ThinkBig Accelerator Partners With Microsoft Ventures

KC, Thinkbig, Microsof, startups, acceleratorKansas City’s ThinkBig accelerator announced this morning a brand new partnership with Microsoft Ventures. This new Microsoft partnership compliments the Microsoft BizSpark program to the select few accelerators that have been chosen.

Microsoft Ventures currently has accelerator locations in Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Beijing and will open or partner with several more soon, including ThinkBig.

This announcement comes ahead of Blake Miller’s presentation at the national Everywhere Else Cincinnati conference that kicks off Sunday evening. Miller was going to save the news for the upcoming iKC conference in Kansas but chose to reveal the news now so that he is available to speak with other accelerator heads and startups at next week’s Everywhere Else conference, about the new partnership.

Think Big Accelerator in partnership with Microsoft Ventures will be one of only a few partnerships of its kind in the United States. Microsoft Ventures will act as a strategic partner for promising startups in the Think Big Accelerator program focused on business growth, customer development, industrial strength technology and beautiful usable products.

According to Cliff Reeves, who leads the Microsoft Ventures Community team, “Entrepreneurism is a local phenomenon everywhere, and Think Big Partners represents the best of KC as well as startup reach nationally and globally. We’re very pleased to be working with them to find and support great startups.”

The partnership between Think Big Accelerator and Microsoft Ventures will provide accelerator companies access to even more mentors, resources and connections. As Microsoft Ventures is a corporate run partnership with the intent to engage and support a select few independent accelerators per geo, the local Microsoft field office will play an active role in day-to-day support and mentorship of Think Big Partners’ startups as part of this partnership. While the Microsoft BizSpark program will be providing software, support and visibility to the startups, Microsoft Ventures will be providing additional resources through this limited partnership to better enable the startups success on the Microsoft platform while they develop their business as a whole. Along with providing consistent access to Microsoft technical resources and devices, startups engaged in the Think Big Accelerator will have the opportunity to qualify for additional benefits via the BizSpark Plus program where startups qualify for a rich set of offers including Office 365 and Azure.

“We at Think Big Partners are very excited to grow what has already been a great learning relationship with Microsoft,” says Miller, Director of Think Big Accelerator.  “The resources that Microsoft adds to our checklist-oriented process will help us get entrepreneurs from idea to first customer faster and even more efficiently.”

While many accelerators do offer the BizSpark program, the Microsoft Ventures sponsored accelerators have even more amazing benefits.

You can find out more about Think Big KC here.


Email Is Ripe For A Disruption Is It Coming From HotMail & Microsoft?

Hotmail,Gmail,Microsoft,email disruption,Mailbox app,TaskBoxBack in the mid 90’s you were too cool for school if you were using a free web based email service. Hotmail  had surged to the top of the email providers that were called “web based” then, now of course it’s cloud based.  Back in 1997 Microsoft acquired Hotmail for $400 million (that’s about a billion in 2013 dollars).

Around the same time there were other providers out there like Yahoo, Rocketmail and a host of quick up and comers but none had the market dominance of Hotmail.

In 2004 the tables were turned when Google introduced their GMail platform. The attraction was it’s clean look and virtually unlimited space. We’re all too familiar with the ticker that shows just how much data those Google servers are handling.

Now as everyone turns to mobile, it’s been a pretty safe assumption that the next email disruptor would be of the mobile variety. Mailbox app came out with a lot of thunder, despite the fact that I hated it. I like an app called TaskBox but it hasn’t had the big red carpet marketing push that Mailbox had. It was actually their great marketing stunt, making people wait in line, that attracted a ton of attention, a ton of early users and then a purchase by the folks at DropBox.

There have been a few other subtle email disruptions that have come up in the past few years like Sparrow but nothing has disrupted email the way that GMail did nearly a decade ago.

Until now?

This is how Hotmail looked in the 90's (image: Business Insider)

This is how Hotmail looked in the 90’s (image: Business Insider)

Microsoft has just redone their cloud based email platforms. They’ve given a new look to all the various email brands available in the Microsoft cloud. Today, by going over to you can sign up for a brand new Hotmail email adress, a Microsoft live account or Microsoft’s new service which was the big thing Microsoft was pushing at SXSW this year.

