2007 Imagine Cup Team Looking to Launch Software
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2008

After competing and winning 3rd prize among the world’s best in last year’s annual Microsoft Imagine Cup software design competition, members of the ‘Dream Team’ from Northern Caribbean University (NCU) were given the opportunity to meet with the world renowned, Bill Gates, billionaire CEO of the Microsoft Corporation and founder of the annual competition.


The 'Dream Team'  and other 2007 Imagine Cup participants with Bill Gates, (2nd row, fourth from left).


The team said that their meeting with one of the wealthiest men in the world, though brief, was ‘an unforgettable experience’ and hoped to have a similar opportunity one day in the future. “We went to Stanford University which is in California and Bill Gates made a speech to the student body about technology in the future,” team member, Ayson Baxter, recalls. “After the speech, they had us out in the cold waiting for about 15 minutes then we were invited into a room where we had to wait some more for the man himself, but I didn’t mind because it’s Bill Gates.” Baxter continued jovially. “Finally he came into a room where we were waiting with some other guests and said ‘oh, from imagine cup, congratulations’ took a few photos and said ‘ok guys, good luck’ then left, so we waited all that time for less than five minutes with Mr. Gates.” He added, laughing with his team mates.


Based on the theme of last year’s competition, ‘Imagine a World Where Technology Enables a Better Education for All', success came for the members of the ‘Dream Team’ - Imran Allie, Ayson Baxter, Conroy Smith and Damion Mitchell – when they invented a computer software programme called Computer Aided Distance Instruction (CADI). The software allows educational institutions to conduct audio and video conferencing classes and lectures from remote locations.


The team is convinced that success is dependent not only on one’s willingness to learn but seizing the right opportunities to do so in an effort to move forward. So it is that the ‘Dream Team’ jumped at an invitation they received recently to visit a business training camp at the Microsoft Conference Centre in Silicon Valley, California, the information technology capital of the world.


The educational trip, geared towards training the team members on how to both pitch and market their software to potential investors, was described as both successful and experiential. “It was a great experience because we met with very knowledgeable professionals from mostly business and entrepreneurial focussed organisations, such as the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs (SVASE) and British Telecom (BT), who are part of the competition’s innovation accelerator programme. They helped us understand how we can rapidly turn our invention into a product; so the trip was very successful.” Baxter said.


According to the team, each day at the camp began with running through business pitch exercises as well as marketing skills and culminated with an actual pitch to a potential investor. Although none of the team members were eager to reveal the names of the potential investors at the event, they did say that each day at the camp was ‘very intense’.


“The final pitches of the day were to actual companies who may invest in our product, one day we pitched to the guy who started Hi5, Ramu Yalamanchi, and so each day was very intense and difficult,” team member Imran Allie said.


Imagine Cup Team at a Microsoft Presentation in 2007.


In addition to trying to snag a potential investor for CADI, the team also used the trip to conduct research for their product focussing on finding their target market, the cost of delivering the software to the wider market, as well as calculating an appropriate price for the product.


“It is important that we take this thing step by step because we wouldn’t want to make any major mistakes in marketing our product so research is a very important part of putting our product out there,” team member Conroy Smith stated.


Finally, the team said that CADI is ready to be put on the market, but according to Baxter, most investors prefer to see a product already in operation before spending large sums of money on it.


“Our product is at a place where investors could come in and spend money on it but large investors like to see something that is already working, so we’ll have to work on that” Baxter said.


The team will be travelling to Doha, Qatar at the end of this month for the UNESCO sponsored International Conference & Exhibition on Knowledge Parks. 



Article by Elliott Blake

Photos Contributed



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