Microsoft wants to “spur the imagination and spirit of entrepreneurism that drives small businesses,” while spurring free downloads of its Office Accounting Express 2007.
The Microsoft “Ultimate Challenge” is currently underway in search of “the most creative small-business idea in the country.”
Dubbed Ultimate Challenge IdeaWins, the Microsoft contest offers a prize package including $100,000 business start-up working capital, a Manhattan storefront for one year rent-free and and infrastructure and software to help run the business.
Rajat Taneja, general manager, Microsoft Small Business Applications and Services:
The Ultimate Challenge is all about getting entrepreneurs to take steps toward living their dream and pursuing the spirit of Americana. The idea behind this contest is to galvanize entrepreneurs into action and make sure they have the right tools, such as Office Accounting Express, to translate their vision into reality.
The IdeaWins contest Website touts: “Win or lose, you can download the Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 software absolutely free to get you started.”
While “absolutely free” has some qualifications—see “Free? Google, Microsoft ‘bait and switch’ small biz tactics”—the contest entry form serves as a no-cost, start-up business planning tool.
Microsoft calls out “Click here to enter your big idea,” which leads to a two-page start-up Q & A template:
What is your original business idea?
How is your idea different from what is already out there?
Why do you think people would respond to this idea?
Do you have funding in place? How are you going to raise the money?
Who is your target audience? Who are you trying to reach?
How are you going to reach your target audience?
Have you established financial projections?
Do you expect to lose or make money in the first year?
Valid questions for consideration by every prospective start-up, even launches of Web 2.0 “cool” apps.