Gone is the clunky style 1990’s interface that plagued Hotmail and made them look decades behind when it came to competing with GMail. At first glance most users to the new Hotmail may get confused and think they are looking at GMail.

The new interface is extremely clean and the ads have been moved to non-obtrusive boxes on the right side of the page.  Microsoft has also incorporated contacts, calendar and their cloud based Sky Drive as part of the new experience.

It would take a lot for me to move off the totally integrated Google cloud that I’ve been chained too for the last few years. My contacts, calendar and mail have been managed by Google for at least the last 4 years. I’ve also been using Google Docs and now Google Drive since they were first introduced. It had actually been a solid 4 years that I hadn’t’ had a Microsoft product on any of my Mac computers (I recently purchased the latest version of Office for Mac).

One thing that could be a game changer for me is how long I can tolerate the newest “compose” screen for GMail. While you can still “temporarily” go back to the original compose style, the new style is extremely hard to manage when you’re trying to get through your GMail as fast as possible.

On iOS it seems that Microsoft accounts integrate just as easily as GMail accounts, however I haven’t used a native Microsoft mail app, nor have I even looked to see if one exists.

For now I’ve got the Hotmail account set up and we will see how it goes. All of my primary mail accounts are still GMail though.

What about you? Add your comment below.

Now Read:

So Am I The Only One On Earth Who Thinks Mailbox Sucks?


Bill Gates Geting Gangnam Style Over Polio

Bill Gates,Psy,Gangnam Style,Twitter,PolioOn Tuesday the big tech sites pointed out that Bill Gates and Psy, the artist behind YouTube breakout sensation “Gangnam Style” have become Twitter friends. Well that’s 100% true.

It turns out that Psy is getting behind a movement to end Polio, for which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are big supporters.  According to Business Insider, Bill Gates took to the Colbert Report earlier this year to announce that Polio would be eradicated in six years.

Psy’s involvement in ending Polio officially began in February when he became a celebrity spokesperson for Rotary’s “This Close” campaign.

On Sunday Gates tweeted out an advertisement that Psy appeared in as part of that campaign.


Later that evening Psy returned the favor with a retweet.




Ho Ho No: NORAD Turns To Bing This Year To Track Santa

Norad, Norad Tracks Santa, Google, MicrosoftOne of the joys of having a five year old daughter is all of the things we can do together to promote the idea of Santa Claus. For the past few years, one of those things is sitting on daddy’s lap on Christmas eve and tracking Santa Claus as he makes his way around the world on Google Earth and Google Maps.  Just last year my daughter started developing an interest in geography which makes the experience a lot more fun and educational.

Two Christmases ago Google also began a service utilizing their Google Voice product that allowed users to set up a call for the child or children in their life to receive an actual phone call/voice mail message from Santa Claus.

Well we learned Wednesday by way of that Norad has decided to switch their mapping and tracking partner from Google to Microsoft and Bing. Apparently Old Saint Nick took the Bing challenge and Bing won.

NORAD is switching to Bing Maps for their 2D tracking. They are also taking on a new partner in a company called Celsium, that will provide 3D tracking, the way that Google Earth did.

Norad is providing official Santa tracking apps for Windows Phone, Windows 8, Android and iOS.

Of course this is a huge win for Microsoft having a customer like Norad to do such an important task.  Google wasn’t entirely left out though as Norad will still use YouTube.  Facebook and Twitter are also still in the mix.

Microsoft released this brief statement on Tuesday:

This year Microsoft is partnering with NORAD to make following the big red sleigh easier than ever. The Santa Tracker tool is built on the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud computing platform and Bing Maps, and anxious kids can even track Kris Kringle on Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.

