How to compete in the Imagine Cup

When I wrote my last blog post about the Imagine Cup I didn’t fathom how popular it would be. Because of that we decided to write about this topic once more and create a TechNet Wiki How To article about competing in the Imagine Cup.

Years ago, I attended a presentation of my little niece on her high school. Obviously, I was very proud of her and I got the chance to listen to a lot of the other presentations as well. I regularly speak about SharePoint at conferences and I have to say that I’ve learned a tremendous amount about my own shortcomings as a speaker at that high school. The reason was that speakers were so inexperienced that the mistakes they made were exaggerated to a great extent, and the same was true for the things that did work. So on the Wiki page, I’ve started listing some tips, exaggerating the example scenarios a great deal, and the attentive reader should be able to understand the real lesson I’m trying to convey.

I hope that other people will give their input and boost the already very exciting Imagine Cup to yet a higher level. Here are my original tips.

Be Believable

?Suppose you have an idea to create an app that allows an end user to solve world poverty by pressing a button. This idea has a lot of good qualities: it's a good idea, it has a clear audience and it is easy to understand. But is it believable that you're going to pull it off? Not so much. So, the grander the idea the more effort you need to put into convincing others that you can actually do it.

Don’t be Lazy

If you’re serious about competing you need to ensure you get useful feedback from relevant people. If you say “all the people we interviewed said it was a great idea and suggested we should implement it on more platforms” then you’ve asked the wrong questions or interviewed the wrong people. If you say you’ve interviewed “Sanjay Rajkumar” from India, do you suspect an Imagine Cup judge will be able to locate this good man or will feel like you’re making up feedback? Another thing to say about being lazy, if you’re only collecting feedback of friends, tutors and other students the impression you may make is probably that you could have done more effort.

Conducting Research

This is actually an advanced tip. If you take the extra effort of conducting actual research, realize this brings some responsibility concerning the conclusion you derive from it. Is it fair to say that if 9 people out of 10 love your app it means that 90% of the people must like your app?

Omitting Sections

It’s hard to compete if you’re omitting sections. You may have an idea that scores a 10, but if you’re omitting the section about your business model what do you guess your average score will be? It won’t be enough to win.


Some ideas are great, but depend on circumstances that cannot be controlled. If you’re going to create a device that can stop a nuclear power plant from exploding, I’d like to know if you’ve already contacted a government that will let you install this device. If you’re building an app that can detect a harmful disease, you must convince the judges that that is indeed possible to do.


If you don’t understand something, it’s no crime to look it up or ask. For example, you may think that a user story is a story about the user of your app (“There once was a man named Billy, who liked to play with his Imagine Cup app so much that he forgot to… Ultimately, he lived happily ever after.”) or it may be something more specific. Be certain and investigate what is asked of you if you’re not. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re stuck if you take this competition seriously. Nobody can guarantee that you will win but at least you’re guaranteed to learn something!

The TechNet Wiki page can be found here:


Comments (4)

  1. Saeid Hasani says:

    Excellent post & article about the Imagine Cup!
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Chervine says:

    Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  3. Great TechNet Wiki article! Thanks, Margriet!

  4. Andy ONeill says:

    If anyone is curious as to what the imagine cup actually is:

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