Q: How does my team apply?
A: Complete and submit the application form here
Q: Do we need to have established our startup company to apply?
A: No, but it is ok if you have already set one up. If you get accepted into the program you will need to establish a company to receive your seed funding.
Q: Do I need to have a team or can I apply on my own?
A: Yes, you can apply as a single student team but chances of being accepted are lower. Starting a company is a lot of work, and doing it alone will be hard.
Q: Can we apply again if we were not invited for an interview?
A: Sure. If your application was rejected and the application period is still open you can re-submit your application. But consider that if you were not selected to interview the first time (or the second) you may need to revise your strategy and plan.
Q: Can the same team members apply again if we received funding in a previous cycle?
A: If you and your startup has previously been funded through the Microsoft Imagine Fund, you may apply for the program again in a subsequent cycle. However, in order to be accepted your startup and product must be substantially new, unique, and different from any previous startup or product which was previously funded by the Imagine Fund.
Q: Can we apply for the winter funding cycle but request to get accepted into the summer funding cycle?
A: No, but you can apply for more than one funding cycle if your product is substantially new, unique, and different.
Q: How long time will we have to apply?
A: The application window for each cycle is open for approximately 3 months
Q: Will you tell us why our application did not lead to an interview?
A: We expect to receive a large number of applications and will not be able to explain our decisions to each team. To the extent that we are able we will make an effort to give you overall feedback, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee it. Please check out the resources links on our website. Here you will find great articles on what venture capitalists are looking for.
Q: Why would we want to apply early in the application period?
A: There are several advantages to applying early. For one if you apply early you will know early on if you have been invited to interview and you will have time to prepare. Also if your application is rejected you will have time to adjust or improve your application and apply again.
Q: How soon after we apply will we know if we have been selected for an interview?
A: We evaluate applications as the come in and will make every effort to get back to each applicant team in two weeks.
Q: How will we be notified if we have been invited to interview?
A: If you have been invited to interview we will notify you by sending a message to the e-mail address you provided in your application form. You will need to let us know within the timeframe indicated in the email if you accept the invitation to interview by replying to the email. If the email we send to you is returned as undeliverable, or you are otherwise unreachable, we may offer the opportunity to another applicant.
Q: Do we get to select the time and date for our interview?
A: No. You will be allotted an interview slot during one of the interview dates (February 10-11 for the 2014 winter funding cycle and July 7-8 for the 2014 summer funding cycle). If there is a compelling reason why you cannot make the selected interview slot we will work with you to try and find an acceptable slot.
Q: If we am invited for an interview how big are our chances of getting accepted into the program?
A: Up to 15 teams will be funded and accepted into the 2014 winter funding cycle. The number of teams that we invite to interview will depend on the number of high potential applicants. If you have been invited to interview it means that you caught our attention.
Q: What happens during the interview?
A: During the interview you will get a chance to present your idea/business concept and your team of founders. The interview panel will ask your team questions and want to learn more about you, your startup and your business plan.
Q: How soon after the interview will I know if I have been accepted?
A: You will know by the end of interview day 2.
Acceptance into the program
Q: How many student teams/startups will be accepted during each cycle?
A: The number of student startups that we will be funding for each cycle depends on the potential of the applicant pool. We will select up to 15 teams for the winter cycle.
Q: How will we be notified if we have been accepted into the program?
A: If you have been accepted into the program we will notify you by sending a message to the email address you provided in your application. You will need to let us know within the timeframe indicated in the email if you accept the invitation to interview by replying to the email. If the email we send to you is returned as undeliverable, or you are otherwise unreachable, we may offer the opportunity to another team. As there is only a short time period between the final interview day and the start of the startup school program, we will need your response quickly, so keep an eye on your email.
Q: How soon after we have been accepted will we start the startup school program?
A: You will start the program the following week.
Q: What do I get if I am accepted?
A: If your startup is accepted into the program you will get cash funding ($10,000 USD), a social media marketing promotion package, a video production package, a free BizSpark membership (which will give extended access to some free software) and enrollment in a ten week virtual student startup program. In addition, you will gain access to an elite group of technical mentors and business advisors who will support you in building your startup.
Q: What will you be asking me to sign?
