Last weekend we ran the Sydney BizSpark Azure Camp. We had 32 people attend the training on Friday at Clifton’s to learn about Azure – a big thanks to Steve Nagy for his great training.

Several of the team members went along  to Silicon Beach drinks on Friday night to meet other local entrepreneurs and advisors. We also managed to encourage 2 more advisors to come along on the weekend and they both spent time with the teams. The teams were all very eager to begin, some even “coaster planning” their idea at the pub on Friday night.

9am Saturday morning the teams turned up to the shiny new Microsoft Office ground floor. Our first session was thanks to Gordon Bell who covered off on his theory of The Bell Mason Diagnostic measures the health and wellbeing of a new company by evaluating it at its stages of life.  The measures include the technology, product, ability for service/product delivery, plan, marketing, sales, CEO, Team, Board, cash, financeability, and operational control.  Five stages include: Concept, Prototype Mock-up, Alpha (initial testing), Beta (announcement and testing), and Market Calibration. He described each of these stages and how the companies could successfully progress to the next stage. Gordon stayed the entire weekend and spent one on one time with each team, helping them greater understand their ideas, how to get them to market and how to frame them to gain investment.

Then each of the teams set up their own work space with power, wifi, white boards, flip charts and a continuous food and caffeine supply to keep them coding madly away for the next 2 days.

At lunchtime, Sean Marshall provided coaching on the key aspects to cover when Pitching: Problem, Solution, Market, Distribution, Competition, Team, Asks. And we kicked off the first practice pitches. Unfortunately one of our teams got called back to work after the first pitch and didn’t get to return for the rest of the weekend – leaving 9 teams.

Sean Marshall spent the rest of the weekend hearing the teams pitch over & over, providing feedback & advice that in the end proved that the extra time allocated to practice plus the extra one on one monitoring that the teams received was truly valuable, not just for the weekend itself but for their day to day business lives. As the runner up team has already let me know – “we got huge amounts of value from the event not just Azure training. We are writing a pitch to Fairfax at the moment for another unrelated reason but have already added in what we learnt so we are putting even the 'soft skills' learning to work!”

We kicked off for day 2 once again at 9am Sunday morning. Normally when I run these events, I am on the only one there at 9am Sunday morning – but I was surprised how eager all of the teams were with almost everyone back again and back to work by 9:05! Sean took the teams through some extra do’s & don’ts for pitching then continued the one on one coaching for the rest of the day while Gordon, Steve & Matto also sat in to provide further feedback & advice to each of the teams.

Tim Buntel provided the Lunchtime session to the teams on “10 ways to Charge for it” – basically giving them some invaluable advice around 10 different (non mutually exclusive_ ways that the teams could generate an income from their ideas.

Meanwhile Azure MVP/Chef extraordinaire Steve Nagy cooked up a BBQ for everyone to enjoy in the Sunshine for lunch. He was rewarded by coming up with the analogy that a multi burner BBQ is a great example of scaleability. In his words (roughly paraphrased)… “if you have a lot of meat to cook on the BBQ, you don’t just turn up one burner really hot – as you would just burn the things in the middle and not cook the ones far away from the burner. You spread the load over the entire plate and use multiple burners to cook everything evenly! A win for all I think Smile

Our Judging panel started to arrive and the eager teams nerves started to rise. Our Judging panel included

Steve Nagy Azure MVP and Senior Consultant, Readify

Gordon Bell Principal Researcher at Microsoft , co-developer of the Bell-Mason Diagnostic and has also been involved with startup companies, investing time and/or money in over 100 companies

Mark Pesce Writer, researcher, engineer, futurist and teacher – but most commonly known as Judge from The New Inventors) and

Sebestien Eckersley-Maslin Founder of Venture Technology firm Blue Chilli investing in startups, Anthill 30under30 winner 2008 & 2010, top UNSW researcher, Kidpreneur mentor

After a last run through of practice pitches, we assembled the judges and kicked off the presentation at 4 pm, the pitches kicked off:

1. Aerion technology with A Personal Trainer - they almost had a Seed plan with prototype built on WP7 & deployed to azure across the event. Aerion tech are a spinoff from La Trobe University incubator and were one of the first people to register for BizSpark in Australia. The application is designed for the personal trainers at gyms that write up programs for people, but don’t have an ongoing relationship with them. This tool allowed them to monitor progress, and allow the trainees to easily upload & track their progress.

2. John Young with uBalancer. His software was already built as Desktop app, but used the weekend to work on porting to Azure to achieve scalability and reduced support costs. He has an existing proven business of life coaches for students, sports teams, and execs. This is a diagnostic/recommendation tool for managing life balance.

3. Redgum tech with Auction tracker. This was an app that used crowd sourcing at auctions to get real time and accurate data on Auction prices; They managed to built an iPad/iPhone based application using Azure backend across the weekend. (they assure me they will be deploying to WP7 in future).

4. Eddy wasn’t actually going to present but decided to at the last minute to get the feedback from the judges, His idea was around a personal efficiency tool similar to Getting Things Done – but over the weekend and with feedback from the judges he decided not to build this. He did build a LightSwitch application for Recipe tracking over the weekend – which unfortunately he didn’t pitch, as I personally thought it was a great idea & I would use it!

5. MRS Software – these guys started the weekend working on an application to crowdsource the cleanliness of restaurants. Basically letting consumers and Pest controllers report dirty conditions in restaurants. Again they changed their mind across the weekend and ended up pitching their 2nd idea which was for tracking donations of trades to not for profits.

6. Rombogo – Pitched an application that used phone GPS as the front end and Azure back end to track, monitor & engage with attendees at an event, show or conference. It allows the organisers to provide incentives to the attendees but can also be used to locate friends at the event if you get lost.

7. GalaxC – Showed their prototype that was based on Azure to allow tradesmen to quote for job requests, rate the customers, and also allow the customers to rate the tradesmen. Basic idea was an eLance/Freelancer style tool for Tradesmen.

8. My Social teacher: Peter used the weekend for the business knowledge rather than technical and discussed his concepts around an online tutor connection site for University students. The idea drew much support from the judges – I look forward to seeing this idea completed.

9. Ryarc – these guys weren’t actually a startup but brought a team of 5 developers to look at porting the application they have already to Azure. It is used to run the visual advertising display units in Westfield’s, Fitness First etc. They weren’t applicable for the judging but in the end, pitched anyway – to which the judges gave the advice that they were doing everything right so keep up the good work! Smile

The judges took some time to decide on a winner, and also took the time to give every single team direct and once again valuable feedback.

All in all we saw 9 amazing solutions, but the winners were:

3rd Place: Aerion Tech with My personal Trainer

2nd Place: Redgum Tech with Auction Tracker

1st place: John Young with uBalancer

The winning team members received an xBox each, Gold Class movie pass voucher valued at $100 and a fantastic $6,000 business development workshop thanks to Sebastien and the team at Blue Chilli!!!

Congratulations to all teams!! And thank you once again to the Judges, helpers, mentors and everyone that popped in over the weekend and for all the help you gave!

 

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Collage created using Microsoft Research AutoCollage Trial version: Thanks for suggesting it Gordon! Smile