What Startup Weekend Food Edition did for me

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lisa Wang, Co-Founder of Fooze, the 1-Tap Delivery for Your Favorite Late Night Munchies, and member of the winning team of Startup Weekend Food Edition 2014.

“What’s Startup Weekend? What’s a hackathon?”

I remember asking these questions a year ago as my friend raved over the last one she had attended a couple months earlier. I had recently left my job as a financial analyst at a hedge fund and was taking my first leap into the world of startups. I was clueless, terrified, yet excited by the challenge of navigating a completely foreign ecosystem so different from the structured corporate one I was familiar with. With really only the surface understanding that Startup Weekend would require me to “build a company from scratch, pitch to a panel of judges,” and the enticement of enough food to make back the price of my ticket, I accepted the challenge and bought my ticket for Startup Weekend Food Edition.

In preparation, I canceled all my plans for that upcoming weekend. Any invitations to dinner or drinks were put on hold. “Why?” They would ask, “Because I’m going to spend the weekend meeting random entrepreneurs trying to hack together a new food startup.” I received bemused smiles, puzzled laughs, and a couple of nudges of encouragement from my cohort of corporate friends. It was going to be an interesting weekend.

That Friday evening, I entered into a room buzzing with an energy I could only compare to that of the pre-meet jitters I used to have as a competitive gymnast. Flitting around the room, I was surprised to discover that many of the attendees were similar to me, at a transition point in their careers, ready to take the leap and try something completely new.

A few nights prior, I had been facetiously kicking around an idea for a late night food delivery business. After trying and failing to find any half-decent food after midnight, I eventually resorted to some awful combination of $2 pizza and a rampage of Duane Reade’s cookie aisle. So when the Startup Weekend attendees were called upon to give a 60-second pitch of a potential food business, I figured I had nothing to lose, and stood up to pitch my idea,

“Have you ever woken up regretting what you ate last night? Have you ever been out late at night and wished you could get exactly what you wanted with a push of a button?”

Apparently, a lot of people had and after all the pitches had finished, I was able to to quickly assemble a team that was ready to tackle late night food delivery. It was an exciting moment and as the teams were formed, ours got to work immediately mapping out our individual strengths and our product roadmap for the next couple of days.

Over the course of that one weekend, I learned how to create basic wireframes, the importance of conducting user interviews, the difference between flat and skeuomorphic design, the necessity of distilling down a very clear problem, what the term MVP actually stood for, how to determine TAM, the essential elements of crafting a pitch deck, and perhaps most importantly how to balance conflicting ideas, test assumptions, and iterate (very) quickly.

After two sleepless nights, pitch day arrived, and our team had already learned more about the on demand food delivery space than most of us had ever cared to know. What had started as a half-serious idea and a 60-second pitch had now transformed into a project five people had poured dozens of hours of hard work into. We had cobbled together a very basic prototype, created a logo and tagline, interviewed over 100 potential users, calculated initial financial projections, and crafted a well-designed pitch deck to boot. Moreover, despite having a lifelong discomfort with public speaking, I was given pitch practice and critique sessions that allowed me to become increasingly confident even over the course of just a few hours.

Pitch night was one of the more inspiring professional presentations I had been to in quite some time. It was not so much the ideas, but rather the effort and cohesive passion I witnessed among each of the team members who had, for all intents and purposes, been complete strangers just 48 hours prior.

When it came time to announce the winner of the Weekend and my team was called, our entire team jumped up in surprise and triumph. Yes, we had put in an unbelievable amount of effort, but what surprised us was that we had managed to come together as a team that was derived from a host of different backgrounds completely unrelated to startups or tech. While winning a competition like Startup Weekend was indeed thrilling, it ultimately served a more important purpose; it was the impetus that gave every single member of that initial team the confidence to dive headfirst into the intoxicating world of entrepreneurship: of creation, ownership, and innovation that we all had only dreamed of before that fateful weekend.

A year later, I am the Co-Founder of Fooze, the 1-tap delivery app for late night munchies. I took that winning idea and plowed ahead with the same degree of energy and vigor I felt when I first walked into Startup Weekend. We pivoted multiple times based on user feedback, built a full-time team of three, graduated from Food-X, an international food business accelerator in NYC, and just recently launched our beta of Fooze, a little over a month ago.

