We are excited to announce a new partnership with Techstars and INFINITI Motor Company to deliver Techstars Startup Weekend Presented by INFINITI in target markets around the world. This partnership is the latest initiative in INFINITI’s longstanding commitment to fostering entrepreneurial talent and harnessing the power of innovation.
The Techstars Startup Weekend Presented by INFINITI will bring together a diverse range of talent across six markets from multiple industries. Entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to leverage Techstars’ worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, including influential community leaders, founders, mentors, and investors. Participants will pitch new startup ideas and work as teams to develop prototypes, demos and pitch presentations.
The first Techstars Startup Weekend Presented by INFINITI will take place in Hong Kong on April 21 with a focus on Women in Tech. The event will provide an innovative platform for female founders, showcasing the incredible entrepreneurial talent in Hong Kong.
This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about AI startups, Chatbots and Big data.
The digital boom is everywhere. People who used to sleep with paperbacks in their hands are now keeping Kindle on their side tables. After bringing music, reading and writing to the palm of your hands, the digital world is now rapidly reinventing the comic industry. According to the American Association of Publishers, the industry generated $28 billion in revenue in 2015. While the latest Pew Institute studies show that 28% of Americans now consume published material through electronic formats, there is a prevailing lack of original comics created for the mobile medium.
Among many startups that are disrupting this interesting niche, there is one that stands out as the “Netflix of graphic novels”…an app named Stela. Stela is topping the charts as a one-of-its-kind app that has a curated library of original visual content created by award-winning artists and storytellers, including graphic novels, comics, illustrated novels and other rich visual media. I got a chance to interview its CEO, Jason Juan to discuss the state and future of the digital medium.
Hira: What exactly is the Stela app? And most importantly what’s the mystery behind the name “Stela”?
Jason: Stela is a reading app with original titles covering tons of amazing stories, comics, and illustrated books. For the first time in history, all the content on Stela is originally designed specifically for mobile phones. Fresh new content can be accessed monthly with our affordable subscription model.
Hira: What inspired you to make this idea a reality? How do you consider yourselves the “Netflix” of mobile comics?
Jason: Netflix is the subscription model we really like and it allows readers to read whatever they want, whenever they want. We believe this is what the majority of the audience in the US would like to have. Eventually, Stela will NOT be just limited to comics. We consider Stela the future bookstore or library for the mobile industry. Graphic novels and comics is the first step on that journey.
Hira: Are you a comic reader or maker? How did it start?
Jason: We are all comic readers and makers. We discovered that the mobile space lacks real reading content that moves people. Most content is news or content that is in a poor format which is impossible to read on a mobile device. Stela wants to solve that by providing a truly premium reading experience with rich visuals and deep stories that draw readers in and lets them escape.
Hira: Are you planning to have a web portal or will this be a mobile app forever?
Jason: The web portal has recently been launched, and you can read some free chapters now at https://www.stela.com/read. The full experience is still mobile app only. We will release a subscription for the web portal soon for the people who would like to read all the content directly on browsers.
Hira: What genre of comics are you featuring the most and how are you planning to take submissions?
Jason: It is not so much about the genres, but more about the premium quality that I believe is the most important for the readers and Stela. We feature top quality content and we do take submissions from talented storytellers.
Hira: How are you managing the comic library? Is it free for all, freemium or premium?
Jason: We measure how readers react to the titles and chapters. Based on our algorithm we sort our page and content for the readers. We are also constantly growing the content weekly. Because of the high originality of the stories, our model is premium with a few chapters free to try.
Hira: Where do you see Stela in the next 5 years? What is the vision behind the app?
Jason: We would like Stela to be the place for all the premium comics, top quality illustrated books and most mobile-friendly books where every single title is 100% designed for a mobile device.
The vision is the revolution for true digital books. Each book needs to be designed to every single pixels, not just a text file, or rich text file, such as ebooks.
Hira: What stage is your app is currently at?
Jason: There are still many features we are currently building for the app. We also want to have more more premium contents, and we constantly raising the quality bar. We will also expand into various types of books such as food, drink, literature, art, and design.
