Social Entrepreneurs in the Making

It is Imagine Cup season! Known as the “Olympics of Technology,” Microsoft Imagine Cup is the preeminent student technology competition in the world. This year, over 300,000 students from 100 countries are vying for a chance to compete in the Worldwide Finals in Cairo and all trying to solve the world’s toughest problems.


The Imagine Cup is a great entrepreneurial fast track. These students are some of the brightest up-and-coming technologists from around the world, and our future business leaders.


2008 Rural Innovation Award Participants 


As part of the Finals, I am heading to Egypt to present the Unlimited Potential Group awards. These awards specifically applaud innovative solutions that address the challenges of under-served communities – rural and urban, developed and emerging.


We have already completed the first round of the Design for Development Award competition.  As part of their solutions, students conducted field research on critical issues such as women’s working conditions in Sri Lanka, rural health care in China, and improving agricultural supply chains in India and the Philippines. For a taste for some of the remarkable user research that the student teams conducted, check out the Design for Development video channel.


Last year, the Unlimited Potential (UP) awards highlighted some extraordinary student solutions:

-          Butterfly from Indonesia, which allows citizens to report environmental issues to relevant authorities via Voice and SMS on mobile phones.

-          WhereIsMyShuttle from South Africa, which enables people to more safely use public transport by viewing and tracking bus arrival times using their mobile phones. 

-          We also had great finalist projects from India, Colombia, and Egypt.




With so many great ideas already pouring in this year, the process of narrowing the field to five finalists will be a daunting challenge. Stay tuned for updates on the finalists and their projects, and our judges and their comments. You can follow UP on Twitter at, and we encourage everyone to use #imaginecup for following or tweeting on the event.


-- Amit Mital

Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group

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