Looking back, Startup Weekend was but one external factor that nudged me in the direction I am pursuing today. More important than the external push though, was the open and bold mindset with which I approached that Weekend and all weekends thereafter. As I tell many aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s no longer about knowing where you’ll be leaping, nor whether you’ll make it to the other side. In fact, don’t be surprised if you don’t make it your first time… Leap anyways.

Want to experience Startup Weekend Food Edition yourself? Tickets are still available!

Top 3 Pain Points in the Health Industry

Startup Weekend Health + Fitness Edition: June 12 to 14, 2015. Tickets on sale here.

From left to right, Dr. Bobby Green of Flatiron Health, an attendee asking a question, Derek Flanzraich of Greatist, Michael Kopko of Oscar Health Insurance, Fon Powell of SALT LLC, and Calvin Hwang of CityMD. (Photos by Frank Fukuchi)

We had a full house at the latest Startup Weekend NYCs: Health and Fitness Edition panel, lead by Amanda Goboud and Kimberly Hall. This event attracted entrepreneurs looking to network, VCs looking to assess disruptive technology, and professionals in the healthcare industry looking to tap into the healthcare startup world.

The panel discussion could be summarized in one word:


While there are many problems and inefficiencies in the health and wellness industry, the biggest of them seems to stem from data, which brings us to our first healthcare pain point.

Portability and transmissibility of patient data

  • Information often gets lost or is in a useless form (e.g. filed on paper, illegible). In other words, important data is often unstructured and therefore unusable.
  • Data in health care can be complicated and proprietary. Companies are hiring engineers to extract data, normalize it, and add it to a single common database. Companies still struggle to pull data from many sources and require engineers to weed through and develop common data models.
  • There are massive privacy, regulatory, and security issues in medical data. There are currently no laws about data sharing in the healthcare industry. This means large healthcare institutes are not sharing data and there is still a competitive threat to share data.

The second pain point in the health industry that we heard about was about communication:

Clinicians are not able to communicate easily with one another

  • We have largely uncoordinated health systems databases, which make it hard to share information!
  • It is currently difficult to build integrated holistic patient care in a disintegrated health care industry where hospital system policy, government, and insurance companies all have diverging interests.
  • We don’t have a patient focused healthcare system because companies are more interested in both protecting themselves and growing within their own system.

The final healthcare pain point starts with, as with any industry, cost and time. The healthcare and fitness industries are booming with monitoring and predictive tools that will help consumers assess their own health. How can these tools integrate into the healthcare system and help individuals prevent long term health complications?

Slow adoption of preventive monitoring and predictive tools by the healthcare industry

  • There are many diagnostic tools and monitoring technologies that will allow us to make more informed patient care decisions earlier on. Insurance companies and health care systems are slowly adopting these technologies. How can we speed up this process?
  • While prevention has higher initial costs, it saves money long term. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t want to pay for unnecessary treatments, even though they may prevent future and higher costing treatments.
  • Datasets can now provide inferences into how future complications can be prevented. Datasets can help predict and prevent unintended hospitalizations.
  • There is a small subset of the patient population that incur significant costs for insurance companies. Most of their investment goes to these critical cases. High costs are caused in part by the tremendous lack of health care coordination for the most sick patient, who require the most attention.  How can we fix this?
  • FDA doesn’t have the manpower to regulate apps. Average FDA clearance time is 1 year!!

Take away: People need to realize that they own their own data. When they visit a health professional, they have the right to ask for it. We need to shift the focus from business to consumer. Treatment and prevention lies in the hands of the individual. Companies are now working harder than ever to empower individuals to take control of their own health through prevention techniques, monitoring tools, and the availability of health data.

Startup Weekend NYC health and Fitness edition is coming up this weekend. We now know that data needs to be consolidated (made both useful and useable), used to help individuals (prevention / prediction), and go into the right hands (clinicians work together in a more holistic way). Take these problems and bring them to Startup Weekend!

Startup Weekend Health + Fitness Edition: June 12 to 14, 2015. Tickets on sale here.

