The SoundSYNK team

Exeter students’ app device wins first place in Microsoft’s global competition

Four University of Exeter students have won the Microsoft Imagine Cup World Innovation Competition which aims to find the best app developing talent worldwide.

The winning mobile phone application the students devised is called “soundSYNK,” and creates impromptu social networks that allow people to stream music simultaneously through a group of phones, effectively creating a symphony of speakers.

Eighty seven student teams from 71 countries competed in the finals after winning local and online competitions around the world.  The winning projects were announced for the three major competition categories — Innovation, Games and World Citizenship.

The students, aged between 20 and 23 were the only British team taking part in the finals which took place in Russia. The team won the top prize of $50,000 for the Innovation category and will now fly to Atlanta, USA to present at the Microsoft annual conference.  They are now are planning to launch the app, alongside an innovative new way of sharing content later this year under their business, CoLinked.

SoundSYNK co-founder Edward Noel, 20, said:“We’re so happy, we can’t quite believe we’ve won! It’s been a whirlwind journey for us having only and come up with the concept a few months ago. We’ll be celebrating but then it’s straight back to business, presenting in front of 14,000 Microsoft staff next week in Atlanta and then getting the app ready for launch as Co-linked's first product”

It is a far cry from the caffeine-fuelled moment of despair that led to the University of Exeter students’ winning idea back in February. Robert Parker, Edward W Noel, Alexander Bochenski and Jonathan Neumann came up with the idea for their app whilst taking part in an event organised by SETsquared and the University of Exeter Students’ Guild.  The four students were so frustrated with not being able to come up with an idea for the regional heats of the Microsoft 48 hour app-building competition they decided to take a break at 2am and put on some music.

They complained about how it wasn’t loud enough coming from one phone and thought wouldn’t it be great if you could link multiple devices together to play the same song in perfect synchronisation. It was a lightbulb moment and they decided to create it as their app for the competition.

Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist at Microsoft said:“For the past 11 years, Imagine Cup has been a place of inspiration and innovation for students around the world. The students participating in this competition demonstrate the very best in innovation from their home countries and together are creating new apps, innovations and services that will change the way the world works, interacts and learns.”

The students have been working with Microsoft and Setsquared, a partnership of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, to help them get the business off the ground. SETsquared and the University of Exeter's Student Guild has given the foursome business mentoring through its partners, put them in touch with high profile mentors for one-to-one advice and even flown them to MIT in America to get tips on becoming successful technology entrepreneurs.  While visiting MIT they also landed a meeting with Echonest, which works with music giants such as Spotify and MTV, and are planning a partnership with the firm.

The training has certainly paid off for the student start-up because they have secured a £10,000 business grant from Creative England and an offer of a place within SETsquared’s technology business incubator scheme.

Sean Fielding, Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Exeter and Chair of the SETsquared Management Board said:“This world-beating achievement will be a huge boost to all the student entrepreneurs supported by the University of Exeter and the SETsquared network.  We are looking forward to seeing them back in Exeter to talk about launching their business from our new science park.”

Tracy Costello, Deputy Chief Executive of the University of Exeter Students’ Guild, said: “The students’ success is a testimony to their entrepreneurship, commitment and talent, and the quality of their support mechanisms. They have worked so hard on this app, and as the Guild's IGNITE entrepreneur support units first student 'start up'  I am immensely proud of them.”

Other UK organisations that have provided support are the Exeter Innovation Centre, Exeter Students’ Guild, the University’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences and the Business School, the OpenMIC network and technology companies Opposable Games and Applingua.

Date: 11 July 2013

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