Leading Technology Students Gather in Silicon Valley to Turn Dreams Into Reality

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Feb. 6, 2008 — BT and Microsoft Corp. have brought 24 aspiring software developers from around the world to the Silicon Valley for two weeks to participate in the third annual Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator program. The students, representing the top six software design teams at the 2007 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals, are from Ireland, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Poland and Thailand. This unique event challenges these students to apply their technical talents to create solutions to real-world problems and gives them the opportunity to learn from technology leaders at Microsoft and BT how to take their ideas a step further toward commercial reality.

“These young people are coming to this program as students, but they will leave as potential entrepreneurs,” said Joe Wilson, senior director of academic initiatives at Microsoft. “In the Innovation Accelerator program, we help them combine the technical skills they already have with practical business know-how so they can create a business plan, attract investors and launch a successful product.”

During the workshop, technical and business mentors from BT and Microsoft as well as some of the most recognized leaders in technology entrepreneurship will provide the student teams with guidance, coaching and advice that will help them refine and develop their Imagine Cup software applications into commercially viable products. The teams will also have a chance to interact with venture capitalists attending the event.

The experts coaching the students include the following:

  • Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, columnist for Entrepreneur magazine and the author of eight books. Kawasaki made a name for himself at Apple in the 1980s as the evangelist who helped launch the Macintosh computer.

  • Chris Gill, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs and technology entrepreneur

  • John Danner, an experienced management consultant and entrepreneur and professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

“These students potentially represent the next generation of technology business leaders as well as those who will create technology that positively impacts people’s lives,” said Joe Black, director of business development for emerging technologies at BT. “The goal of the Innovation Accelerator is to provide the guidance and education they’ll need to turn their passion for technology and helping others into real-world applications and businesses.”

More than 100,000 students from more than 100 countries entered the 2007 Imagine Cup competition. The following six teams participating in the Innovation Accelerator were selected at the Imagine Cup World Festival held in Seoul, South Korea, in August 2007, on the basis of the software application they created and presented at the finals:

  • Ireland, Team inGest, project Signal — Sign Language Learning Environment: A tool that teaches sign language and allows users to chat online using sign language.

  • Jamaica, Team ICAD, project CADI: An innovative e-Learning solution that creates a centralized learning environment that connects teachers, students and resources.

  • Korea, Team En#605, project Finger Code: An educational solution for people who are both deaf and blind.

  • Mexico, Team Wisdom Spice, project Wisdom Spice: Software that lets students share their experiences solving homework problems or working on a project with their classmates to create a knowledge-based community.

  • Poland, Team InPUT, project Onespace: Software that enables several users to work on a project at the same time by providing audio, video and data connections between members of a group.

  • Thailand, Team 3KC, Project LiveBook!: Software that converts a text-based book into an illustrated digital book by matching words with pictures from Encarta Encyclopedia.

“The Innovation Accelerator is not a competition — all the participants are considered winners,” Wilson said. “This is the prize — to come here to the technology capital of the world and learn from some of the most successful entrepreneurs around.”

These teams join the elite ranks of past Imagine Cup winners who have gone on to pursue careers as entrepreneurs and include the following:

  • The 2006 German team, whose company is called Trailblazers (http://www.trailblazers.de), developed navigation software focused on the needs of physically disabled people. Built upon the Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping platform, the software helps people with disabilities overcome obstacles such as curbs or stairs by identifying barrier-free routes through cities, towns and landscapes.

  • The 2005 Russian team that has turned its project into Musigy Inc. (http://www.musigy.com) and has filed patents in the U.S. and Russia. Musigy enables musicians to plug their instruments into a computer and jam with their friends over the Internet as if they were in the same room.

  • The 2005 Greek team that has received funding from the Greek government to pursue its Innovation Accelerator project for translating sign language into speech, and vice versa, by utilizing a wireless, custom-made armband.

  • The 2005 Slovenian team that founded Inova IT, a Slovenia-based company that provides a server- and client-based SDK that enables budding developers to develop games and easily distribute them to millions of users on mobile telecom networks.

  • 2003 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals winner Tu Nguyen from the U.S. who turned his invention — a program that runs on a handheld PDA and allows waiters to take orders in one language and send them to the kitchen chefs in another — into a company called DOCCENTER (http://www.doccenterinc.com), which now employs 27 people and has three products on the market.

“The Innovation Accelerator was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” said Miha Lesjak, CEO of Inova IT. “It gave us the platform to develop and evolve our software ideas and our business strategy. Working closely with BT and Microsoft, we have built Inova IT into a successful software business and are now realizing our dream to become successful entrepreneurs.”

Journalists are invited to come to Silicon Valley and experience the Innovation Accelerator firsthand to see how the program helps the student teams hone their business sense, refine their inventions and learn what it takes to become an entrepreneur. For journalists who may not be able to stay for the entire two weeks, periodic updates, including blogs, podcasts and photographs, will be posted on the Imagine Cup Web site, http://www.imaginecup.com.

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications solutions and services operating in 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; higher-value broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

In the year ended 31 March 2007, BT Group plc’s revenue was £20,223 million with profit before taxation of £2,484 million.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. 

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/contactpr.mspx.

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