Need more ideas? Panelists also listed inspiring telehealth and early detection companies such as Noom, a weight loss tool, BluesStar, the first diabetes prevention tool approved by insurance companies, and ihealth, a wireless prevention tools that sync that with mobile platforms. Other great examples are FitbitTeledoc, and Daybreaker.

What I learned from Startup Weekend NYC business-to-business edition (B2B)

The classic Startup Weekend NYC ice breaker: Rock – Paper – Scissors!

Having volunteered at several previous SW events, I found Startup Weekend NYC B2B Edition to be really informative. The event was stacked with helpful mentors and speakers, including Roger Osario, Startup Weekend Facilitator, Eddie Cullen, Community Manager at Grand Central Tech, Tony Chang, Product Manager at Intuit, and Chi Nguyen, Product Strategist at Perka and Lead Organizer of Startup Weekend B2B.

Blaga Popova, Director of Engineering at Voyat and a former Startup Weekend NYC organizer, kicked off the weekend by highlighting some important differences between B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-customer) companies:

B2B companies typically have lesser known brands
B2B companies usually deliver platforms that work behind the scenes and may be white-labelled, whereas B2C companies rely on popularity and brand recognition.

B2B companies have a few large clients, while B2C companies have many customers
B2C companies often build products that create enjoyment or convenience for a wide audience.  Their larger user bases can quickly swing from wild enthusiasm to complete disinterest in a matter of days, creating instability for the  business. Conversely, B2B companies enjoy greater retention rates. Clients take longer to acquire and onboard, but they see the purchase or subscription more as an investment, so they often stay and help improve and steer the product.

B2B companies focus on solving existing problems and maximizing near-term revenue
Investors can be especially tough on B2Bs. Venture capitalists demand more developed business plans that account for revenue, product/market fit, and scalability. The flip side, however, is that B2B companies also tend to stabilize more quickly, so they can rely less on investor funding in the long run.

B2B companies need to consider how to seamlessly integrate with legacy software that already exists
B2C companies have more flexibility to build on trending frameworks and technology. Shane Brauner, Vice President of IT and Operations at Schrödinger and a mentor at SW B2B Weekend, commented, “Lack of integration with existing, legacy  systems is a key blocker for startups who are trying to get businesses to invest in a new technology.”

Overall, I learned a great deal from just the Friday evening kickoff of the Startup Weekend B2B Edition, and I’m curious to know what YOU think. What are some of the biggest similarities or differences between B2B and B2C companies? Which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Edited by Chi Nguyen and Cynthia Knapic.


The Votes Are In…Mr. Cesar Wins!

13 teams competed in what may have been the toughest NYCEDU yet. One, Mr. Cesar, emerged the victor. Take a peek at the top three teams; you’ll likely be hearing more from them soon:

First Place: Mr. Cesar



In their own words: High-achieving, under-resourced students lack the guidance they need to select and apply to selective colleges. Mr. Cesar is a tool for helping manage the college process from search to submit to enrollment.

What the audience had to say:

  • “Brilliant! Must pick this idea! The winner!!!”
  • “This seems solid”
  • “Love it!”


Second place: Poly


In their own words: Words without borders. A service to help teachers communicate with parents in the language of their choice.

What the audience had to say:

  • “High energy and awesome demo”
  • “Very polished Looking presentation. Bravo on the detail work.”
  • “Great.”


Third place (and audience choice!): Wizart


In their own words: An artist takes you on a unique museum experience.

What the audience had to say:

  • “Nice! I love art and I would use it!”
  • “Great idea as very focused on purpose and meeting a real need; excellent design process; more information on business plan would be helpful.”
  • “Terrific! Can’t wait to use!”

Thanks to all of the participants for a wildly inspirational weekend!

11 Brilliant Best Practices at Startup Weekend Education NYC

As a first-time facilitator for the 4th installment of Startup Weekend Education New York City (@SWNYCEDU, #NYCEDU), I was both literally and figuratively taken to school.

Led by the incomparable Deborah Chang, the well-synced and ragtag organizational team of David Fu, Benjamin Newton, Laura Patterson, and Ingrid Spielman (with community leader Andrew Young as advisor) delivered a sold-out, knock-out event on May 27th.