Hira: I don’t see any competitor for Stela out there. Are there any? Enlighten me.
Jason: Amazon Kindle. 🙂
Our ten-year goal is to beat Kindle. In the end, each book requires a designer to design, not just a simple ebook. Stela designs every single book where readers can truly enjoy the content and not worry about font setting or background color or an uncomfortable flow.
Hira: Who are you targeting as an audience? Male, female or both? What’s in it for girls especially as they aren’t into comics as much.
Jason: Anyone on earth who wants to read a premium quality story with rich visual graphics is our target audience. Recently we tested ad campaigns reaching out to female readers. The surprising result was that acquisition costs for new subscribers dropped drastically as female-targeted ads saw consistently high returns. Now our subscriber base is over 45% female and growing, subverting the traditional belief that girls don’t read comics.
The problem isn’t who, it’s what. Unlike traditional publishers and distributors, Stela isn’t limited to your typical comic content and genre, meaning we can provide readers with a wider range of material to suite different tastes, interests, and lifestyles – including material that appeals to a female audience. Because as cool as they are, we can’t all love super heroes and zombies. Unlike the traditionally male-dominated comic book industry, Stela’s creative staff is over 80% female, providing our audience with content from a hitherto unexplored point of view. Stela’s creative and growth team is led by writer and illustrator Sandra Lanz – creator of the House Girls series, and VP of Development Yaling Catorcini – a veteran of both Apple and T-Mobile.
Hira: Any other comments? I’d be happy to feature!
Jason: Since computers have been invented, digital books have never been designed properly, especially any books with pictures. It has been more than 40 years and someone has to fix it. Today finally almost everyone can have a phone with Internet access if they want and all the phones are roughly the same size with about 4.5 to 5 inches of display space. All the creators finally have a standard to aim for which means each book can be now be designed without a moving target. I would like to see each book actually being designed and presented in the best format for all the phone readers to enjoy.
I couldn’t be more excited to announce my new role as the VP of Startup Programs leading both Startup Weekend and Startup Week on behalf of Techstars.
My love of Startup Programs goes back to my first Startup Weekend in Seattle in 2010. I signed up at the last minute not knowing what to expect. Like so many attendees, I was quickly caught up in the magic of the event. Being around like-minded people who just wanted to build things was so powerful. We stayed up half the night building a niche social network (it was 2010 after all). We “won” the pitch competition, but the real rewards were the lifelong friends I made, and the passion and excitement I discovered for what was possible through startup programs.
My winning team at Startup Weekend Seattle 2010 – I’m in the middle
I was lucky enough to join Startup Weekend as the second employee leading marketing and business development. During my time there, Startup Weekend grew from 75 events to 350 a year – an amazing time of growth that also brought us into many new countries and communities that had no programs to help entrepreneurs. As an organizer and facilitator, I heard hundreds of amazing stories of people who were changing their lives and their communities for the better through the power of a weekend.
In 2012, I joined Techstars co-running the Microsoft Accelerator programs and two years later moved to lead program operations for Techstars globally. I created many of the systems currently in place to help us scale, including writing the first playbook on running a Techstars accelerator.
As Techstars accelerator programs expanded internationally I moved to Berlin and have loved spending time meeting entrepreneurial leaders in other communities, and from other cultures.
What I love most about startup programs is our potential to make a difference. We have always worked to be inclusive which means anyone can come to a startup program and find a welcoming community of people who are working towards something better through entrepreneurship. I have seen first-hand how our startup programs truly change the trajectory of people’s lives and I’m eager to find new ways to strengthen and support that.
My vision for the future of startup programs includes growing the worldwide network of community leaders, making it easier to connect to each other and all of the Techstars family, and continuing to make our programs accessible to all. This community is made up of powerful doers, makers and change agents and from the most mature startup communities to those in the earliest stages, I want to widen access, break down barriers, and connect entrepreneurs across the world.
I truly believe that Techstars Startup Programs provide the very best inspirational and educational resources founders need to support them along their Entrepreneur’s Journey and I’m excited to work closely with John Beadle (Startup Weekend), Matt Helt (Startup Week), Jessica Ford (Startup Digest), regional directors and managers to strengthen our global impact.
