Interview with UK Imagine Cup Innovation Finalist – Insightful from University of Exeter




Giacomo Poppi. – Aspiring entrepreneur and University of Exeter student.

Why did you enter the Imagine Cup competition? Please explain:

I entered the imagine cup competition as it was an exciting opportunity to develop a business idea which I had been considering for a while. I was inspired by the fact that it is a global competition which I knew would challenge my skills as an entrepreneur. I was really motivated to participate because of the chance to pitch my project to Microsoft experts at the highest level. I believe that I have an amazing product and that the competition would not only provide me with an opportunity to launch my idea and receive invaluable feedback, but also it had the potential to “open doors” for future development.

Please tell us why you chose your project. Where did the idea come from? What inspired you?

From my experience of eating at restaurants in different countries I noticed that there always are issues with customer service and that technology is rarely applied to do something about it. I have seen and endured inefficiency in (e.g.) taking orders, delays between courses and generally keeping track of customers’ dining experience. I saw the enormous potential to create a management tool to increase overall efficiency.

Please tell us whether your team’s project leverages Microsoft Azure or Xamarin. If it does, what Azure and Xamarin services are you using and why did you choose to use them??

Azure will be used for hosting the entire backend system and the web-app. 

• An SQL relational database will be used to store the information collected. 

• A virtual machine running a Windows server 2012 R2 will be processing http requests through JVM.

• The web-app service will be hosted to run the cross-platform website.

Xamarin is currently being considered for the development of the mobile applications.

Your experience of attending the UK National Final

On the 16th of April I attended the UK national finals at the Microsoft campus in Reading. I had a 1-2-1 mentoring session with a Business Development Manager who provided really valuable advice. The environment was friendly and all competitors seemed to be very passionate about their products. The quality of the ideas presented was very high and left me uncertain about what to expect before pitching my idea.

After listening to everyone else’s pitches, it was my turn to present and it went surprisingly well (excluding a few moments when I completely lost track of what I was saying…). It was a relief to see the judges’ faces being genuinely interested in the idea I had presented. This was the moment what I thought: “I’m not being scrupulously attacked with questions; it must be a good sign.” After seeing and hearing their reactions, I did start to feel more confident and started telling them about how passionate I am about what I am creating.

As happy as I was to win, the most important outcome of the day was not the actual prize. Two years ago, I won a pitching competition through which I obtained a summer internship at Santander and my placement next year with Intel. Having won this competition, I have been advanced to the Imagine cup world semi-finals, invited to visit Microsoft Ventures in London and established some contacts that could provide access to investors across most of my target market. Who knows where this could lead me to! I have received loads of offers for support and the whole experience has encouraged me to work harder than ever.

I was always keen to develop my idea with a business partner and was pleased to find another entrepreneur who was enthusiastic to join the project. Unfortunately, he had to pull out a week before the event but I was determined to carry on and saw it only as a small setback. From one point of view it was more daunting to pitch by myself, but I am extremely satisfied that I confidently transmitted my passion and belief in my idea.

Please elaborate on your plans for your project after the conclusion of Imagine cup?

Regardless of the outcome of the Imagine Cup, I am confident in the business idea and therefore will continue working on it. Throughout the competition I plan to start forming a solid team and continue developing the product until it is ready for production. Following the competition, priorities will be focused on validating the business value of the product, forming partnerships and finding potential investors.

Tell us one thing you learned from this project. It could be about how to make a good team, or a hard problem you solved, or something about the research you did into your project's goals.

I believe it is common for entrepreneurs to think they have an amazing idea. What is uncommon is having an audience remain amazed by it and get them to believe in its potential. Thanks to the feedback I have received at the national finals, I have amended certain aspects of the product and improved it. The Imagine Cup has definitely made me understand the importance of networking and seeking advice when necessary. It is possible to start a business alone, but the chances of success will eventually depend on one’s professional network.

Journalists often want a quote directly from a team member. Please write a couple of sentences about your hopes for your project and name a team member who is the source of the quote.

“Companies are looking for more and more ways to obtain data from their operational activities. Data leads to insights, and insights lead to increased business performance. Having identified a gap in the market, I am looking forward to the development process that will turn Alitica from an idea, into a successful business.” - Giacomo Poppi

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