Last weekend Microsoft sponsored the Garage48 start-up demo event. We announced a special challenge for teams utilizing Windows Azure platform in their demo solutions.

Garage48 originates from Estonia and the concept has already been tried in Nairobi, Kenya. The concept goes roughly like this:

P1153856Friday evening, about 100 people gathered to a venue that allows for round-the-clock working (and sleeping if you fancy). Aalto Venture Garage in Otaniemi, Espoo was a good choice. People were then free to pitch ideas on what they would like to do. This time, 31 ideas were pitched.

After all the ideas were pitched, there started a hectic teaming activity. Each idea owner tried to recruit the necessary talent from the people present at Garage48. For a successful team, one needs a suitable mix of business, marketing, design and technical competence. There was a kind of natural selection happening as ideas competed for talent. In the end, 16 ideas got a team to work on them.

The teams then set to work late Friday night and basically went flat out planning, designing and developing their idea into a presentable demo. Finished demos (polished or not) were then presented to the jury on Sundays evening.

I provided mentoring and support for anyone that was asking about Windows Azure. I did also help the Montroller team by getting them a programmable Lego Mindstorm NXT robot toolkit and getting their Windows Phone 7 device registered for developer account to allow deployment of their app.

In the end, three teams made use of some part of the Windows Azure platform. Team FloFlo was the most advanced by developing their demo on Windows Azure. They had couple of problems with the application deployment getting stuck in the process, but deletion of the service and redeployment solved the issue. They had the most extensive use of Windows Azure, so I decided to award them the Windows Azure challenge first prize.

The overall winner of Garage48, LapLab was using SQL Azure database to store their data. They were the first runner-up for Azure challenge. The third team using SQL Azure was SportsTradr.

Thanks for the organizers and every team for a memorable weekend. I hope to see as many teams as possible as real startups and perhaps as members in our BizSpark program.