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Kiwi student innovators heading to USA for Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals
Posted on 8-Jun-2015 20:54 | Tags Filed under: News

An app designed by three University of Auckland students that connects people to work opportunities through social networks has earned its creators a finalist placing in the Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals to be held in Seattle, USA, next month.

Called ‘Tether’, the app is the brainchild of University of Auckland students Alyssa Ong, Vivien Lei and Opender Singh. The app allow users to actively search their extended social network for people with matching skills and connect them with casual jobs.

Team Tether won first place at the 2015 Microsoft NZ Imagine Cup competition in March this year, as well as the Faculty of Science prize at the University of Auckland Spark Entrepreneurship Challenge in May. They also ranked top of the Innovation category in the Asia-Pacific region for the Imagine Cup World semifinals.

More than 200,000 students participated in Imagine Cup competitions around the world this year, developing software and apps in Gaming, Innovation and World Citizenship categories. Last month, 150 student projects from 64 countries were evaluated in the Imagine Cup semifinals, with 33 teams announced this week as Imagine Cup World finalists.

Vivien Lei, speaking on behalf of Team Tether said, “We were screaming and jumping around when we first found out we’d made the top 33 amongst hundreds of promising teams globally. It is overwhelming, but at the same time encouraging, and even more motivation for us to get back to work and do New Zealand proud. We’re excited for what is to come!”

Pablo Veramendi, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Competition Manager, said in a blog post announcing the finalists that the quality of ideas that the judges saw was “nothing short of incredible.”

“With projects that are entertaining, inspiring and even life-altering, these teams will certainly leave their mark on the world, and to see these teams execute on those ideas and develop working solutions in such a short timeframe is awe inspiring,” he said.

“My sincerest congratulations to all of the teams who competed in our National and Online Finals, to the 150 teams that made it to World semifinals, and now the 33 teams who will fly to Seattle for an unforgettable World Finals. It is truly an honor and a privilege to see your dreams come to life.”

All finalists will now continue to develop and improve their projects to get them ready to present at the World Finals competition at the end of July, for which they will be in with a chance to win cash prizes and a private meeting with Microsoft’s global CEO, Satya Nadella.

Nigel Parker, Microsoft New Zealand’s Director of Developer Experience, also offered his warm congratulations to Team Tether, and affirmed how the Imagine Cup competition – which runs in New Zealand as part of the locally developed Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) programme – is vital for supporting the next wave of New Zealand students into a career in IT and innovation.

“Around 2,000 tertiary students participated in the NZ Imagine Cup competition this year, which is just 1% of the 200,000 participants globally. New Zealand has traditionally punched well above our weight in the world Imagine Cup competitions, with Kiwi teams featuring in the top ten teams globally for five out of the past six years,” says Parker.

Most notably, in last year’s event, New Zealand team Estimeet won the Innovation category at the global finals in Seattle, taking home a prize of US$50,000, plus a month in the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator programme in London.

“Team Estimeet have also gone on to graduate this year from the Lightning Lab business accelerator programme in Auckland, which goes to show the potential for the young entrepreneurs that participate in the Imagine Cup to continue to make an impact in New Zealand beyond the competition,” says Parker.

“We are delighted to see New Zealand represented again on the world stage by the young entrepreneurs in Team Tether, and we wish them all the best for their preparations,” says Parker.

The Imagine Cup World Finals will be held in Seattle, USA, from July 29 -31.

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