We are the champions, We are the Champions….I know most of you have seen the huge coverage that we have received over the past few days with Ireland taking top honours by winning the Imagine Cup Software Design competition. In this email I just want to share some of the experiences of how it all played out over the final days.
Wednesday saw the team do their final presentation. This is where things really heat up, rather than six people in a room, they now have 1,000. That’s what I call taking it up a notch! Having spent most of the day with them, it was clear they had worked really hard to best implement the feedback that they received after their last presentation, there was nothing more left in the tank. The pressure at this stage is immense if you’re not used to this environment, it can throw you, but that’s what it takes when you are in the final 6 in the world.
They did an amazing job, nailing the business viability section and also giving really strong answers to the judging panel.
The following day, Thursday, was the worldwide student showcase. This is where we announce the winners and where students get to showcase their solutions to VCs, Government ministers and invited partners and guests. It is also a great opportunity to talk about your ideas to the public and other contestants. We had some great visitors at the Hermes stand; United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was there first and got a real insight into their solution. Hot on his heels was Eva Longoria, followed by a quick visit from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
At 4pm and the doors opened to the main theatre for the final ceremony, now all we had to do was wait for two hours for all the other winners to be announced until the winners for the Software Design category were announced. The ceremony’s opening resembled a Broadway show where an actor came off a subway which came on stage and then told a story where technology could solve some of the vexing challenges that world faces today.
For those of you who know me well, I can never stand still, especially when something big is going on. I couldn’t hang around, the tension was too much, and so I paced outside for the majority of it, catching the events on the big screens outside the theatre. When I saw the Software Design category appear I was back in my seat. For the whole week OneBuzz from New Zealand were being touted as winners and all the press were focused on them, their solution was focused to build a technological system to track malaria and use the data to battle against controlling and eliminating malaria outbreaks. It didn’t help our case that Bill Gates was also supporting their solution in funding. So when the 3rd and second place winners didn’t contain OneBuzz, my hopes for an Irish victory seemed all but lost. Then the announcement came, I couldn’t believe it, Ireland had won the Imagine Cup!
For those interested, 3rd place went to OaSys from Jordan it is a solution to help people with quadriplegia gain complete access over the computer using their head movements. 2nd place went to Team Note Taker from the United States their design helps low-vision and legally blind students take notes in class using a plugin for One Note.
That evening there wasn’t much time for celebrating as the world media wanted to talk to the team. The following day was allocated for a full day of media where we received a huge amount of local and global PR. The team worked incredibly hard since the Irish finals and all week in New York, with very little time for R&R, but that’s what it takes if you want to be in with a shout of winning. We have now flown the team off to Denver, Colorado, where Kevin Turner will present the team to 15,000 Microsoft staff at MGX, for his keynote address. What a whirlwind this has been for them.
Next year we move on to Australia for the worldwide finals, could we do a back to back win? I suppose that is the new challenge. When you’re touched with success you want to do it again. Let’s be just as ambitious for 2012!