Thursday, July 14, 2011

WPC Roundup

Thinking back on the last few days, the first word that comes to my mind is WOW. I was privileged to be invited again this year to attend Microsoft's Worldwide Partners Conference as an ambassador for Microsoft's Students2Business and Imagine Cup programs. The WPC has a global scope, and it has been extremely fun connecting with people from all over the world. The conference theme this year was "Winning Together". This theme was chosen to show how Microsoft and their partners positively impact the world. 

Throughout the conference, I attended several breakout sessions. Among those sessions was one about preparing your company for the 2020 workplace. By 2020, Millennials will make up more than 50% of the workforce. The speaker focused on how Millennials have a different mindset than previous generations due to the proliferation of technology and the internet. She highlighted that we are more social, gamified, collaborative, and global and went into great detail on each of these points. This session and another about the future of Microsoft Tag were my favorite.

Then there were the keynotes. Each day began at the Staples Center where we heard from top Microsoft executives about various topics, such as the companies vision for the next year, upcoming technology releases, and partner company stories. Sir Richard Branson was also a featured guest speaker. He gave some exceptional advice about business and life.

The Students2Business team that I was involved with was truly amazing. Eight students or recent graduates from six different countries around the world were on-site throughout the WPC networking with partners and learning about new technologies. Could not have asked for a better group. I will really miss each and every one of them when they return to their home countries.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Imagine Cup: People's Choice Award

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the premier worldwide student technology competition. The competition challenges students to create innovative solutions using the latest technology. It is wrapping up its ninth year in July with the Worldwide Finals event which will be held in New York City. The playing field has been narrowed down country-by-country with local Imagine Cup finals events. All that remain are the top selections from each participating country.

So what is the People's Choice and why does it matter? The People's Choice is an award that is given to team who accumulates the most votes, or "likes", for their project. The prize for winning this award is $10,000 USD. Most of the teams competing lack financial support for their ideas and this could be the very catalyst to turn their innovation from a student project to a student venture.

The voters are YOU, the people of the world, so go ahead and VOTE!

If you would like to vote but don't have time to watch the more than 100 videos of the various projects, I would recommend either Team Watersense from Spain or Team Lifelens from the US.

Even celebrities are voting for teams! Actress Eva Longoria voted and she asks you to as well.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Pitching Potential Investors Is Like Selling a Used Car

I have some experience with pitching business ideas to venture capitalists and angel investors as well as buying and selling used cars. In this post I will give a few examples of how these activities are similar along with some tips.

Skeptical Audience: A used car buyer is not likely to believe everything you say about your car and its condition is accurate without some proof or documentation to back up your claims. The same is true with a potential business investor. With your car you would want to show your buyer receipts of maintenance and repairs, oil change log, paper work on the car's warranty, etc. In the case of an investor pitch, be sure to include documentation about your business via market data and trends, typical user case study, and information about your competitors. 

When dealing with a skeptical audience, gaining their trust is perhaps the most important issue. Invite them to get in the car, be prepared to answer any and all questions and do so thoroughly, control your nerves, and teach them something new about the subject at hand.

Show me the Carfax: This is a phrase that every used car buyer should/will say to you. Among other things, this is a report of accidents that the car has been involved in. Think of any previous, failed ventures as car accidents that have not totaled your entrepreneurial spirit. Learn from previous mistakes. Be straightforward with investors about your credentials and history. They will be delighted at the fact that you aren't some 18 year old trying to sell them a cure for cancer.

Clean your car!: You would not think of trying to sell a car that is covered in mud and full of fast-food wrappers. A fresh car wash and interior vacuuming helps show your buyer that you take care of your vehicle. Dress nice and have your investor pitch well organized. Visual aesthetics really do go a long way. And finally practice, practice, practice your pitch.

p.s. The car pictured above is my 2000 BMW 323i with 113K miles and I'm thinking of selling it soon. If you are interested, leave me a comment or send me an email {SOLD}. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Microsoft WPC 2011: Prep

As a two-time Imagine Cup US Finalist, technologist, entrepreneur, and Microsoft enthusiast; I was invited by Microsoft to attend the Worldwide Partners Conference (WPC) in Washington D.C. last year. I was just one of three selected from the USA and joined a group of 15 other students from 13 different countries as part of the Microsoft Students2Business (S2B) group. [see: video montage of our group at last year's conference]

WPC10 was such an amazing experience, that I sought a way to merit an invite for WPC11. After exchanging several emails with last year's S2B group supervisor, I was asked if I would like to fill the role of group leader this year. I was thrilled to accept this position and have been working for the past couple of weeks to help get everything in order for our group. Some of the things I've been working on include: registering all of the members of our team, helping to facilitate acquisition of Business Travel Visas for members who need them, and attending conference calls to brainstorm how the S2B group can have the strongest impact while at the conference.

I have not yet mentioned where WPC will be this year. The conference will be held in one of my favorite US cities: Los Angeles, CA! The bulk of our time will be spent downtown at the Los Angeles Convention Center, however, we will begin each conference day attending a keynote next door at the Staples Center.

There are still a few things to wrap up in term of preparations. I will be co-hosting a conference call on Thursday to give details and instructions to our group. I am extremely excited for this conference and look forward to meeting all of the new members of the Students2Business team!

Check out for more information on this conference. There is a cool intro video here.