Why would an educator attend Startup Weekend EDU?

That’s what I asked myself… I mean, I already have a job.  I’m not really looking to start a new company.  I do have ideas all the time about various inventions, and I will admit to recurrent daydreams of owning a flashy silver airstream trailer that I could drive into the parking lot of virtually any school and set up this gypsy like STEM-TECH sideshow that is filled with Lego Robotics, Little Bits and a theoretical bakery of Raspberry Pis.  I’d be wearing blue tinted circular eyeglasses, carrying a sequinned “handbag of holding”, a loudspeaker over my trailer pumping out classic video game themes like Frogger or Dig Dug would announce my arrival.

Jennifer Ferguson

Imagine a 21st Century version of an ice cream truck driven by a literal mashup of Mr. Dress Up, The Happy Painter and a sprinkle of Bill Nye the Science Guy – I’d bring STEM experiences and maker movement concepts to every child in my community and, eventually, the world.

So why did I sign up with a friend to partake in 54 hours of entrepreneurial innovation that could potentially transform my ideas into reality surrounded by strangers?

1. Because the event asked, “Have you ever had an idea for improving education?”
2. Because I said to myself, “Hey… I do have an idea!”

(granted, my ideas may swim upstream, but you have to do the things in life that move you…)

And here’s the kicker… everybody who gathered at SWEDU YYC also had amazing ideas, inspired dreams, fuelled up passions, and innovative visions. In just moments, I became connected with these ‘strangers’ and found myself engaged in conversations where I was desperately trying to place every shared piece of wisdom into some metaphorical internal vat of knowledge.

I watched as people pitched their own personal idea of the ‘next big thing’ with unbridled passion, and moments later I was witness to those same people setting their idea aside and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into supporting the ‘next big thing’ by the person beside them.

Over the weekend I met true mentors who taught me how to ask the right questions to get me where I want to be.  Not one of them hesitated to call me out when they knew I was accepting less of myself, my vision or my team. Their insight and guidance helped me to frame my problem, check my assumptions and belief systems – in the 22nd hour it felt like nothing could hold me back and I was no longer destined to spend copious amounts of time spinning my wheels.

As the weekend approached the 51st hour, I watched the culmination of every participant’s ingenuity, inspiration and vision materialize.  The realization of the wealth of opportunities that this event was providing gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride, gratitude and an absolute state of limitless potential.

I learned that if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.  That collective knowledge from a group of your peers combined with intention and action will organize the fulfillment of almost any desire at any age.  Embrace the opportunity to make connections – because the person you perceive to be a stranger today may turn out to be a key person you need tomorrow.

Are you an Educator willing to spend 54 hours like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t? Because I know that didn’t walk into school on Monday morning with the same perspective that I left with the Friday before…

Jus’ sayin’… mind… blown…. phooooosh….

Click right here to register for Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton.

What's up with Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton?

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Let’s get this show on the road!

Yes, we have a venue in the works but we can’t announce it officially yet. Here’s a hint.

This week, we heard from Rackforce Cloud Video that they will be joining us in Edmonton, like they did in Calgary. We’re looking forward to working with Randall and Kevin again as they stream pitches live, and capture and store video throughout the weekend. Rackforce is an amazing sponsor that sends these two awesome guys to Edmonton from Kelowna for the whole weekend at no cost to us. A huge shout out to Rackforce for their continued support of Startup Weekend EDU!

Over the upcoming weeks, we will spend a lot of time on e-mail and phone, connecting with experienced designers, developers and entrepreneurs and asking them to spend part of their weekend volunteering to coach our participants. Coaches are critical to a great Startup Weekend. If you are an experienced designer, developer or entrepreneur and would like to give back to youth, educators and budding entrepreneurs, please drop me a note at angie.tarasoff@gmail.com. A special shout out to our very first volunteer coach, Brad Gaulin, CEO at GoMentr.com.

It takes a village…

There are a lot of amazing people in Edmonton who volunteer their time to making this a great place to live, work and play. I want to acknowledge the organizing team, volunteer mentors and incredible volunteer speakers who are involved with TEDx Youth@Edmonton. I spent a couple of hours with that amazing group last week. With people like this doing what they’re doing, the future of this city is bright.

What the Heck is a Startup Weekend, and How Did I Ever End Up in One??

Posted on October 1, 2014 by 

That’s me in the picture, with all those handsome young men!  How did I end up there, you ask?  Well, it all started with a couple of friends of mine who somehow seem to persuade me into doing things that are several zones outside my comfort zone.


3rd place team at Startup Weekend Calgary, February 2014

One such journey last February took me to Calgary’s Mount Royal University.  I was listening to one-minute pitches by several individuals who were all hoping to win the audience’s favour.  This was my very first Startup Weekend.  A weekend where you spend 54 hours working to launch a startup:

“Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.” (website: http://startupweekend.org/about/). And win prizes!

I had no idea what I was getting into when I registered for this event.  The registration form asked me whether I was attending as someone with a startup idea (nope, didn’t have one); coder/programmer (What?? certainly wasn’t one of those); marketer (Haha! the only selling I do is trying to get students to do their homework); businessperson (does balancing my chequebook count?).  There was no “I have no idea what I’m doing” button, so I pressed the businessperson button.  That seemed the least fraudulent.

After the voting was finished on the Friday night, everyone began forming teams.  I thought I would just wander around throughout the weekend and get a sense of what the teams were doing.  That also seemed the safest as I still wasn’t sure what I could contribute.  But, Stephanie, one of my persuader friends, would not let that happen.  I ended up on a team and, for the rest of the weekend, I was plunged in the world of designing, validating, building, and marketing a startup.

When Sunday night came, teams presented their business plans and prototypes. Guess what?  We came in 3rd!  What a sense of accomplishment that was.  My teammates had done an awesome job with their business and tech skills.  And I like to think my market validation skills and question framing abilities played a small but valuable role in our success. Talking and writing are two things I know:)

I left Calgary on Sunday night for the long drive home to Edmonton.  I thought the drive would be tiring.  It wasn’t.  The weekend replayed in my mind and how incredible the whole experience was.  I learned a lot about the fascinating world of startups and entrepreneurship and how this fits so well into Inspiring Education and 21st century learning.

Now I am playing a small part in organizing one for education.  This one has 2 tracks: one for adults with an idea for improving education in some way, and one for students of all ages with an idea to launch.  It’s an great opportunity for educators, students, developers, marketers, managers, and anybody who is curious and enthusiastic.  No experience required!

To find out more or to register for this event that takes place on Oct. 17- 19, 2014 click on the link below:



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