Imagine Cup: Young developers to battle it out for $100,000

Young developers who enter the next Imagine Cup will battle it out for $100,000 after Microsoft doubled the prize money.

Registration for the annual competition, now in its 15th year, has opened and teams from across the world can apply.

Entrants must use technology to create “the next big thing”, which should also have business value and run on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud service, according to the contest’s rules. Previous entries have included life-changing apps and innovative games, with many teams using their idea to start their own company.

Team Enty won the Imagine Cup in 2016

Team ENTy won the Imagine Cup in 2016

“The 15 year anniversary of the Imagine Cup is set to be bigger and better than ever. It is a great opportunity for student developers to take their ideas to the next level and make an impact. We can’t wait to see what the students imagine and develop,” said Emily Byle, Audience Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

This year’s Imagine Cup, held in Seattle, was won by the ENTy team from Romania. They created a hi-tech wearable device that tracks the balance of the internal ear and checks spinal posture in real time. The device is the size of a door key and is worn on the back or head. It can detect inner ear problems and can capture other data that can be useful to doctors in diagnosing patients.

For the first time, next year’s Imagine Cup will have no categories, so teams can be as creative as they want. While teams must only contain a maximum of three members, mentors can help develop the idea.


Registration closes in March, with the national finals held in April and the global finals in July. The overall winners will take home $100,000 in prize money and $120,000-worth of Azure credits.

Team Sapient, from the University of South Wales, won the UK final earlier this year with Hex World, a video game made up of hexagonal tiles that the hero can move to shape the world around him.

Speaking about their experience of the event, Team Sapient said: “When we won we couldn’t quite believe it, standing up there really felt like all the work we had put into this game had paid off. As we headed home we contacted our friends and family to let them know the news, it was an incredible moment for all of us.


“We also recently won the world semi-finals, and that took us all by surprise. Needless to say we were all rather ecstatic. None of us can really believe how far this game has gone, something that was just an idea a year ago is now potentially taking us to Seattle on a world stage.

“We plan to keep developing this game and bring it to market. As we are persistently improving various aspects of the game, at the moment we are in the process of improving our world systems to bring levels significantly larger than we have demonstrated before.”

UK team Gloop took the global title in 2013 with a mobile phone app called SoundSYNK that enabled users to stream music directly from one device to another via Bluetooth or WiFi.

After the competition, Gloop were invited to join the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Program in London, which helps start-ups. The team now runs a back end service that helps developers build mobile apps by synchronizing data across various different platforms.