Norad provided the following statement to Search Engine Land:

Google supported NTS [NORAD Tracks Santa] from 2007-2011 and helped increase NTS program awareness across the globe; NORAD is grateful for the partnership and the resulting success.  This year, NTS and Google mutually agreed to go in new directions, and we are excited to welcome a number of new contributors, to include Microsoft, Windows Azure, Bing, and iLink-systems, among others, to help us in our mission of tracking Santa.  The ability to work with a diverse team of contributors is fundamental to the NTS mission, and we appreciate all of the continued support of all contributors.

At this point in time we’re just happy NORAD didn’t decide to go with Apple Maps, afterall the presents need to get to their children’s houses.


Norad’s page is here

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Scratch That Surface Off Your Christmas List, Microsoft Hasn’t Learned Squat About Marketing

Microsoft Surface, Microsoft, RIM, Tablet salesOne would think with the incredible loss that Research In Motion (RIM) has experienced over the last three years the other tech giants would take notice. Although Microsoft was the creme de la creme for decades, they’re losing traction faster than you can say the word Blackberry.

Then, last year, there was a glimmer of hope. After a string of failed product launches, less and less people turning to the latest version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system and a failed attempt at breathing life back into Windows CE, Microsoft had something that looked innovative.

The Microsoft Surface tablet, when launched at a press event, that felt reminiscent of numerous events hosted by Steve Jobs for Apple launches, they unveiled the Microsoft Surface tablets. These new tablets were going to signify the convergence between desktop and mobile in an operating system that is supposed to work effortlessly on both traditional computers and mobile.

The problem is, to get that effect people need to actually buy them.

For years on the mobile beat we saw RIM and Microsoft losing market share. To RIM’s benefit though, they stopped producing new smartphones in an effort to funnel all of their strategy on the upcoming Blackberry 10 release and hopefully winning back hardcore, security conscious enterprise and government accounts with highly needed features and sex appeal.

Microsoft on the other hand released a new phone operating system Windows Phone 7 and OEM’s like Samsung, HTC and Nokia, eagerly added Windows Phone’s to their portfolio to take some of the dependence off Android (except for Nokia who have never produced an Android device).

Well advertising firm Chitika has told the tale that confirms what Steve Ballmer has been fearing since the release of the Surface tablet.

Nobody is using them.

In fact, we all know that Apple’s iPad is the reigning leader in the tablet space, with Google’s Android powered Nexus tablets not even edging close. So how does it feel to have to swallow this pill, Google’s Nexus branded tablet family beats the Microsoft Surface family 91% to 13%. Yes, Nexus is kicking Microsoft’s ass.

Microsoft has already seen a drastic down turn in their application/software business. Millions have people have realized that for basic desktop business work, even free alternatives like Google Docs (Drive), are easier to use and gaining popularity. In fact we cringe here when someone sends us a word .doc attachment, how retro is that?

Microsoft continually blows it when it comes to marketing their products to the early adopters and developers that they so desperately need to rally around Windows 8. For instance they focus on marketing products like Microsoft Azure and Microsoft BizSpark, sure they are important business channels but by now the early adopters that want access to those products already have them.

There’s only two possible scenarios here. Either Microsoft is worried that developers, and early adopters will think their tablet products suck so bad that it will work in reverse and the other is of course that they’ve just become complete morons since Bill Gates has stepped down.

And have you even seen the stories about their epicly failed Twitter campaign #droidrage?



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Is This The iPad Killer You’ve Been Looking For? Microsoft Reveals Surface Pricing

With our deep roots in mobile technology we’re not quite sure what to think of the Microsoft Surface series of tablets or the next iteration of Windows, Windows 8. Sure it’s going to be a Microsoft game changer, but are they trying to come in and change a party that’s been going on for the last five years?

Microsoft is betting a great deal on the fact that people will come back to the Windows brand on the desktop, the laptop the tablet and the smartphone. They’ve lost a tremendous amount of ground in the mobile sector and have taken their time bringing a tablet to market. Hopefully, they’ve used that time wisely and they’re ready to compete with Apple’s iPad and the onslaught of Android tablets available everywhere.

Microsoft has been working hard on making Windows the same experience across multiple screens. Windows 8 integrates well across desktops, laptops, tablets and with Windows Phone 8, phones. They’re hoping to capture a lot more of the mobile market than they have with past versions.

