On February 15th, four students came together to form what could be a real game changer in the Windows Store space. It all started at the Imagine Cup event held at Exeter University. Teams from around the country came together, all hoping to create award winning apps in the space of 48 hours. With a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, and $50,000 at stake, competition was stiff, and teams weren’t taking things lightly. It was at this event that SoundSYNK were born.
Meet SoundSYNK (from left to right):
Robert Parker (Programmer), Computer science and Mathematics, 2nd yearEdward Noel (Business), Mechanical engineering, 2nd yearAlex Bochenski (Business), Business and Economics, 2nd yearJonathan Neumann (Programmer), Masters in History, 4th Year (Erasmus Scheme)
SoundSYNK are a team of students from Exeter University, who arrived that day not knowing each other, but all had the dream of learning how to create and deploy an app into store and with the more important aspiration of winning big money! But who knew that just by randomly sitting together at the start of a day, would equal the creation of a dream team! Read below for their story…
"The Idea was born at the Microsoft Imagine Cup regionals held by Setsquared and Ignite Exeter University Guild Enterprise team. It all started on Saturday 16th February 2013 at 2 am in the morning. With $50,000 on the brain, we were caffeine fuelled and desperate for a strong idea to win the regionals. Ideas were banded around, but as the hours passed and our brain power started to dwindle, we sought the aid of music to inspire us. Little did we know this would be the start of an amazing adventure…?
We were playing "Sweet nothings" by Calvin Harris on Alex's laptop, but it was just not loud enough for our liking. Being students we wanted to have a blasting beat to keep us going through the night, but the volume was just not sufficient. At this point, we did the age old technique of lining up all of our phones, laptops, tablets, in the hope that we might be able to play the song at the same time. However, due to our lack of timing, it failed miserably! However, it started to get us thinking- What if we could develop an app that allowed us to sync a load of devices in perfect harmony and in turn create a booming base- this was where the idea began!
With time running out and less than 24 hours before we had to present our apps to the judging panel, we all frantically started researching. Our genius coders Rob and Jonathan- who have previously only developed for iPhone and Android- started looking into what kind of technology was available that could help develop this concept, whilst Ed and Alex scoured the internet desperate not to find someone who had already done this. Lucky for us, no one had! Although this was a Microsoft competition, we wanted to make a platform agnostic app that could be enjoyed by all audiences, whether you had a Windows Phone, iPhone, laptop or tablet. It was hard at first for Jon and Rob, as they had never developed for Windows before, but they found it surprisingly easy to pick up and we quickly started developing the prototype and presentation of the product. Our coders started building the app using Microsoft Visual Studio, making sure it utilized Bluetooth, WiFi, and WiFi-direct. We wanted to create a mesh-network that had more bandwidth than simply connecting devices over WiFi and that could be used anytime, anywhere. By utilizing our backend-technology, we saw that we could send data between devices and overcome the current bandwidth limits of Bluetooth (maximum share between 4 devices), allowing us to share data with an unlimited number of devices... we really wanted to take the party mobile!
With the hours ticking away and our presentation slot looming, we pulled together and made an amazing prototype and presentation that we showcased. Thanks to all this hard work, 24 hours later we were being awarded the 1st place prize by the judging panel. We were ecstatic! With this win came a place in the UK National Finals (the next stage) that were to be hosted in April, but we knew from then on that this would be no easy ride. In order for us to win the $50,000 and that trip to Russia to compete in the World Wide Finals of the Imagine cup, there would be a lot to do!
In the run up to the Finals, we were working night and day perfecting our app and presentation, choosing to demo and tell people about our app at every opportunity we had! This even led Ed to being introduced and pitching the idea to Dragons Den Judge, Doug Richards… not every student can say they have done that! Because of all this pitching we were able to drum up a lot of interest and were invited to attend the ‘Starterfor10’ competition. We managed somehow win a £10,000 grant from Creative England that day, which was against over 150 startups! We were really excited by the way things were taking off and the interest our company was getting, but we didn’t lose our focus as the big day was still yet to come…
8th of April meant only one thing, The UK Imagine Cup Finals. Every day had been leading up to it, but with 10 amazing teams, including some of our own classmates as competition, we knew we had to do a presentation like no other. With banners put up, flashing T-shirts on and devices in hand, we demoed our hearts out, trying to convince all the judges and potential investors that we were not only World Wide Finalist material, but also that we had an amazing story to share…
We came out that day as UK winners, and we cannot even contemplate how many amazing opportunities will come about from this. Without the help of people like Natasha from Microsoft, Setsquared, Ignite and Exeter Innovation centre- who gave us incredible amounts of support from legal, accountancy and investor readiness seminars to putting up with us presenting in front of them continuously- we wouldn’t be half the team we are today.
So what now? We are working with Microsoft UK, Setsquared, Ignite, Creative England and Exeter Innovation Centre to get the working prototype onto the market and to make it a massive success. We also now have a Limited company set up called ‘Colinked’, as what we have come to realise is that our technology can be used for a number of things, from helping out in Natural disasters to replacing it as a sound system at big events! It has really been a real whirlwind adventure ever since we attended the 48 hour hack back in February, and we would have never guessed that 4 students, who had never met each other before that day could come so far, let alone be this successful. We have made it through every stage so far and the only next step is to go on to win the World Wide Finals… Bring on Russia!
Their story clearly showcases how businesses and partners can start up in the most unlikely of places, and it takes real perseverance, talent and drive to make a start-up a success. I know this team will go on to do great things, and I have no doubt that they will be a stand out team at the World Wide Finals. People are already realising the teams potential and are commenting about the clear innovation and talented minds behind this app.
‘This is a huge win for Microsoft, as this clever use of technology shows how Windows Phone applications can be innovative and push existing boundaries. If this application is executed perfectly once it hits the market, this could become a killer app that Microsoft has been waiting for to populate its market space.’ (Brad Sams, Neowin)
We in the UK are proud to have these gifted students representing our country. The app is not out yet, but the team is hoping to launch in June, well ahead of the Imagine Cup finals which takes place in July, so watch this space! If you've been inspired to start building on Windows 8, download the SDK for all the free tools you need.
WOW this is such an awesome story! Nice work guys!