Techstars is committed to continuing to invest and grow startup programs around the world. I am excited to step up to lead those efforts to grow the programs that I love – and changed my life.
Claire Coder is the 19 year old founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. She first pitched Aunt Flow at Startup Weekend in 2015. Shortly afterward, she dropped out of college, picked up a few waitressing jobs, and began work on Aunt Flow full time.
Aunt Flow is a subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Menstruators can go online, customize a box, and have it delivered to their door each month. For every box they purchase, Aunt Flow donates one to a person without access to menstrual products in the US.
I couldn’t spend a weekend pretending that I wanted to code another fitness app. Honestly, the only thing I could think about were the cramps I had from my period. The weekend was Startup Weekend, and I was in my first semester of college.
Growing up, my mom never shied away from sharing with me the realities of life. As an art therapist, she frequently worked with menstruating clients struggling with basic needs. She explained that the women she served often wore plastic bags and multiple layers of clothing to stop the flow. It was easier to soil garments than to get a tampon. I didn’t understand why.
Now, I understand menstrual products aren’t covered by WIC or food stamps. When pressed for money, both menstruators and shelters decide food takes precedence over menstrual products.
It’s one thing to understand. It’s another to ideate, plan, and execute a sustainable solution.
Following Startup Weekend, I dropped out of college, picked up a few waitressing jobs, and went full time on my startup, Aunt Flow. My friends and family were concerned and doubtful. I was 18 years old. It did not matter.
Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Menstruators (and FlowBros and anybody) can go online and subscribe to Aunt Flow for $13/month. They receive a personalized period product box on their doorstep each month, and for every box they buy, we donate one of the same quality to the rotating beneficiary organization of their choice.
In Aunt Flow’s first year of business, I have raised $47,000 via crowdfunding, taken on an employee, been featured in Forbes & Teen Vogue, named best startup in Columbus, gathered over 10,000 pieces to donate, and I am selling 100% cotton tampons and pads all across the United States.
Sounds great, right? That list of accomplishments doesn’t include the all-nighters, weight gain, unpaid hours, and all the time trying to pretend everything was “okay.” But, hey, it’s still pretty great.
Aunt Flow is much larger than a product company – it’s a movement. We seek to ensure ALL menstruators have access to these necessary items, no matter their economic status, gender-identity, or ANYTHING. We’re breaking the taboo on menstruation, because the sooner we aren’t afraid to say the word “period,” the sooner we can get menstrual products into the hands of those that need them.
I tell all new entrepreneurs, “Starting a company is hard. Starting a company that only half the population can truly relate to is even harder. Starting a company surrounding something that no one wants to talk about is f*cking difficult.” But it’s worth it when you have a meaningful drive. For me, success is not a college degree; it is how comfortably you can talk about tampons. Flow forward.
Siguiendo la crisis financiera de 2007 -08, la economía española entró en recesión, y en un ciclo de desarrollo negativo macroeconómico. Esto impactó la manera cómo era visto el emprendimiento en diferentes ciudades alrededor del país, especialmente aquellas que siempre fueron muy tradicionales. Tuve la oportunidad de hablar con Jaime Aranda Serralbo acerca del crecimiento de la comunidad de emprendimiento de Sevilla y su camino como líder de comunidad.
Nacido en Córdoba, pero establecido en Sevilla desde hace muchos años, Jaime ha sido uno de los principales catalizador del movimiento de emprendimiento en esa ciudad. Junto con otro participante de Startup Weekend Córdoba en Diciembre de 2012, fue el primero en llevar Startup Weekend a Sevilla en mayo del 2013. Esta acción– que fue después de abrir un espacio de co-working y ser organizador de más de 120 eventos– fue el inicio de la comunidad, que al día de hoy tiene el record de organización del Startup Weekend más grande de España.