Now, after nearly four months of being completely in the dark about pricing and final specs, Microsoft has revealed what you want to know.

The baseline Surface tablet will set you back $499. This includes 32gb of memory but no fancy shmancy Touch Cover. A $100 more will get you the 32gb model with the Touch Cover. The 64gb Surface tablet will set you back $699 and that will also include the Touch Cover.

Here are other specs that Microsoft revealed today:

  • 1366×768 10.6-inch screen with five-point multitouch,
  • 9.4mm thick
  • weighs 1.5 pounds
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor (1.4GHz Cortex A9 part coupled with a 520MHz NVIDIA GPU,)
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 32 or 64gb of flash memory
  • Bluetooth 4
  • microSDXC slot
  • mini-HDMI port
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • Preview versions of Office 2013 apps

The Surface is priced competitively with the iPad and several Android based tablets from computer manufacturers like the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx.

The Surface Tablets are available for preorder now and will be shipped October 26th. Microsoft is reporting that on launch day the Surface tablet will be available at Microsoft branded stores across the country and 34 pop up stores in malls across the country. While Windows 8 will be widely available on October 26th, including at Best Buy and Walmart, there is no word on when the Surface tablets will make it to Microsoft’s retail partners.


Source: Arstechnica

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Kansas City’s Think Big Accelerator Becomes Latest Microsoft Bizspark Partner


Kansas City’s brand new Think Big Accelerator has just announced that they are the latest partner in the Microsoft Bizspark program.

Think Big Partners and the Think Big Accelerator for emerging early stage, high growth potential startups just announced their first class of six startups last week. The six startups will participate in the accelerator program for 22 weeks of intense training to prepare the startups for a demo day to investors at the end of the session in January.

The six startups selected to go through the program received a seed investment between $18 and $25,000 dollars in exchange for 6-8% equity.

The six startups are:
H2OCloud (New York, New York): H2OCloud is a cloud-based application that connects music fans to bands in a mobile-based platform. H2OCloud helps bands create more revenue through better marketing, smarter asset management and improve the overall fan experience and artist-fan interaction.

inCharge (Kansas City, Missouri): inCharge is a kiosk-based mobile phone charging station that provides digital out-of-home targeted advertising to the consumer. inCharge’s initial focus is high teledensity overseas markets.

Kahootz (Kansas City, Missouri): Kahootz is a consumer-focused online calendar platform that provides users with easier ways to combine, share and manage all obligations and profiles on one easy-to-maintain social-based platform. Kahootz also enables user-controlled, privacy-enabled, permission-based business-to-consumer markets through event promotion syndication.

Keyzio (Kansas City, Missouri): Keyzio has been defined as the for real estate for two people who don’t know they are trying to find each other. The Keyzio platform connects people and helps them find, buy and sell real estate that may not normally be available through MLS.

Phone2Action (Los Angeles, California): Phone2Action uses location-based mobile technology to instantly connect constituents to their lawmakers making in-the-moment advocacy easier.

Weejay (Kansas City, MO): Weejay is a virtual jukebox application that allows customers to control music in particular venues through mobile devices. Weejay’s venue management feature dashboard enables total control of music for a specific venue and creates better revenue opportunities for venue owners to enhance the overall patron experience.

With the announcement of their partnership with Microsoft’s BizSpark program, these six startups will receive a higher level of Windows Azure cloud access, setting up each entrepreneur for success in the cloud. Microsoft BizSpark will also provide the six startups in the Think Big Accelerator program with consulting, insight, mentorship and expertise.

“We are excited to have Think Big Partners join our BizSpark Plus Partner Program,” said Mark Relph, Senior Director, Strategic and Emerging Business Team at Microsoft. “Think Big Accelerator startups have the potential to spur business growth in the Midwest. With Windows Azure, startups can save the cost of investing in IT infrastructure and only pay for technology resources as they use them. We look forward providing member startups with access to technology, resources and business connections.”

