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Editorial note: This is a sponsored blog post by Microsoft as part of their series Hear it from startups.

Imagine Cup is an annual competition aimed at students worldwide, who are looking to change the world. Each year students compete against each other in many different categories for the best application. Applications are judged by their real world potential in changing the world, but also how viable they are business wise.

This year the finals will take place in Sydney, Australia and Microsoft Finland will be sending one team from Finland to the finals. The team however, has to win the semi-finals in Finland first.

Imagine Cup has multiple different categories available, but if you choose to enter the competition local semi-finals will be held for the Windows Phone Challenge as well as the Software Design categories.

Windows Phone Challenge

How do you get started? Easy. Follow the steps below.

  1. Form a team of 1 – 4 members.
  2. Come up with an kickass idea. Get inspiration from UN Millenium Goals and IdeasProject.
  3. Sign up for the Windows Phone Challenge.
  4. Create an submit Application Summary and a SketchFlow Prototype to the Imagine Cup website by the 13th of March.
  5. Create a Windows Phone app based on your SketchFlow-project and submit it to the marketplace by the 31st of March. Then email imagineCupFI@microsoft.com with the link to your app on the marketplace.

Remember to check the Windows Phone Challenge Rules before you start with your project.

In Finland Microsoft is partnering with Nokia to organise the semi-finals. In addition to the semi-finals, Nokia is also looking for summer interns so you will have excellent chances in not only flying to Sydney, but also getting a great summer job. I’ve also been told that this is far from fetching coffee for middle managers. Nokia will be expecting you to build stuff, which is always exciting.

To participate in this category, you need to submit your apps to the marketplace by 31st of March. The semi-finals will be held in April.

Software Design

Software Design is one of the most popular Imagine Cup categories in Finland. There have been local semi-finals for the category for three years and they have seen very interesting innovations there. Past representatives have been Signbook and Vigilis.

In the first round you will need to come up with an idea and submit a Preliminary Summary through the competition website. Based on this, the judges will select the top 5 teams to participate in the Finnish semi-finals in April.

The date and venue will be announced later.

Judging criteria

There are five different attributes the judges will be looking at so make sure you read through them carefully and understand them.

Problem Definition
How precise and relevant is the real world problem? How interesting or difficult to resolve – functionally or technically – is the problem being challenged? For this criterion, we only focus on the problem challenged, not on the solution created to solve this problem. How well does the project adhere to the current 2012 Theme?

Solution Design & Innovation
Does the application approach a new problem, or look at an old problem in a new way? Is the solution completely innovative or does it rely on an existing concept/technology? Does the application impact a large number of people very broadly, or impact a smaller number of people very deeply? To which degree does the application actually solve the current problem?

Technical Architecture & User Experience
Is the system architecture broken down into logical chunks and modules? Is the project technically open to some evolution? Is it only made with a monolithic block or does it present interfaces enabling extensions (SDKs or APIs)? To which degree are the HMI (Human Machine Interfaces) intuitive, ergonomic and user friendly? Does the application leverage the presence of fresh and updated data?

Business Viability
Is the application technically and economically viable? Is this solution only theoretical or does it have a realistic application for commercial purposes? (Not necessarily here and now, but eventually in the future and/or for certain markets).

The judges will be looking for written/oral presentations that provide background and context to the project, explain why the problem is an interesting one, highlight how the system works, and include an insightful demonstration. Semifinals Teams will also be evaluated on their ability to take questions from the judging panel.


Imagine Cup is definitely one of the best ways out there for to showcase your work for the people around the world. I’ve also heard good things about Microsoft paying very close attention to the winner of the competition, so consider it for yourself and where it could take you.

One team will get to fly to Sydney, Australia – paid for by Microsoft. The top three teams will also receive prizes for their efforts.

If you have any questions, you can email Drazen Dodik at Microsoft for more information. Also, check out the Imagine Cup website for more information.

Hear it from the startups
This series of posts is sponsored by Microsoft and produced in co-operation with ArcticStartup to share experiences from startups in using Microsoft technology as well as in participating in the many different programs Microsoft has to offer.

How to get started on Azure
Head over here to get the tools and try them for free. You can also apply to Bizspark as the members get access to Windows Azure.

How to get started on WP7
Download the free tools. You can also use an emulator to develop on the WP7. Jukka Wallasvaara (Microsoft employee) also blogs about WP7 news in his blog.

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