De la recolección de datos que ha hecho, Jaime me cuenta que hay 8 startups y alrededor de 160 trabajos que se han generado gracias a esta comunidad de emprendimiento. Ahora, 3 años después de ese punto inicial, la comunidad de Sevilla, ha creado una organización sin ánimo de lucro que busca apoyar el emprendimiento y la inversión pública y privada en la ciudad, llamada Sevilla UP; con Jaime como su presidente. El objetivo principal de esta organización es ser un foro abierto a la innovación, la colaboración y las ideas que tengan sus socios y participantes.
El primer Startup Weekend, que sucedió en Mayo del 2013, tuvo alrededor de 45 participantes. De ahí se movieron a 160 en el evento organizado durante Global Startup Weekend en 2014. En ese momento, el director de Techstars para Europa, el Medio Oriente y Africa, José Iglesias, sugirió al equipo organizador, hacer eventos verticalizados. En 2015, durante Global Startup Battle de ese año, hicieron su primer evento enfocado en gastronomía y comida, al cual asistieron 50 participantes.
Este año, tendrán la tercera edición de ese tema en Marzo, la segunda enfocada en aeroespacial y la primera enfocada en educación.
Jaime, quien es emprendedor serial, piensa que en el 2017 después de la crisis y con el ecosistema emprendedor de Sevilla creciendo, las startups tendrán más madurez y serán capaces de crear profesionales dentro de sus equipos, proveyendo experiencias invaluables a sus empleados y al mismo tiempo dando valor a la sociedad y el mercado español.
Following the financial crisis of 2007–08, the Spanish economy’s plunged into recession, entering a cycle of negative macroeconomic performance. This impacted the way that entrepreneurship was seen in cities around the country. Specially those that were always very traditional. I got a chance to talk to Jaime Aranda Serralbo about the growth of Sevilla’s entrepreneurial community and his path as Community Leader.
Born in Cordoba, but now living in Sevilla since several years ago, Jaime has been a catalyst within the startup movement in Sevilla. Along with another participant of Startup Weekend Cordoba in late December of 2012, he was the first to bring Startup Weekend to Sevilla on May of 2013. This move, which came after Jaime’s successful opening of the biggest co-working space in the city – WorkINCompany – as well as having already organised around 120 events, was the starting point of the community, which as of today has held the biggest Startup Weekend event in the country – and one of the biggest in Europe.
From his recollection of data, Jaime says there are 8 startups and around 160 jobs that have been created thanks to the thriving community. Now, 3 years after the movement began, the community leaders of Sevilla, have created an non-profit to support entrepreneurship and investment in the city called Sevilla UP; with Jaime as President. This organization aims to be an open forum of collaboration, innovation and ideation.
The first Startup Weekend, the one back in May 2013, had around 45 participants. They went up to host around 160 participants, during 2014’s Global Startup Battle. At that point, Techstars EMEA Director, José Iglesias, suggested that they should start doing verticalized events–focused events in a specific theme/industry. In 2015, during Global Startup Battle, they ran their first thematic Startup Weekend, focused on Food and gastronomy–they had around 50 participants. This year, they will run in March the 3rd edition of that theme, in June their 2nd focused in Aerospace and in July their first focused on Education.
Jaime, who is a serial entrepreneur, thinks after the crisis and with the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem growing, in 2017, startups will become more mature, and will be able to create professionals within their teams, provide valuable experiences for their employees and at the same time provide value to both the society and the Spanish markets. We look forward to following their progress!
We recently held Global Startup Weekend (GSW) to connect entrepreneurs, organizing teams, and startup communities around the world from November 11th – 20th. During the weekend, attendees received access to exclusive resources to help prep for success at Startup Weekend and make connections to mentors and other startup teams. After GSW, we asked founders from the local winning teams to tell us about their experiences. We recently talked with Stefanie Karp, participant of Startup Weekend in Washington, D.C. where her team won first place. Read below to get a behind-the-scenes look into the weekend and their journey to winning.
What is the name of the company you formed at Startup Weekend D.C.?
“Unbound Art” is the name of our company. We came up with the name on Saturday around midnight in a flurry of text messages among our team. We had spent the afternoon brainstorming some pretty awful ideas.
What did you expect going into the weekend?