“The partnership we have developed with Microsoft will not only benefit the startups involved with the Think Big Accelerator program, but will also help to strengthen the entire Kansas City startup community,” said Herb Sih, co-founder of Think Big Partners. “We are excited to already provide Midwestern startups with the benefits of the Microsoft partnership, such as the Azure Cloud and Windows 8 App Kickstarts for developers. This is a great partnership for our startups, the accelerator and Kansas City entrepreneurs.”


Learn more about the Think Big Accelerator here

Learn more about Microsoft BizSpark here

Learn more about an awesome startup event here

Anthony Michael Hall Talks About Playing Bill Gates: DragonCon 2012


Anthony Michael Hall gets excited about his story about playing Bill Gates In Pirates of Silicon Valley (photo: Nibletz LLC)

Childstar turned sci-fi favorite Anthony Michael Hall was the featured panelist at DragonCon 2012 today in a panel called “An Hour With Anthony Michael Hall”.

The flagship ballrooms at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta were filled wall to wall with people of all ages. Many middle-aged folks loved growing up with Anthony Michael Hall in the John Hughes films that made him famous like Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club.

The question and answer panel was a prequel to the upcoming panel that will feature the case of Warehouse 13, Hall included. Hall played a wheel chair bound villain in four episodes of the SciFi channel hit show.

During the Q&A Hall fielded a variety of questions that encompassed his entire professional career. The facilitator jokingly mentioned Pretty In Pink but had found out earlier in the day that wasn’t a Hall flick. He was of course asked about the transition in his career from teen star to career actor, which he lightheartedly responded he had 25 years to work on it.

Hall avoided the type casting plague after the first three Hughes’ films and even went on to hold the leading role in USA Network’s Dead Zone. He also directed an episode of Dead Zone which inspired him to start a company called Manhattan Pictures where he will serve as the filmmaker.

He has a film coming up called “The Lost Shield” which he will hopefully begin shooting in New Orleans shortly. He’s been developing the idea for the last four years and has investors on board and ready to go.  He’ll also be headed to Salt Lake City in the coming weeks to start filming a movie called “Friend Request”. Obviously it has something to do with Facebook. Hall plays a single dad who’s also a cop, and has to find a killer that’s using the fictional social network “MyBook” for his targets.

One of the best questions during the Q&A wasn’t about any of that work though. It was about portraying Microsoft CEO Bill Gates in the iconic film Pirates of Silicon Valley. Most of our readers are well aware of the film and have seen it multiple times (as have I), however most critics talk about Noah Wylie’s portrayal of Steve Jobs rather than Hall’s role as Bill Gates.

It was definitely a different role than Hall had ever played. He worked intensely with an acting coach for 6 weeks during the film and killed it in the audition with a good pair of glasses, a “seer sucker” dress shirt and did the “Ted Koppel” thing with his hair.  The greatest part of this story, as you’ll see in the video, is what he did to nail Gates’ voice. Watch the video below for more:


Checkout DragonCon’s Website here

Here’s more of our DragonCon2012 Coverage


Revealed: Halo 4 Cover Art

  Microsoft ahead of it’s release of Halo 4 due to be released in November, gave out hints as to he new cover art for it’s upcoming release. Due out 04 November, Microsoft laid out 32 puzzles as to hints to figure out what the cover would look like. As you can see, it’s possibly the most beautiful cover they’ve ever done to the Iconic franchise.  Read More…

AT&T Store Employees Recommending iPhone And Android To Those Interested In Lumia 900

Two weeks ago Brent reported on the fact that Nokia was going to line the pockets of AT&T employees for recommending their new Lumia 900 smartphone. Well it appears that some employees either didn’t get that memo or get that check.

CNet reporter Marguerite Reardon set out on a mission Monday to see what AT&T employees at stores in New York City had to say about the new Nokia Lumia 900, a Windows Phone 7 device. She went into several area stores posing as a first time smartphone buyer and expressed interest in the latest Windows Phone 7 device.

Despite a star studded launch event in New York City over the weekend, and the fact that there is signage everywhere in AT&T stores promoting the Lumia, Reardon found that New York City AT&T Wireless employees were still quick to recommend the iPhone.