A: To be accepted into the program we require that you form your company and sign an Affidavit of Eligibility, Liability and Publicity Release (substitute W9) on behalf of yourselves and your company. This form has multiple purposes. It collects tax information Microsoft is required to report to the IRS, it verifies your eligibility, it allows you to give Microsoft permission to use your name/photo/likeness in connection with the Imagine Fund, and it contains a standard liability clause that releases Microsoft from harm should there be any accidents/personal injuries, etc. Microsoft is required to collect this form from you and your company if you receive gifts or prizes, including seed funding, from Microsoft Corp (Redmond, WA) valued at $600 USD or greater during the course of Imagine Fund 2014. Based on your company’s tax status, the funding you receive may be considered “taxable income” by the IRS. If so, you will receive a Form 1099 tax form from Microsoft in 2014, for the actual value of all funding / prizes you received during Imagine Fund 2014. If you have further questions, you should consult a local tax professional to understand the tax implications of accepting a prize.
Participation in the startup school
Q: How long does the startup school run for?
A: 10 weeks. 2014 winter funding cycle: February 17-April 25. 2014 summer funding cycle: June 16, 2014 – August 22, 2014.
Q: Do we need to move to Seattle for the 10 week startup school?
A: No. The startup school program happens virtually. You will have regular meetings with your mentor and participate in the program via Skype.
Q: Why do we need a mentor?
A: Your mentor is assigning to you and your startup company specifically and will help guide you through the process from concept/idea to having built your company and product.
Q: What is the time commitment?
A: It really is up to you how much time you put into this. Most startups spend a considerable amount of time on building their business. Participation in the program will require you to be available for meetings about once a week. Add to that bi-weekly meetings with your mentor plus the time you spend on building your company and developing your product/app.
Q: Do you expect us to drop out of college to pursue this?
A: No. Absolutely not. But do expect to spend a lot of your spare time on building your app and your startup.
Q: Do we have to develop our product on the Microsoft platform?
A: Yes. You can read more about the Technical requirements here.
Q: What happens at Prototype Day?
A: During Prototype Day you will present your prototype to the other teams and mentors in the program. This is a great opportunity for you to get feedback and answer questions about your product and company. Prototype Day happen virtually.
Q: What happens at Pitch Day?
A: Pitch Day is the culmination of the program. This is where you get to show off all your hard work and present to an audience of industry expert judges. If you are participating in the winter funding cycle program you will be automatically considered for the 2014 Imagine Cup World Semifinals and Finals. At the end of Pitch Day three startups/teams will be selected to compete in the 2014 Imagine Cup World Semifinals. One of the three startups/teams will represent US in the 2014 Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle in July 2014. Visit the US Imagine Cup Rules & Regulations to learn more.
Q: Once my team has been accepted, how do we get funding?
A: You will need to register your company and fill out the Affidavit of Eligibility, Liability and Publicity Release form (The Affidavit serves as a substitute IRS W-9 form for collecting tax information with respect to your startup) before we can pay you the seed money. Once that is in place we will write you a check for the funding amount and send it to you.
Q: Do we get to decide how we spend the seed funding?
A: Yes, you do. However, you may want to discuss it with your mentor who is there to help guide you to where the money is best spent.
Q: How much do you invest?
A: $10,000 USD per accepted team.
Q: Do we need to pay tax of the funding amount?
A: Based on your company’s tax status, the funding you receive may be considered “taxable income” by the IRS. If so, you will receive a Form 1099 tax form from Microsoft in 2014, for the actual value of all funding / prizes you received during Imagine Fund 2014. If you have further questions, you should consult a local tax professional to understand the tax implications of accepting funding/prizes.
Establishing your company
Q: How do we establish our company?
A: There are a number of ways to set up a company. We will help guide you through this process at the beginning of the program.
Q: Do you have an upper limit to how many co-founders we can have?
A: We do not have an upper limit for how many co-founders your startup can have but if you and your co-founders are selected to selected to participate in the 2014 Imagine Cup World Semifinals (applies to winter/spring cycle participants only) you will be subject to the Imagine Cup Official Rules & Regulations and certain rules for team size and roles apply. If your startup has more co-founders than allowed – total of four – you will have to decide who gets to go. Make sure you familiarize yourself with these rules in the section “TEAMS, ASSOCIATES, AND MENTORS”
Q: Who can help us if we have questions?
A: You can email email@example.com for questions and support.