Let the games begin. (You can't read that without hearing the Bane voice.)
Let the games begin. (You can’t read that without hearing the Bane voice.)

In between real-talk mentoring and the occasional selfie, I took many mental notes about some best practices I saw at SWNYCEDU that I think should be replicated across all SWEDU events, if not Startup Weekend itself.

For your consideration:

1. Hold the event at a school, but in an open area

It’s a common understand that a SWEDU event (or Startup Weekend in general) should take place in a school – plenty of whiteboards, space, breakout rooms, and common areas. If teams are all in classrooms, however, they won’t interact with each other as much, which inhibits the core purpose of building community.

Wide open spaces. (Dixie Chicks serious.)
Wide open spaces. (Dixie Chicks serious.)

SWNYCEDU put most of the teams out in a common area, giving each station a huge whiteboards, sufficient tables, and open spaces to roam and float to other teams. The result: a willingness to share and collaborate that supersedes the spirit of competition.

2. Give out lanyards with ALL of the FAQ information you’ll need

“What’s the wifi password, again?”
“What’s the Twitter hashtag for this event?”
“How do I know you’re actually supposed to be here?”

I'm so excited to be wearing a lanyard that I'm practically crooning.
I’m so excited to be wearing a lanyard that I’m practically crooning.

Not a problem when it’s hanging around your neck at all times. Key information is great to have, and it’s also a reusable, standardized way to maintain formality and security at the event.

3. Use a text-messaging app to send out alerts

More compelling than email or social media, texting gets people’s attention faster and adds another method of outreach to a crowd of focused, stressed-out participants.

Alternatively, we could have Ben do this to all 100+ participants. Fun to watch, but not efficient.
Alternatively, we could have Ben do this to all 100+ participants. Fun to watch, but not efficient.

4. Provide advance information and office hours signups for mentors

Figuring out how to coordinate members seemed like an impossible art to me, but this group worked it out well by creating a station for teams to review and request mentors.

Mentors are perhaps the most valuable resource at any Startup Weekend event. Choose, but choose wisely.
Mentors are perhaps the most valuable resource at any Startup Weekend event.

Coaches were asked to come at specific times, and teams sign up to meet with them on a first-come, first-serve basis. This eased confusion greatly for everyone.

5. Provide 3 phases of mentoring: brainstorm, focus, and presentation

Traditionally in other Startup Weekends, mentors pop in an event at various, even unpredictable times, and sometimes their advice does not mesh well with the team’s general progress. Some are already validated and advanced, and some are still searching for that “thing.”

Ben and I brainstorm with one of the participants.
Ben and I brainstorm with one of the participants.

SWNYCEDU takes these variations into account and brings in mentors during Saturday morning and afternoon strictly for brainstorm and validation.

Deborah and a volunteer listen and provide feedback.

In the evening, they bring in mentors (usually Startup Weekend veterans) who aim to provide focus after a long day of retaining multiple opinions and ideas.

Team Wizart practices their pitch.
Team Wizart practices their pitch.

By Sunday, SWNYCEDU brings in coaches who specialize specifically in pitch practice and communication, not business content or validation. This overall strategy gives teams a bit more structure and clarity as they evolve their ideas into bona fide companies.

6. Use Google Slides to present pitches seamlessly…

Simply put, there are far too many different ways to present at a Startup Weekend. Teams tend to present off their own laptops and switch back and forth between operating systems and format. In my opinion, this is a clunky and volatile process.

I've got a fever, and the only prescription... is Google Slides.
I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription… is Google Slides.

SWNYCEDU had one computer for the entire presentation setup, so they used a single format (Google Slides) and uploaded everything into the cloud. A huge amount time was saved overall between transitions.

7. … make teams do web demos (and tech check in advance)…

Tech Check is a rough job, yet vital to the success of your event. Make sure you run it right.
Tech Check is a rough job, yet vital to the success of your event. Make sure you run it right.

Doing live demos are traditionally considered a big risk at Startup Weekend – technical failures are perhaps forgiven but not forgotten. With only one computer for all 13 presentations, all demos also had to be sent up to the cloud and tested by 3pm.

