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I was fortunate enough to have participated in 2 Incubation Weeks at the Microsoft Technology Centers in Boston and Silicon Valley, and would like to personally thank everyone who participated in and supported the events.
If you're not familiar with the concept, Incubation Weeks are intended to help startups explore early-stage development of their product/service ideas using Microsoft tools and technologies (see http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2008/06/16/weekly12-New-Microsoft-software-incubation-program-offers-developers-inside-access.html for more info...) They start with a day of training, followed by 3 days of intensive development and a presentation before a review board on the last day.
During the week, a team of Microsoft engineers floats across the teams helping as needed, and guest speakers fill in during the lunch hours to provide key insights. Overall, 9 groups participated in the 2 events, and (I hope) all had a great experience and felt the time was well spent. To get a sense of how the events went, check out Kevin Leneway's video up on http://visitmix.com/blogs/kleneway/A-Startup-A-Week-Episode-2/ .
While this all may sound a bit constrained, the short time frame has the effect of focusing teams on making the trade-offs necessary to build a compelling demo for their presentations at week's end. In the world of idea incubation, this is a critical skill to master.
I mention this after the fact because I'd like to know if this format is something of interest to the broader ISV community. I'll be focusing on Windows Client technogies in our upcoming fiscal year (which starts on Tuesday), and I'm considering running events like these for organizations looking to adopt/target technologies like WPF, Silverlight, Vista Native APIs, Windows Mobile, and IE8.
I can't promise that we'll be able to provide such events, but your interest would definitely help make the case for having a few more. If you are interested in participating in an incubation week, please reply to this post with:
Again, let me stress that I absolutely cannot promise that there will be any more of these events, or even if there are, that we can accommodate every request. However, I can promise that if there are, I'll let you know.
Great post, John. I know that at the Boston event, one thing that I tried to get across in the video was the fact although it was a lot of work to get the projects done, it also was a whole heck of a lot of fun. The other important aspect of these events is the contacts that are made. For instance, I heard from one of the participants recently that they are having a follow-up meeting with one of the angel investors on the judging panel. Without this exposure from Incubation Week, it would have been very difficult to get time with a high-profile investor.
For anyone who has an idea and just needs a little motivation to get started, this is definitely a very interesting opportunity. I'd highly encourage any budding entrepreneurs out there to show your support for more of these events in the future.