Editions Month Spotlight: When Kids Takeover Startup Weekend

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When you were a kid, what was the closest you got to learning about business and starting a company? Having a lemonade stand, playing Monopoly, mowing lawns? As fun as that was, many of us didn’t have opportunities to be immersed in the real world experience of it. Nowadays, kids have events like Startup Weekend Youth where they can learn firsthand about building a business in just a few days. I wish this type of event was around when I was a kid!

At these events, attendees (usually middle schoolers through high schoolers) get to experience the energy and learnings that come with building an idea with a team. Of course, some things are changed to make it easier for the family schedule and to maintain their focus, but the core content stays the same. They pitch ideas, form teams with (mostly) strangers, and dive into a weekend of hard work. They’re working towards the same thing as adults do at this type of event – impressing the judges on Sunday evening in three categories: Business Model, Customer Validation, and Execution & Design.

I’ve experienced my fair share of Startup Weekend events from being an Organizer and Facilitator, but I have to say my favorite ones are the Youth events. The activity, eagerness, and excitement is steadfast and inspiring. It’s incredible to see the attendees go from pitching their ideas in front of peers (first time for most), to answering tough questions from the judges!

These opportunities are empowering for all the kids involved. Check out the Youth events happening around the world during Startup Weekend Editions Month:

Campeche, Mexico

Tirana, Albania

Recife, Brazil

Accra, Ghana

If there’s an event near you, sign your children up! They may resist giving up their weekend at first, but afterwards you won’t stop hearing about their new skills and the fun they had.

Or, talk to your school about holding one. We’ve seen two events in Seattle held by schools recently and it’s a great way for students and the local community to interact outside the classrooms and learn about entrepreneurship.




Young bloods win big at #SWDub

54 hours later and it’s all over.

We’ve had ideas pitched, teams formed, brain dumped, customers developed, validations made, leads generated, sales made, revenue raised, mentorship recieved, and food consumed.

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No doubt the judges had their jobs cut out for them but after all said and done here are the winners at Startup Weekend Dublin – July 2015 edition.

There was special mention to team FitMyBits for their solution to helping women get the right fit for bras. There were the only team to have made sales over the weekend to the tune of Euro 125.00 from 5 customers.

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In 3rd place – Comrade, an app to help find friends in a new city

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Runner up, PhotoCAD – a simple app helps you convert images taken with your smartphone camera into CAD files

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And the winners of the July 2015 edition of Startup Weekend Dublin is….Book-E, a digital platform that enables users to bet on e-sports.

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Perhaps more impressive is that the team was made up of really young members – 16 & 17 year old with the pitch presented by the former. The team won a trip to Berlin for a large hackathon courtesy of @WelcomeStartup – DCU Ryan Academy.

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Congratulations to all the teams and it was really a close one and many thanks to all who made this happen – volunteers, organizer, mentors, judges, sponsors, facilitator, host, and guests.

Till next time.

@NubiKay
Signing Out.




Pitch Like a Girl

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The Sunday night audience of the recent Startup Weekend Seattle Girls event was different than the usual crowd. It was full of parents, young siblings, and community members beaming with pride and excitement to see the girls’ final demos. This was the final day of a Startup Weekend created just for girls ages 10-15. The event was held at Lake Washington Girls Middle School, and was a first of its kind event focused on young women and showing them the possibilities of Startup Weekend and the world of entrepreneurship.

After the final pitches got started, it was clear how hard they all worked over the weekend. The presentations went smoothly and each girl on each team spoke about a different part of their new app or website. And did I mention how excited the parents were? A Dad’s celebration scream almost scared me right out of my seat when he found out his daughter’s team won!

One of my favorite parts of the day was when the girls were asked, “what did you learn over the weekend?” Their responses were all things I wish I had learned in middle school:

  • revenue streams
  • teamwork
  • task management
  • working under time pressure
  • how to build a website

While the event was wrapping up and the girls were celebrating, I got the opportunity to speak to a parent of one of the attendees, Jeff Sprung of Seattle. One of the awesome parts of Editions Month is hearing from new audiences and demographics – so I wanted to hear his story behind his daughter being involved and hear a parent’s perspective on events like this:

I asked about the motivation behind signing their daughter up for Startup Weekend Girls. It’s a strong message and inspiration for more events like this to happen:

“What’s still holding women back from reaching the very highest levels of professional America today are stereotypes and expectations. These limitations will continue to erode, and Startup Girls propels that erosion. As parents of a girl, we try to kickstart this change by teaching our daughter to reject stereotypes and expectations about who’s in charge and who can be in charge, to take risks and fail and get up and be willing to take risks again, to get in the face of people who deny her opportunity. Giving our daughter the opportunity to learn from experts how to start up a company fits this philosophy perfectly.”

Events with young ages like this need parental support. I talked to him about why experiences like this are important for girls from the parents’ point of view:

“Our economy, our government, and our communities benefit from the unique contributions women make. We want to teach our daughter that she can achieve whatever she wants, and whatever her male classmates can achieve. Given that women in our country earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, we still have a lot of work to do. I think Startup Girls can be part of the solution.”

