Meet the 2014 Top 3 Microsoft Imagine Fund Student Startups

We are very pleased to announce the three Microsoft Imagine Fund teams that will be participating in the Imagine Cup World Semi Finals: Grant Me, Hashtagr and Solipsoid Software. These teams were nominated during the Microsoft Imagine Fund Final Pitch Day on April 25th, where the eleven Microsoft Imagine Fund teams pitched their startup idea and solution to a panel of judges. Congratulations to our three winners for being selected to compete in the US Imagine Cup World Semi Finals and to all the Imagine Fund teams for their creative and entertaining presentations!

What’s next?

Our three winning teams will be competing against 300+ teams from all around the world.Only 35 teams will make it to the next round and compete in the Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle USA from July 28th to August 2nd.  The Imagine Cup World Finalists will be announced early June. Stay tuned!

Meet our winners!

Grant Me

TeamUpennLogoThe Microsoft Imagine Fund Team UPenn, from University of Pennsylvania created Grant Me – an application and crowdsourcing platform for grant funding aimed at improving the current grant funding process by reducing complexity and time spent on finding available grants. Founders are Nick Liu, John Lu, and Grace Truong.


Hashtagr logoHashtagr is THE Hashtag Search Engine. Hashtagr aggregates posts from Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram, Facebook, and Google+ into a quick, simple, and highly interactive user interface. For businesses, Hashtagr provides a “Hashtag Tracking Platform” that social media specialists and content managers can use to track their hashtag campaigns. Founders are Khoa Nguyen from Depaul University, and Saagar Gupta and Dennis Leancu both from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Check out Hashtagr’s website and Windows 8 app!

Solipsoid Software

bonus banner for unnatural selectionThe team Solipsoid Software created the game Unnatural Selection where you take the role of a mutant fish and eat everything you can find. Gameplay is fast-paced and addictive, with a constant stream of food needed to stay alive and grow larger. All the while, you must fight off attacks by robots that view you as an infection. Founders are Randal Staewen and Sean Howard from University of Houston.

Want to know more about the Imagine Cup competition? Click here :).


What would you build with $10,000? We’re just curious.

Growing up, your parents probably shared with you such age old adages as “nothing in life is free” or “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Your parents were (mostly) right. But there are times in life where you will come across exceptions to these generational nuggets of wisdom.

The Microsoft Imagine Fund is one of these exceptions…

The Microsoft Imagine Fund is a fund and school/accelerator designed specifically for student startups. Traditional accelerators offer resources in exchange for equity. We are breaking from that model to provide resources to a carefully curated group of young entrepreneurs – for free. Why? Because we’ve been around long enough to see (through previous Imagine Cup competitions) that the organic return on our investment in fostering an entrepreneurial culture in the student community can have a global positive impact.

More and more, students are helping define the next generation of business innovation and we want to empower you to participate in this opportunity. We believe we’ve created an experience that is unique to the student startup mentality and journey. We are keenly aware of the challenges and risks that young startups face, and we are excited to launch the Imagine Fund to help you along this path.

The new fund, which launches today, will select top student startups to participate in a 10-week long immersive student startup school. Accepted teams will receive training on building great apps on the Microsoft platform, identifying a minimum viable product, pitching investors, 1:1 mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders, as well as the inclusion in the Microsoft Imagine Fund community of technical evangelists and startup experts, and $10,000 USD in seed money.

Founded in 2003, the Microsoft Imagine Cup brings together young technologists worldwide to help resolve some of the world’s toughest challenges. The Imagine Fund was inspired by overwhelming interest in technology entrepreneurship and student startup ventures coming out of this global competition.

If you’re selected, you should consider calling your parents and engaging them in a philosophical conversation about situations where lunch *is* in fact free. With the only strings attached those meant to help you succeed. Think of us as your personal student startup support system. Our mission is to promote a culture of entrepreneurial enthusiasm and technical aptitude among the future technology rock stars of America.

Introducing Microsoft Imagine Fund

We are happy to let you know that the 2014 US Imagine Cup has launched!

Last year we went through an amazing journey of re-imagining the US Imagine Cup and implemented a new model focusing on student startups.This year we are building on that success and have partnered with Microsoft Ventures to create the Microsoft Imagine Fund for student entrepreneurs – an early start startup school and fund whose mission is to helps student entrepreneurs develop great ideas into successful startups.

Student startup will have the opportunity to apply for acceptance into the program during one of two funding cycles – a winter and a summer cycle.
Student startups accepted into the program are granted $10,000 USD in seed money and will go through a ten week immersive startup school aimed at getting the teams to ready to launch a startup. During the ten week program students will receive training and guidance on building apps on the Microsoft stack, creating a business, pitching to investors, and 1:1 mentoring and inclusion in the Microsoft Imagine Fund community of technical evangelists and startup experts. At the end of the program, students will ready to take the next step whether that is finding new investors, acquiring customers or applying to a premier startup accelerator.

The startup school program culminates in Pitch Day where the student startups will have the opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of industry expert judges. The top three student startups from the winter funding cycle (February 17th – April 25th timeframe) will participate in the Imagine Cup World Semifinals and the best of the three will be invited to Seattle to compete against students from around the world in the Imagine Cup World Finals.

Learn more about the program at and in the FAQ section.

What’s a Pitch anyways?

Are you applying to the Microsoft Imagine Fund? If you are you have probably already checked out the application form and noticed that we are asking you to submit a short (max 5 minutes) presentation or pitch video. You may already be all clued in on what a pitch is. If this is still new to you read on and we will give you some hints.

A Pitch (according to Wikipedia) is a “short summary of a scenario designed to convince in a few words about the value or interest of a story”. The goal with your pitch is to convince potential investors that they should spend money on funding your idea.It all starts with the idea. You have an idea. A brilliant idea. But how do you make sure it’s the next great thing before running with it? And how are ideas born? How do you know that your idea is really feasible and that there is a market for your product? How can you “look into the future” and see if your idea and your product aligns to where the market is going?

There are a ton of great resources out there on the topic of ideation, storytelling and presenting your idea – all crucial elements of pitching. We have selected a few that we think are pretty cool. Check them out (and also do your own research):

Ideation/Trend Mapping
Trendmapping as a tool for identifying future trends and build companies around these (Mike Stemple)
How to test your idea (Phil McKinney)
6 features you need to manage your ideas (Phil McKinney)
How to rank your ideas – and ensure you are working on the best ideas that will have the most impact (Phil McKinney)
Where do ideas come from? How to recognize opportunities? (Steven Johnson)

(TIP: Use mind-mapping tools to generate, visualize, structure, and classify your ideas. Check out the top 30 free mind-mapping tools)

Story Telling
3 tricks to strategic story telling (Phil McKinney)
The Importance of Storytelling in Honing Your Pitch (John Brooks)
Storytelling: A story of survival, resilience, and hope (Joseph Kim)

Making the pitch
How to pitch your idea so that you get funding (Phil McKinney)
Making the Innovation Pitch (Phil McKinney)
How to present your pitch (Guy Kawasaki)
Pitch Presentation Outline example (Guy Kawasaki)
What do VC’s look for? (Bilal Zuberi)
How to present your idea and win people over (David S. Rose)
The Art of Pitch in 5 minutes (Ben Piquard)

And, not that we think this is going to happen to you (no way) but check out this article on 12 Ways To Blow Your Investor Pitch shared by North Venture Partners 🙂

Best of luck!
Microsoft Imagine Fund Team