heels of Build, there are even more ways that developers can use an integrated devices and services platform across Windows.

This creativity and ingenuity has translated into a wide array of projects that change how we interact with technology – everything from a Windows Phone 8 app for playing laser tag to an app that uses Kinect and the cloud to enable people to use hand gestures to move digital content between devices.

While the World Citizenship Competition continues Imagine Cup’s past focus on social good, the Innovation and Gaming Competitions offer new opportunities for any student with a great idea to compete. The expansion of the competition drew an astonishing number of competitors, more than 70 percent over last year alone.

Entrepreneurial skills have also been central to the competition, reflected by the fact that 38 teams already offer or will soon release an app on the Windows Store. Student teams know that as platforms and devices become more ubiquitous and available, developers and inventors must be smart about creating solutions and apps that will stand out, fill a need or engage specific audiences. They are learning the necessary skills and taking the first big steps in what will be their careers.

Imagine Cup has provided a boost for past competitors to become successful developers and entrepreneurs. In 2011, two founding members of Ireland’s Team Hermes began developing CleverMiles while in their Master’s program with the help of college friends. They won the Imagine Cup 2011 Software Design competition, launched a startup, and are now partnering with major technology companies to market their application. Today, they are also working on their first major deal with an automobile manufacturer.

Another Imagine Cup alumnus is a judge at this year’s competition. Mritynjay Bhadauria competed in Imagine Cup in 2007 and 2009, subsequently showcasing a project he developed during the Worldwide Finals in 2011. He went on to launch EduKinect, and today employs more than 50 people full-time while mentoring people at more than 20 Microsoft Innovation Centers across India. He is a leading force behind a student hackathon project that has attracted thousands of students across India, and has recently founded a second startup.

These alumni and thousands of other Imagine Cup participants over the past 11 years had a leg up as they got started, thanks to Dreamspark, which provides students with free access to the same tools as professional developers. Imagine Cup and Dreamspark are core parts of how Microsoft helps students get started as developers and transition from the classroom into the professional world as business owners, programmers, game designers and entrepreneurs. 

I hope you’ll join us at 7:30 a.m. PT on Thursday at to see the winners of this year’s competition announced by Matt Smith, of BBC’s Dr. Who via live streaming. We wish the best of luck to all competitors, and encourage students with the next big idea to go to to download the tools to get started, and consider signing up to participate in the next Imagine Cup global competition!


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