Mainly, I wanted to learn about the lean startup methodology after it had come up in conversations with two different potential employers. I come from a background of traditional strategic planning with 5-year plans, so this is a radical departure, going out and testing a “half-baked” idea with consumers right off the bat.
I did have a business idea that I had been developing with a friend for 6 months, but until the GSW, that idea only existed in our evening talks while power-walking the streets of our neighborhood.
So your idea is pitched and chosen – what was it like forming a team?
My idea was the last one chosen, I think number eleven out of approximately forty ideas. The recruiting was really tough, as the first few people who interviewed me about my idea decided to pass on working with me.
I started feeling really insecure, thinking I wouldn’t find a team. Luckily, Alyson, a developer, put her name on my sheet immediately when voting began, and then mysteriously left (it turned out later she was sick). So I had only this one “ghost team member,” and people were asking me if she was real!
Then, just before the recruiting ended, Tom, Raj, and Dustin (all General Business types) decided to join the project, and I was super grateful. In retrospect, a team of five, while small, is really ideal. Decision-making was really fast, and we were the epitome of “agile.”
How did you feel about your idea and new company over the weekend?
Truthfully, we were always on the brink of thinking “no way is this going to work,” as we were eliminating customer segments instead of validating them.
One of the coaches pointed out that there is value to knowing who is NOT your target. We then started focusing more on the artists themselves, and the value proposition to them. An artist friend of mine joined our team half-way through Saturday and that helped propel us forward as he became our “archetype.” It helped so much to bring in outside people and their viewpoints along the way.
So the weekend is over – what’s next!?
The team got together via conference call the night after our win; we talked about what each of us wanted out of the startup weekend, and about our expectations going forward. I’m happily surprised that all members are committed to continuing developing the project, and we have a work plan for our next stage of customer validation.
Any tips for others about to head to Startup Weekend?
Definitely study up on the lean startup methodology, so that the concepts are readily available to you. The framework, like the business model canvas tool, really works! It provides focus when you get stuck.
Any other comments?
Your team is ultimately the key to success, not the idea.
Global Startup Weekend was an opportunity for entrepreneurs, like these founders, to begin begin building their innovative ideas. Startup Weekend events continue to happen year-round, around the world, find one near you!
Three years and two weeks ago, I attended my first Startup Weekend. And last week, the business we built that weekend finally launched.
It feels like a good time to reflect on the last three years – and to share some of the things I’ve learned with other budding entrepreneurs who might be where I am in three years’ time (or a bit sooner!)
So here are four ways my life has been different after my Startup Weekend experience:
Less Time Surfing
Which is kind of ironic, because our whole business is based around surfing. But I soon found that running a startup means putting in the hours at the weekends, the evenings, even the early mornings. So pretty much all the times I’d usually be at the beach.
But here’s the thing – it’s all worth it. The excitement of building a business from scratch is a buzz that is (nearly) comparable to riding a big wave.
However, it is important to step away and keep some perspective as well. A bit of time in the ocean is a great way to do this, but whatever you enjoyed doing before starting your business, make sure you make a little time for it afterwards too. (Notice the sub head for this point isn’t No time surfing!)
Better at my Day Job
I came into Startup Weekend a true novice to the entrepreneurial world. I was a copywriter before (and still am for half my working week). But I learned more about marketing and promoting a business in the first six months than I had in the previous five years of my career.
I don’t think this scale of learning is unique to marketers either. Start to run your own business and you’re picking up transferable skills all over the place.
You’ll have a lot more to put on your C.V after launching your own startup. Only problem is, you might never want to be employed again!
I never had any intention of running a startup. But once my idea was selected, I knew I had to run with it.
That meant doing a few things that were not natural to me. Standing up and pitching, for one. Putting on a jacket and going to meetings with potential investors. Networking.
I found that the more you do these things, the easier they become. After a while, I even started to enjoy the experience.
People really aren’t as scary as you think they are!
So take it from me – if I can overcome the nerves of getting up on stage or approaching someone ‘cold’ to ask for help, anyone can. And your business will be all the better for it.
More Ideas than Ever
I don’t remember ever having an idea for a business before I thought up Johnny on the Spot.
