Like last year, I was invited by Microsoft Pakistan to evaluate the software competition entries for Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013. It’s a great opportunity to see how our academia is doing in terms of the output they produce and see how new talent is doing.
In Islamabad, we evaluated around 20 projects from various Universities such as FAST-NUCES, University of Karachi, NEDUET, NUST etc. I think looking back to our academic life and comparing with the projects students are doing these days I think they are doing a remarkable work. Students today are utilizing technology much more than we used to do. The recent boom of small form factor devices and mobile apps ecosystem has also provided developers opportunity and exposure which was not available previously. Plus I appreciate Microsoft Pakistan in providing direct opportunities to students in the form of Hackathons, App competitions, student partners, hardware support etc.
However, the bar set for Imagine Cup software competition is much high as students from around the globe compete and ultimately only one entry will win from Pakistan. So each entry was evaluated considering following factors:
- Market Opportunity
- Team Communication Skills
- Technology Usage
- WOW Factor
I believe our students have great potential but they somehow lack completeness in projects and need good preparation to win. With my recent evaluation experience, I would like to share some tips to student competing in global competitions. This is on top of tips and suggestion I shared previously as I think they are really important to go through. If you haven’t read my earlier post and you are competing, I highly recommend you read it.
Prepare for Completeness
One of the key factor is that all participants must consider every evaluation criteria when presenting, submitting documents, recording video etc. You must be able to demonstrate your idea in few minutes, show some market opportunity and competitor analysis followed by technology usage. Answer some of the great questions like why would anyone use it? who needs it? Have you talked to any potential customer? Show how your solution would create a difference and leave the floor with excitement. Demonstrating only solution or technology or project output may raise some red flags. If your project is not complete show the judges what are you planning and HOW you are going to achieve future milestones.
Be a Product Manager
In addition to the point above, one of your team member have to be a Product Manager. Spend some time thinking how you are going to productize your work. You must have some plan how would you market it, how would you launch it, how much it would cost, what features other similar products offer, who is your customer, why would anyone buy it? if its a world citizenship category project, have you talked to any concern NGO?
As your project evolves, set aside some time to think about usability and user experience. Especially if your target audience is physically challenged people, you need to think how they will actually end up using your product. For example, If you are targeting someone who is unable to see but can listen, then how he is going to launch your app, how he is going to provide input etc. Is your app really easy to use for your target audience?
Connect with Industry Experts
Take advantage of your alumni, connect with industry experts, request them favor to review your work, practice presenting (online and offline). Get their guidance.
Take it Serious
Competitions like Imagine Cup provides tons of opportunities to students. Not only you can get cash support to really convert your project into product but also you can have chance to interact with potential investors, researchers and international industry links. So if you are IN, take it real serious and participate only to WIN.
All the Best!