We’re so excited about the kick-off for the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals! Last night, in the NYC Marriott in Times Square (which later, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley told us we need to be sure to get out of), 120 student teams, chosen from 1.4 million registrants, converged for the tech Olympics—the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup--the ultimate technology competition. The next few days are filled with app-a-thons, judging competitions, elimination rounds, community days, BBQs in Ellis Island…and the final day, Wednesday, July 13, where 3 final awards will be given.

“Since you have come, New York City is a smarter place.”

Arthur Vanderveen, Chief of Innovation

What better place to hold the 9th annual Imagine Cup than NYC, the center of innovation. Arthur Vanderveen, @avveen, who Leads New York City iZone, education innovation, leadership, and systemic change, spoke at the ceremony about how the city inspires him—and seeing all the student teams, and their enthusiasm, renews his commitment to innovation.

“We were making grilled cheeses around my kitchen table, now we have 1 million new users per month."

Dennis Crowley, Foursquare Cofounder

We loved hearing from Dennis Crowley, @dens, who talked about how success stems from failure, and how never losing sight of your passion is the most important quality he could see with all the competing teams. “Don’t give up,” Crowley said. “Whether you win or lose the competition. People will always tell you that they love your stuff, that they hate your stuff. There are always haters. Just keep plugging at what you are doing.”

Steve Ballmer + Free Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 = Good Times

Just in case we weren’t inspired enough, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer brought his boundless energy and enthusiasm unto the stage, surprising the students with his announcement that all students would receive a Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360—and that the event would include a Kinect app-a-thon (held today, Saturday). His words of wisdom around the Kinect “Just make sure you hook it up!”

Dear Students: You’re the Ones Inspiring Steve Ballmer

It is Steve Ballmer’s first Imagine Cup, and he met with 11 teams yesterday and was impressed at seeing people who just love technology and do amazing work with it. This type of passion is what inspired him to join Microsoft—which was a 30-person startup at the time—and what drives him today.

In 1999 Microsoft decided to create the Xbox—a risky move to many at the time, and now a critical component of the innovation within the company.  Ballmer also discussed how everything is moving to the cloud—something people couldn’t conceive of a few decades ago and is now a bigger thing than connecting to the Internet. Now, many student teams are using Azure to complete their projects.

Keys of Wisdom

Steve Ballmer offered some words of wisdom to the students:

  • Ideas Matter: Everything starts with this—the ability to come up with an idea.
  • Be Tenacious: “There is no substitute for really being tenacious and keeping after those ideas that you are really passionate about.”
  • Find your passion. Changing the world isn’t easy, but choosing an idea that you are passionate about helps you to see it through.

 

What have you learned from the Imagine Cup? According to Steve Ballmer, you made a great choice of an area to get interested in. You’ve got 40-50 years of opportunity in high tech.

We’ve kicked off the most exciting technology event in the world—and we can’t wait to see which ideas will change the world.

 To have your chance at changing the world, meeting influential people, traveling the world, and receiving sweet prizes, sign up now: http://on.fb.me/oVWqOO