When Microsoft first offered me a job at Microsoft to help them manage 50,000 startups that had joined Microsoft BizSpark for the free software and the community support, I had to admit, I wasn’t sure what to think.
but I talked to the woman who would eventually become my boss, and that entire conversation, which I will remember forever, was about having hustle, and being able to change the world through startups. I was inspired. I was inspired, in no small part by the idea that something so big, so gargantuan as Microsoft would be open to hundreds of thousands of developers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and risk-takers wanting to use our free software, free Azure cloud hosting, and more.
Everyone knows Microsoft. It’s the world’s largest software company. It has a reputation for being a big giant of a company that moves not too fast, and has pretty much created how the world uses software.
But did they really support startups? It took some questions, and then six months of working here to realize that not only do they support startups, there is a group of people behind the walls at Microsoft that are certainly very human, and very passionate about innovation. And they are using Microsoft BizSpark to not only change the way people think about the company, but to make sure that the future global economy is the one created by startups in the digital space. And that’s no BS.
This blog post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager at Microsoft BizSpark.
there is no greater testament to the power of being in a startup and the ability to affect change than the cold-call. Calling someone out of the blue, because you have an idea, and you want to see it realized. Be it to sell someone something, to pitch an idea, or to ask for money and support, the startupper, as he or she is affectionately called, must perfect the cold call.
I’ve got evidence for this claim. And I want to share with you a classic example of what a BizSpark company needs to do — and does — to make their way in the world. I want to show you and share with you a prime example of a cold call email.
Why? Because all startuppers need inspiration, because the hubris of the startup founder is that he, in all of his insane risk-taking and world changing thrill-seeking, believes that really, anyone out in the world would LOVE to hear this idea, and should.
The truth is, maybe people will not want to hear this idea, but there is a saying, “Hope attracts opportunities and chances.”
That’s the startup credo. This is the same credo shared and lived by the humans who work, and breathe Microsoft BizSpark literally 24 hours of the day.
I present to you, The Startupper.
This is Scott Hasbrouck, founder of a new education startup and Microsoft BizSpark company. He emailed me, out of the blue, to tell me that he remembered something that I wrote several months ago. His startup is Gingkotree. He writes code for Ginkgotree in an abandoned warehouse. He writes:
…but you made some pretty awesome comments that really resonated with me. I’ve certainly never been on the receiving end of being pitched on startups, but I definitely know what it’s like to be a bootstrapped edtech startup, trying to get get our value proposition in front of a targeted audience.
I’ve obviously never talked to you previously or know who you are. I’m sure you’re an interesting person, with stories, desires, passions, and frustrations (this is certainly apparent in your frustrations with mainstream ed press).. but let’s be real, creeping on your Facebook, LinkedIn, or twitter is not really going to help either of us out much. So I’ll spare you of that.
I stop here to mention something very important. If you are going to be working in startup land, or if you work with startup people, you need to be putting yourself out there in the community. I do that through blogs, through comments on blogs, and through visiting people at events, developing relationships with them, buying them coffee, and listening.
This is what we do at BizSpark, because of one theory that I don’t think I’ve ever scientifically tested, but I that I know is true: when you give, you receive. When someone is out there looking for you, you hvae to create the opportunities that help them to find you, so that cycle of giving and receiving can continue. All the greatest startups are built on this principle, even if there is nothing about that written in their business plans. They are built on this principle because this is the principle we learn before we even know there is an internet. Hell, 6,000 years ago, they were were writing about it in the Bhagavad Gita. It’s a principle of sovereignty and collective survival.
When you put out your good energy in the world, people who need that energy, or people who can accentuate and add to that good energy find that energy and use it / utilize it / share it / augment it. You are a node in this entirety called the Universe that you know and don’t know. And so, I continue, and Scott continues.
So here I am. A startup co-founder, scrambling funds from my past apps and taking contract work to try and make a real change in higher ed, from a corner office in an old brewery in Ann Arbor, MI. I’m not going to BS you and tell you that I’m not writing you with the hopes that you’ll write a post or send an email to your subscribers about this project I’ve put so much of my life into. I will tell you that I respect you, your time, and your work. I hope for a mutual relationship… not one where I send you a bunch of copy/paste *** about us when you write me. You have my word that I will devote every bit as much energy, and then some, as I’m sure you pour into your writing. I will take your phone calls, emails, and as many questions as you throw at me.
So if you’re still reading this, how about I tell you what the hell we’re building?
Yes, sir. Please do tell me “what the hell you are building.” Because, thirty-three percent of building a startup is telling people what they hell you are doing, and what the hell you are doing belongs on this blog, where we spend considerable time telling the entire world what startup members are doing in 120 countries around the world. You have to get your sell on. You have to go back to that first principle. In order to get or receive anything, you have to put something out there first. This is the seller’s skillset. Anyone who has ever sold something, or found themselves buying something, must look back and remember that at some point during that encounter someone gave something up. They told you something about themselves, they created an opportunity to share.
We’re a team of four who have built a web app that makes it super-easy to make an online textbooks/course packs out of anything. By anything, I mean a selection from a book on your desk, a youtube/vimeo video, a word doc, xls, PDF, journal article, audio file, or image… complete with automated copyright licensing and book scanning.
Here’s how it works: A professor signs up for a free account at Ginkgotree. They build their list of course materials into an online course pack in our web app. Once finished, we generate a shipping label so they can send us their books for free scanning and OCR, generate invite URLs they can send their students, and license all of the copyrights that are being used in the course pack.
The students sign up, pay for our monthly fee of $10, and any copyrights fees (typically 15 cents/page). The end result is a laser focused, super customized course pack with all of the best content from the web, and traditional content from the instructor’s favorite books… for a third or less than the average textbook. If their students are in more than one course on Ginkgotree, we still only charge them $10 per month for our service.
We just launched 5 days ago, and already have about 100 instructors signed up. We have a ton more features in the works and I’d be happy to give you all the details. Seriously, I will send you screenshots the day we design something, let you in on our beta server… as much as you want to know.
So, as a member of Microsoft BizSpark, and this greater universe that feeds on the good and the great, I am — as they used to say in high school — going to do this guy a solid. I am going to make sure that people know about this startup. And I am going to do it because from a moral point of view, this is just the next logical extension of the set of actions that I put into place when I wrote something on an edtech blog that I never really read anymore. I put out there what I put there, because something unfinished was waiting to be done.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you hearing me out.
Have a good evening,
Ginkgotree, Inc., CEO