8. … and put links to both decks and demos in a single Google Doc

A little embarrassing backstory: Startup Weekenders should always consider Murphy’s Law – whatever can happen will happen. This happened to me when I foolishly opened up every single presentation and demo into a single web browser and, to no one with a basic understanding of IT, crashed the system.

How I was feeling during that stressful 20-minute tech reboot.
How I was feeling during that stressful 20-minute tech reboot.

Organizer David Fu stepped up in a huge way to reboot the system and put all of the links to the slides, demos, and videos in a chronologically organized Google Doc. Once everything was back in order, the process went smoothly. Despite the 20-minute technical delay, we finished the event on time.

9. Serve dinner while the judges deliberate

As a past organizer and volunteer, I’ve never known what to do with the judges deliberation period. Dinner usually is served after presentations are submitted, and in the past I’ve seen ways to pass the time such as Community Asks or some light video or entertainment.

Finally, a moment to relax in a 54-hour maelstrom.
Finally, a moment to relax in a 54-hour maelstrom.

Serving dinner gets people to talk across teams, offer congratulations, and take their minds off the anxious decision that awaits them. Good food placates all.

10. Make animated GIFs of yourselves whenever possible

Taking on a new initiative that gets communities also doing Startup Weekends simultaneously, we made some fun little animated images for our friends in D.C., who held a Maker-themed event of their own. I think this speaks for itself.

Nothing but love for #SWDCMaker. Photo generated by Laura Patterson with GIFMe!

If only we made more… Andrew Young, I’m looking right at you.

Finally, and most importantly of all:

11. Have a team that puts vision, guests, and team above ego

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Team SWNYCEDU. There was not an iota of attitude among any of them. When things went right, they showered each other with support and praise. When things went wrong, they responded to the problems with solutions rather than stand around and point fingers.

What a terrific team and Startup Weekend community!
What a terrific team and Startup Weekend community!

On top of that, they were an absolute pleasure to work with. I laughed at Laura and Ingrid’s wry jokes, felt secure by Ben and Deborah’s unflinching professionalism, and may have found some long-lost cousins in Fu and Young. You couldn’t buy a better team than this one – they’ll do it all for free.

In short, I learned a lot at Startup Weekend Education New York City. I hope you’ve learned a lot by reading this, too. Can’t wait to come back next year… perhaps as a participant? =)

Lee Ngo was the facilitator of Startup Weekend Education New York and is a Regional Manager at UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend. To learn more about UP Global and its efforts to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the world, you can email him at lee@up.co.

To reach out or get involved with the Startup Weekend New York City community, reach out to nyc@startupweekend.org or nycedu@startupweekend.org specifically to contact the SWNYCEDU organizers.

Photos from this event courtesy of Frank Fukuchi and the organizers and volunteers of Startup Weekend New York City. All rights reserved. 

More about Education Entrepreneurs

Education Entrepreneurs is the largest initiative in the world focused on helping people use entrepreneurship to improve education. Its suite of offerings include Startup Weekend Education, Startup Digest Education, Workshops, online resources, and a global network of Community Leaders. Spanning six continents, Education Entrepreneurs has created an unprecedented opportunity for anyone, anywhere to shape the future of education.

Educators and Entrepreneurs Will Connect to Build Novel and Inspiring Edtech Products at Startup Weekend NYCEDU March 27-29

Startup Weekend NYCEDU  brings together a diverse group of educators, developers, designers and entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a positive impact in education to build potentially game-changing edtech products over the course of 54 hours. Interdisciplinary teams race against the clock in order to develop viable concepts that address the authentic needs of teachers and students. The teams are supported by experts in business, design, technology and education.

“It’s not often that teachers work side by side with developers and designers eager to hear about the issues they face in their classrooms,” said lead organizer Deborah Chang. “By bringing people from such different backgrounds into the same room together, Startup Weekend NYCEDU is able to create a catalytic mix of talent and passion that jumpstarts new ideas and novel solutions.”