Overall, the weekend went well and we’re thrilled to hear about learning new skills:

“My daughter worked hard and intensely to achieve what she and her team did over the weekend. This resulted in impressive accomplishments:  a great concept, financial modeling, a website, an app. I think it was eye-opening for her to see the incredibly hard work that goes into starting a new company. My wife and I were blown away by what these middle schools girls could accomplish over a weekend. We were particularly impressed by this generation’s adeptness with technology and new software applications. It far exceeds the skills of their parents’ generation!”

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Here are the final teams from the weekend, great job everyone!

1st place – Warefair

An app to guide customers to clothing retailers that practice ethical and sustainable business choices.

2nd place – Chore Hub

Helping connect neighbors through exchanging chores, easy solution to finding help for the chores you dislike!

3rd place – Monster Cupcakes

An app and website to create custom cupcakes and have them delivered to your door, pick out the flavor, frosting, decorations, etc!

Most Passionate – Pit Souls

A website dedicated to changing the people’s perception of pitbull dogs, inspired by one of the team member’s own dog.

Most Ambitious – Open Door

A website aimed at helping the homeless get back on their feet with a network of resources available online and in their local community.

 

For more information on this event and the organizing team, please visit: http://www.up.co/communities/usa/seattle/startup-weekend/5279

Interested in organizing a Startup Weekend for Girls or Youth? Learn more about bringing it to your community.

 

 




Crafting the Minds of Youthpreneurs in Tampa Bay

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Startup Weekend Tampa Youth allows students to learn and practice the foundational skills of entrepreneurship while collaborating to reach a common goal, taking a business from idea to reality. It sheds a spotlight on the creativity we have right here in our community from an often overlooked source: KIDS. The youth here in Tampa Bay are filled with great ideas and if we can take a page from their book and learn a bit from them along the way, we will have done our job by creating and encouraging the kids’ appetites for entrepreneurship. 

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The Startup Weekend Tampa Youth program is one of the first in the area to embrace this idea of collaboration and engages students in meaningful conversation around the topic of entrepreneurship. It reinforces collaboration, communication and problem solving during the weekend long event. We held our first event in September of 2014, and after the amazing experiences that our team and attendees shared; we knew it had to happen again in the community. One of the coolest experiences from our first event was how well students who barely knew each other formed teams around ideas they felt passionate about to create really unique pitches by the end of the weekend. Yes this happens at every Startup Weekend on Friday night – but seeing kids doing it felt extra special. They got over any fears they had and focused on the ideas and new teammates around them.

tampa3As an elementary school teacher who was introduced to Startup Weekend back in 2010, I have watched participants conjure up the courage to stand up in front of a room full of peers to pitch an idea they believed in. When we heard there was an editions event that focused on bringing this concept to kids, I KNEW I had to be involved on a bigger scale. By teaming with my fellow co-organizers, made up of a mix of educators and entrepreneurs, we found the perfect balance to engaging our younger audience while teaching about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Watching the kids take on roles that we normally see adults struggle with throughout the ups and downs of a Startup Weekend event and make great things happen along the way had to be the coolest part of all.

Some students in our area have access to entrepreneurship and resources, but we have made it our goal to find a way to incorporate a variety of learners and tap into their creative juices. By bringing entrepreneurship to the forefront of their academic experience, we are able to plant the seed in those who are yearning to evolve and foster their creative passions, regardless of demographic, background, or interest. Starting with students who are younger and sharing our knowledge from our experiences will allow them to be less limited in their thought barriers and provide them the big vision ideas they need to grow and mature into young adults. Exposing them to these ideas when they are young will exponentially impact our community as they begin to create and build these novel ideas.

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This is the main reason we chose to tap into this unique demographic here in Tampa Bay. With Tampa emerging as a forefront for tech and entrepreneurship, we want our youth to be part of this evolution by helping guide them in becoming leaders of their generations. It was exhilarating to see budding “youthpreneurs” as we coined them, come to the table with legitimate problems that they had a solution for.

One of our former participants designed an app to help them keep track of how long the bus would take to arrive at their location. This is a problem for kids in our area because Florida gets ridiculously hot during the summers and the weather can be unpredictable during the winters. This app would allow kids to know exactly when to head to their bus stop, thus eliminating the awful and uncomfortable wait time they currently have to endure.

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The group seen above was working on creating a robotic arm that would help lift heavier objects, thus eliminating the need for assistance with carrying things like groceries and other heavy loads. Working with the Youth Edition can be so rewarding when you see it in action. It’s moments like this that motivate us to organize these events.

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When we began the process of organizing these events, our goal was never to make all attendees become entrepreneurs by the end of the weekend. We hoped to see kids become comfortable with other kids who had similar interests and collaborate as they worked through their different problems. We knew we had done something right when students AND parents left wanting more. Right after the final pitches, a Dad from the audience came up and congratulated our team on a job well done. Additionally, he offered to serve as a local sponsor for our next event, which we had not even discussed yet. Seeing support from the parents in the community gave us extra motivation to keep holding this type of event. It gave extra validation that it is a valuable program to families and the community.