More after the break
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Latest Rumor: Mircosoft To Buy RIM?

The interwebs are a buzz today about the latest rumor involving Waterloo Canada based RIM/Blackberry. According to financial website Microsoft is allegedly about to invest $3.5 billion dollars into the company.

This comes as a surprise and out of left field so of course we take it with a grain of salt. It doesn’t make that much sense either. RIM has been steadily losing market share due to Apple and Android’s stranglehold on the smartphone OS market.

RIM did release a product earlier this month that allows Android, iPhone and RIM to play nice in the next iteration of Blackberry Enterprise Server, which they are calling “Mobile Fusion”. RIM is also expected to release their Blackberry 10 devices which will utilize the QNX platform, the same platform on the Blackberry Playbook.

Microsoft has been desperately trying to gain traction with their Windows Phone 7 products. The first of their Nokia Windows Phone 7 handsets have hit the market however they haven’t made any significant gains in market share.

Perhaps putting the two failing operating systems together would amount to one working, worthwhile system.

AT&T Hoping To Revive Windows Phone With $150 Million Ad Spend

Although T-Mobile was the first company to support Google’s Android operating system, much of the credit for the adoption of Android in the United States goes to Verizon Wireless. The nation’s largest carrier spent over $100 million dollars advertising the original Motorola Droid smartphone in 2009. The results for that campaign were phenomenal, Android quickly overtook Blackberry in Verizon Wireless stores.

AT&T is hoping to replicate that success with it’s Nokia Lumia 900 for which they are the sole US Carrier. The Lumia 900 is a great piece of hardware running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system. AT&T is hoping to sell lot’s of Lumia 900’s and they are backing it with $150 million dollars in advertising money.

Business Insider’s Jim Edward’s doesn’t think that $150 million dollars in advertising for the Lumia 900 is a wise idea. As he points out in this article, Windows Phone is doing so poorly that it wasn’t even mentioned by name in the most recent Nielsen report on smartphone sales. Couple that with the fact that Windows only commands 2% of the app space and the fact that they are “paying” developers to develop on the platform and this may be a recipe for disaster.

More after the break
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AOL Shoots Up 35% After $1 Billion Dollar Patent Announcement

AOL has inked an amazing deal with rival Microsoft to sell 800 of their patents to the Redmond based computer giant. The deal is said to be worth $1 billion dollars and includes licensing back to AOL.

AOL stock closed at $18.42 on Friday and skyrocketed to $25.16 on the news of the patent sale. While Tim Armstrong is taking much of the credit for the patent sale it was actually sparked by activist shareholder Starboard Value LP who had said earlier on that, if structured properly, AOL could stand to earn $1 billion dollars or more off it’s treasure trove of patents.

Obviously it was structured properly.

AOL is holding onto 300 of their patents which revolve around some of their current core business’ like maps, and search.

“This is a valuable portfolio that we have been following for years and analyzing in detail for several months,” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith said in a statement.

The patent transaction is expected to close by the end of 2012 and has a sweetheart breakup clause as well. Should the sale not go through, Microsoft will be on the line to AOL for $211.2 million dollars.

Analysts are hopeful that this influx of cash from the sale of it’s patents will help AOL continue to rebuild it’s core business units.

source: Reuters

I Won The Windows Phone 7 Challenge But They Didn’t Let Me Win In The End

Microsoft might have to sweat this one out for a while as Sahas Katta walked into a Microsoft store today, took the Windows Phone 7 Challenge, WON, but was denied his prize. For those that don’t know the back story on the Challenge here we go…

 This is a skill-based Contest. The object of this Contest is for You to come into the Microsoft Store and try to beat the Microsoft Windows Phone in a series of five (5) “Smoked by Windows Phone” challenge scenarios selected by Microsoft at its sole discretion including: (1) Pocket-to-Picture-to-Post, (2) Real-Time Information with Live Tiles, (3) Using the People Hub to Stay in Touch with the People You Care About Most, (4) Updating Your Status Across Multiple Social Networks, and (5) Local Scout (“Challenge”)

Read More…