On Friday night, attendees will take the open mic to pitch their ideas to the group in 60 seconds or less. After groups form, the rest of the weekend will be spent formulating the most popular ideas – typically web and mobile applications – with the help of mentors and seasoned startup entrepreneurs. By Sunday, teams will be ready to present their ideas in front of a panel of judges, including Preeti Birla (Innovate NYC Schools), Wiley Cerilli (First Round Capital), Christy Crawford (Bronx Community Charter) and Jason DeRoner (TeachBoost), who will award prizes based on business model, customer validation and execution and design.

“Elemental Path is proud and excited to be a sponsor of NYCEDU,” said Arthur Tu, co-founder of the company.  “As technologists driven to continuously push the envelope, we believe great educational innovation comes from a fusion of pedagogy, design, technology and business – SWEDU is the perfect venue for that fusion.”

Notable companies built during past Startup Weekend Education events include Clever and Three Ring. This March’s event is the fourth Startup Weekend Education event held in New York City.  Vidcode, the team that took home the top prize at last year’s event in NYC, has been featured in Forbes, Teen Vogue and more. This year’s winners will receive a prize package that will help them to launch their business and join the pantheon of inspiring companies created during Startup Weekend Education events.

“I met my soulmate founder at the event. We both pitched ideas and merged teams, and have been together ever since,”said Allie Diracles, co-founder of VidCode. “Startup Weekend NYCEDU helped us not only form our team but led to our first big contacts with incubators and advisors in the field who have been game changers in our success over the last year.”

In addition to Elemental Path, this year’s event is being sponsored by Avenues: The World School (site sponsor), 4.0 Schools, Noodle, KidHoo, Google for Entrepreneurs, .co, Coca-Cola, Amazon Web Services and Post-It Brand.

For more information or to register, visit bit.ly/swnycedu2015.

About Startup Weekend EDU: Startup Weekend EDU events are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.  Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekend EDU events culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.  Participants create working  education startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. All teams hear talks by industry leaders and receive valuable feedback from local entrepreneurs. The weekend is centered around action, innovation, and education.  Whether you are looking for feedback on a idea, a co-founder, specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute, Startup Weekends are the perfect environment in which to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

Our Favorite Resources for NYCEDU Prep

There are a ton of great resources online that can help you better understand the edtech landscape both locally and nationally and the intense but rewarding Startup Weekend Education experience. Here are a few of our favorites:

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Feel free to share additional resources with us here and we’ll update this post with your recommendations!


Pitching your idea at Startup Weekend!

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co

Are you going to be pitching an idea at Startup Weekend?


Each person will get 60 seconds to pitch their idea to the audience. Only 10-15 ideas will be selected to move into the weekend. Pitching an idea is not an easy task. It takes practice to sell your idea & vision in 60 seconds.

As a reminder, you can’t pitch your existing business/app. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. A key facet of the weekend and a central value for participants is the spirit of complete collaboration, buy-in and ownership. We’ve found that having existing businesses in the mix undermines this spirit, in addition to creating an imbalance between those ideas that are truly ground-level.

If you have an idea and you have been doing some customer research, researched on the internet, designed some wireframes, talked to businesses to see if there is any demand, then great! That’s fine. We expect you folks to do your own due diligence beforehand.

In 60 seconds, you need to cover:

  • Who are you? (5-10 seconds)
  • What’s the problem? Use this time to set up the story. How did you discover this problem? How can we (the audience) relate to it? How many people are affected by this problem? Build that connection to the audience to capture their attention. (10-20 seconds)
  • What’s your solution? Mobile? Web? Something physical? (10-20 seconds)
  • Who do you need? Developers? Designers? Product folks? (5-10 seconds)

Take the time and practice your pitch. Practice in front of your friends and see if you can convince them to vote for you.


Four Things I Learned at Last Year’s Startup Weekend NYCEDU

Last year, I attended my first Startup Weekend EDU event and I walked away from the experience feeling bolder, empowered and inspired. While I was extremely exhausted and eager to get home to the Super Bowl spread and the amazing game that was awaiting (go ‘Hawks!), I knew that something inside me had shifted, that I’d face new projects and team-based work experiences in a new way as a direct result of what I picked up that Weekend. I felt like a new and improved model, a Laura 2.0. As you consider this year’s NYCEDU, I think that it’s helpful to know what you can expect to get from the Weekend. Here are five of the takeaways that I walked (translate: limped tiredly) away from the Weekend with, as told through gifs:


Persistence is key:


For last year’s event, I was on a team with six incredibly talented people. Together we worked on building Simplifaid, an online financial aid planning platform targeted at high school students to help them understand the financial impact of their college choices. It was a great idea and we were all super excited to jump in but…we had no idea where to start. Figuring out who our target market was, whether it was students, parents, high school guidance counselors or universities was a struggle. Developing a financial model based on what felt like a mountain of uncertainties was painful. It felt like we spent hours talking ourselves in circles even with the guidance of a few intrepid mentors. I can say with 100% certainty that that period was not the most fun I’ve ever had–it would not even make my top ten. I can also say with 100% certainty that what we came up with was worth every bit of the struggle. There were still tons of variables that needed to be considered by Sunday night, but we got to a place where we were proud of our shared vision for what Simplifaid could be.


Resourcefulness will take you far (sometimes literally):

200 (1)

Like this mostly terrifying crow, our team had to figure out how to get what we wanted–a pitch that would impress the judges. In thinking about how we wanted to tell our product’s story while also expressing its usefulness to our target audience (high schoolers/undergraduates), we wanted to think outside of the box. We then decided to think outside the building. There was a Weekend for teen entrepreneurs happening across the bridge in Brooklyn and we thought that popping over would be a great way to get user validation and create an ad to show during our presentation. Racing over the bridge with one of my teammates to talk to the teens before they left for the day was exhilarating, and allowed me to get to know one of my team members more than I would have in the fast-paced environment we’d left.  Getting creative was also fun–our video got a litttttle kooky but it was fantastic to meet some of the brilliant teens preparing to be entrepreneurs of the future.


Fearlessness ensures success:

200 (2)

My team chose me to speak for our team when we were asked to send someone to answer the judges’ follow up questions. I was terrified; I considered myself a solid and engaging public speaker in some situations, but in others I let my discomfort get the best of me (see: pitch night). As I stood in line, making up answers to hypothetical questions the judges could pose, the guy who was next to me started chatting. He said something that I’ll never forget: the fear that renders you immobile is pointless. I knew that intellectually, but I’d never really thought about what the mitigation of fear would look like. For me, having fear and thinking about that fear meant that it was highly likely that I would stumble over my thoughts and words. Giving that up meant that I was opening myself up to a better chance for success. Internalizing his words did that, and while I’m not sure how much of a part my answers played into their final decision, the judges ended up awarding our team third place (what, what!).


Feeling included in a community is powerful:


While I enjoyed every minute of the Weekend, the most special moments were the random asides with people I’d met from the NYCEDU community. At one point, I ran into a friend who was grabbing a snack and we chatted about our very different experiences with our projects.I talked about how I was feeling out how to best contribute to the team and he talked about how this team was working through the choice between the two directions their project could take. He also gave me needed advice on how I could approach the work. In being able to have that conversation, I went back to my team energized. His ebullience rubbed off on me, and the many other small interactions I had with members of the community did the same. I was a ball of excitement by Sunday evening and I felt connected to people who I respect, people who share my deep and unrelenting passion to change the education landscape and make a more equitable world for future generations. Having that community and knowing that we were all working together for the same purpose amplified my vision and catalyzed me into thinking about how I could do more.

 If you are interested in attending this year’s event, learn more here: bit.ly/swnycedu2015!

The Entrepreneur’s Journey Model

Originally posted by Claire Topalian.

Since the early days of Startup Weekend, we’ve relied on a model that we call “The Entrepreneur’s Journey” as a way of communicating our mission, the experience of the entrepreneur, and where other programs and support come into play. This simple model has become critical in conveying what we do and why we do it. Like every model, it’s not perfect, but like some models, it’s very useful. Beyond talking about Startup Weekend, we’ve used the “EJ” more and more over the years for a much broader conversation.


  This year, Marc Nager, CEO and President of UP Global, came together with fellow entrepreneurs and supporters of the global entrepreneurial movement at Google’s “Trailblazer” Summit. At the summit, he gave a talk about The Entrepreneur’s Journey. The video below covers the entire EJ model step-by-step, describes the best ways of using the model, and why we rely on it so much.


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