But now I’ve been through the process of taking a business from idea to launch – now I’ve spent time learning from other founders, and now I’ve read countless books and articles on building a business – I’m having a new idea every week.
The fundamental principle behind every business is the same – you are finding a better solution for a problem than anything currently available. As an entrepreneur, your outlook changes – you learn to see problems in a different way and to ask ‘How can that be better?’
Learning to focus on just the one idea at a time is important. But constantly looking to improve the status quo is a quality that will serve you beyond the success or failure of any business.
- 2 Full Scholarship to Launch Academy’s Lean Entrepreneur Acceleration Program (LEAP) – $3,000
- 1 Full Scholarship to attend Draper University – $2,000
- 6 Full Scholarships to Launch Academy’s LEAP Online Plus – $1,800
- MLT Western Canada’s Law Firm Services – $2,500
- Sponsorship to any of Spring’s Programs – $800
- 1 Year Pro Account from Wantoo – $600
- 3 Months Full Scholarship to the Venture Acceleration Program – $600
- 5 Days Workspace Access and Mentorship at iQmetrix’s ThinkTank in Gastown with $500 worth of Food & Beverage
- 2 Hours Virtual Mentoring by DraperU team
- 1 Year Blinkist Premium Subscription with full access to the whole library – $79.99
Second Place Prizes $4,900:
- 1 Full Scholarships to Launch Academy’s Lean Entrepreneur Acceleration Program (LEAP) – $1,500
- 4 Full Scholarships to Launch Academy’s LEAP Online Plus – $1,200
- MLT Western Canada’s Law Firm Services – $1000
- Sponsorship to any of Spring’s Programs – $600
- 3 Months Full Scholarship to the Venture Acceleration Program – $600
- 6 Months Blinkist Premium Subscription with full access to the whole library – $49.99
Third Place Prizes $2,800:
- 4 Full Scholarships to Launch Academy’s LEAP Online Plus – $1,200
- MLT Western Canada’s Law Firm Services – $1000
- 3 Months Full Scholarship to the Venture Acceleration Program – $600
- Sponsorship to any of Spring’s Programs – $400
- 3 Months Blinkist Premium Subscription with full access to the whole library – $24.99
- A chance to win a part-time iOS course at Lighthouse Labs – $1500
- 6 Months Pro Account from Wantoo – $600
- $100 off Launch Academy’s LEAP Online – $100
- Start Smart Series seminar vouchers from Small Business BC – $49
- Complimentary Square Reader
- And more…
1.When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?
My very first exposure to the Startup Weekend community was way back in 2012 in Bangkok when I was working for a startup. Two of our team members were asked to mentor at Startup Weekend so I tagged along to see what all the hype was about and I’ve been hooked ever since contributing most recently the past few years as an organizer, facilitator, mentor, and judge.
- What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?
I’m a consultant in the international development sector so I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute to a lot of impactful social and economic development projects throughout the world that influence things like climate finance, education budgeting, literacy, disaster preparation, innovation, etc. Most of my work is for organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, or USAID contractors but I also occasionally work for corporate clients. I don’t really have a lot of free time but when there is I like to get away from congested places and hike for as long as my legs will let me! There’s some great treks within our region like Chiang Dao in northern Thailand, Rinjani in Lombok, and pretty much anything in Nepal is awesome. I’m also a big fan of black and white photography and have a website with my work over the years, bwphotography.org
- What are your bold plans for the future of your community?
That’s the million dollar question! I think about this everyday and to be honest the plans are constantly being refined as the regional edtech ecosystem and community evolves. As we engage the community we’re always finding new ways to bring value to stakeholders and catalyze growth in the edtech sector either through events, capacity building, research, product, programs, data, etc. Startup Weekend definitely plays a big role in this as we’re keen to keep introducing new groups of people throughout the region to entrepreneurship with the intent to solve problems and improve education outcomes. There are so many unique opportunities to have positive impact by empowering others, creating employment, and transforming education, it’s an exciting time in Asia and we’re quite happy to be here helping to make some of these changes happen.