Aug 2, 2008

Tech - Indian Bill Gates in the making

Bill Gates saw his teenage dream of seeing personal computers on virtually every desk come true. Now his company Microsoft is helping young students live and achieve their dreams through an Innovation Accelerator programme. The company is using the Imagine Cup as a route to help discover new talent and develop innovative ideas as a business.

One such team from India called SKAN, led by a bunch of students in Mumbai, has become the first Indian winner of the Interoperability award at the Imagine Cup 2008 worldwide finals, held at Paris last month. Microsoft is helping this team incubate its business idea into a commercial proposition.

“The Microsoft Innovation Accelerator Program was recently launched in India and SKAN is the first team that has been chosen by the company for taking their idea to the market,” Paul Murphy, director of Innovation, Microsoft India said.

“When the Innovation Cup was started, we realised that the ideas of some finalists were so good that they could become viable businesses. This led to the Innovation Accelerator program,” he explained.

One of the Imagine Cup 2006 finalist teams is on its way to entrepreneurship. Four students from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences whose company is called Trailblazers developed navigation software focused on the needs of physically disabled people. Russia’s Team Inspiration, the winners of the Imagine Cup 2005 incorporated Musigy Inc, enabling musicians to plug their instrument into a computer and be connected to other musicians globally, perform live in a distributed environment and share real-time performance via Internet protocol multicasting.

Microsoft wants to replicate similar success stories in India. The SKAN team has developed a system that switches idle computers into the power-save mode. “Our application is targeted towards networks and assures savings of $25 to $75 on a single computer on an annual basis,” Amith George, team member of SKAN said.

The team is now heading for IIM Ahmedabad where they will spend two weeks to get into the entrepreneur mode. “Microsoft will review the progress of this team on a quarterly basis and release the seed funding in a phased manner,” Murphy said. We are looking at funding more such start-ups by pushing more local innovation accelerator efforts in India, he added.

In addition to the Innovation Accelerator Program for students, Microsoft has the Start-Up Accelerator Program for start-ups. The company plans to incubate 100 start-ups globally and wants at least 10 of them to come from India. Four Indian start-ups are already on Microsoft rolls and more would come by the year-end.

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