Edouard demonstrates GamePix to a group of Italian youth gathered at an event in Rome.
is the first game system that allows you to conquer the world," Edouard begins, explaining the gaming startup he launched three months earlier. He then clicks the handheld remote to begin his slide show presentation. Nothing happens. He laughs uncomfortably, then jokes, "You can conquer the world even without a working remote control." The audience bursts into laughter and Edouard looks relieved. If there is anything you want more than your technology to function in front of an important CEO, it’s keeping your cool during a glitch.
With a new remote, the presentation continues with ease. Edouard shares PowerPoint slides about GamePix, outlining the company's library of 15,000 games and the innovative approach that allows players to create and customize their own avatars and conquer territories.
The GamePix team at AppCampus, a mobile application accelerator program in Finland funded by Microsoft and Nokia.
the end of his presentation, Edouard says, "Mr. Ballmer, once you said that Microsoft is a company that helps people realize their potential. After we met Microsoft, that is exactly what happened." Edouard, who got his first PC at the age of 6, then offers a t-shirt to Ballmer, who walks onto the stage to shake his hand.
"I will never forget that day, pitching to the CEO of the biggest IT company in history," Edouard says. "It was incredible."
Edouard's journey started just months before that day in Rome. He and dozens of other Italian university students took an entrepreneurship course by InnovAction Lab 2012 where they divided into teams, created ideas for startups, then competed in front of venture capitalists. Edouard’s team didn't win that day but he caught the attention of Microsoft. The team was invited to join BizSpark, a Microsoft YouthSpark program that provides free software, support, and visibility to help startups across the globe succeed. Upon joining BizSpark, Edouard and his team were given access not only to developer tools and software but to mentorship, training, and networking opportunities. Those resources led GamePix directly to the funding it needed to get the company off the ground.
GamePix uses an innovative approach that allows players to create and customize avatars.
and his team's success demonstrate exactly what our YouthSpark initiative aims to do – empower young people with opportuntiies for education, employment, and entrepreneurship.
"BizSpark was crucial for our startup," Edouard says. "Thanks to Microsoft's interest in our project, we started coding our first Windows 8 app and that gave us our first product to present to one of the main Italian startup accelerators." That led to a microseed investment that helped launch the company.
That's quite an accomplishment in a country where the youth unemployment rate reached an all-time high this year, growing to 42 percent, according to figures released in January by the National Institute of Statistics. Coming from a good university does not guarantee a job and the GamePix team members say starting the company has been more productive than searching for work. Knowing that it is crucial to continue to find ways for young people to succeed, Edouard and his team are now working with students to expand, and plan to provide jobs for several more Italian youth in the near future.
Players can conquer territories on a Bing map divided into billions of pixels.
Italian unemployment situation is one of the main reasons we decided to build our own company," says Edouard. "It's a challenging task, but we love it. We work hard, and are learning a lot from this experience."
Mario Fontana, a Microsoft tech evengelist in Milan, has served as a mentor to the GamePix team and says it is one of the fastest growing young startups in Italy. In addition to Edouard, the team consists of CMO Valerio Pullano, CFO Justine Silipo, Graphic Designer Giulia Scifoni, and Lead Developer Emiliano Tomaselli.
GamePix is a unique game aggregator that distributes interactive games using technology such as geo location, augmented reality, and the cloud. The first game created by the company, SquarePix, is available in the Windows store and is based on players challenging each other with winners earning conquered territories on a map. SquarePix has divided Bing maps into billions of little pixels and players have become creative in ways that the GamePix team never imagined, even using the software to make art.
The GamePix team is now based in Rome. All of the members are close to finishing university degrees, but say they are learning much more by creating their own company than they would in traditional jobs.
Recently, GamePix joined AppCampus
, a program funded by Microsoft and Nokia and managed by Aalto University in Finland. The mobile application development program offers both funding and coaching to budding startups to foster innovative applications for Windows Phone and Nokia. Applicants receive awards varying from $20,000 to $70,000 euros and training in technology, design and usability. Apps are then available in the Windows Phone Store or Nokia Store.