Tristan Crawford, a thirteen year old and one of our winners at our first Startup Weekend Youth event said it best: “If you have a business idea and need help with understanding how to start a business, then I know the Startup Weekend Youth course will teach you how to bring your product or business idea to market, and provide you with the support you need after the course. I encourage you to go to the Startup Weekend Youth event when it comes to your town. It is a great learning experience. You will not be disappointed!”

tampa7Our team is excited and ready to hold our next Startup Weekend Youth in Tampa this May. We can’t wait to see the kids that are impacted and the ideas they create over the weekend!

They say “it takes a village to raise a child,” and we are proud to be a part of this village by teaching kids what is truly possible in this world.

 

 

– Nicholas Catania
Startup Weekend Tampa Youth Organizer

 




Leituras recomendadas após um Weekend senscional

Parabéns para todos os participantes! Espero que tenham tido um final de semana incrível. Para continuarem se inspirando recomendamos dois conteúdos incríveis da Academia Sebrae:




Innovation Opportunities for All Ages

Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh, NC
Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh, NC

In our last post, we told you Triangle Startup Weekend Women is partnering with Marbles Kids Museum. Marbles is, “a hands-on, minds-on museum that inspires imagination, discovery and learning through extraordinary adventures in play and larger-than-life IMAX experiences.”

We’re pretty excited about the partnership and think you will be too. What this partnership means is that, while you innovate at TSW Women, your kid(s) can innovate at Marbles…for FREE! Yes, you heard us right, we’ve got FREE passes for your kids to go to Marbles this weekend. Not registered yet? Here’s what you’ll get if you sign up today:

  • Two adult passes per day (Saturday 10/11 and Sunday 10/12)
  • Five kids passes per day (Saturday 10/11 and Sunday 10/12)

When you register, be sure to also register for the Marbles passes. If you’ve already registered and didn’t sign up for the passes, but want to sign up, email us and we’ll get you squared away.

So sign up today for TSW Women and let your spouse, partner, friend or relative take your kid(s) to Marbles. We bet your whole family will be happy with your decision to come to TSW Women!

(Marbles is located at 201 East Hargett Street. Raleigh, NC 27601)

 




Why We're Putting Kids at the Center of the Education Innovation Process

This post was written by Catherine Uong, Co-Founder of Doozey Game, Operations Intern at DevBootcamp, and Program Coordinator of USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

 

On April 11, Startup Weekend Education Mountain View will be turning the spotlight on the people who know most about schools – the kids! New York City launched this youth-centered format earlier this year, but for the first time, the Bay Area will be creating a space for both middle school kids and adults to collaborate and bring kid-centric ideas about education to life!

Curious as to why it’s important to involve kids in the education innovation process, I went ahead and interviewed Chris Chiang, the Lead Organizer for the event, a history teacher and technologist at Sacred Heart Middle School, and a School Board Trustee for the Mountain View Whisman School District.

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Why is it important to give middle school kids the opportunity to play a leading role in the 54-hour event?

After my experience at participating in Startup Weekend Education, I wanted students to get involved too. Students often find startups and technology intimidating. So I felt it was the right time to get kids introduced to the space. Many kids have lived around these tech companies their whole lives but have no idea how they work. By letting them participate in a Startup Weekend Education, we can give kids a window into this world.

I think it’s important to have youth at the center of this event, because the student-teacher relationship is a reciprocal relationship. We can help introduce kids to STEM and entrepreneurship, but also help introduce adults to what kids know about schools.

Also, it’s more clear than ever that kids want to do something like this. For our event, we capped our student tickets at 60, but we sold out of those tickets in less than 48 hours. It’s a sign that kids want to get actively involved in building solutions for education!

In startups, we often talk about the user and user validation. Who knows schools better than students? I think the tech community can really benefit from having the student voice present to answer the question: “What would kids do?” By having the kids create the educational solutions that they would use, I think it will be a meaningful learning experience for everyone involved.

 

How were middle schoolers recruited for the event? And why middle schoolers, instead of high schoolers?

2010 CeBIT Technology Fair Many of our principals and educators reached out to kids at their schools to participate in the event. We wanted to get the kids that didn’t put limits on themselves yet. High schoolers often times have pre-existing notions, as many adults do, that may inhibit how “out-of-the-box” they’re willing to think. So we decided to reach out to middle schoolers, an age group we thought would be more apt to really thinking creatively.

 

What is your vision for how your event will impact the greater Startup Weekend Education community?

A model has not yet been created for getting kids involved at Startup Weekend Education, so we would like to test things out and see what works for both kids and adults. Eventually, I would love to see the educational community outside of Mountain View utilize this model that we create.

Find Out How It Goes

You can get play-by-play updates on Chris’s kid-focused Startup Weekend Education event taking place this weekend by following the action on Twitter.

 




Startup Weekend Kids Comes to Giaudrone Middle School

Kids have no limits when it comes to thinking outside the box. A swimming pool made of rubber? An oven in your car? How about a body-pillow that massages you?

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Along with help from MOZ and Started in Seattle, I was able to organize a one-of-a-kind Startup Weekend (SW) on Saturday, Dec. 7th., deemed “Startup Saturday.”

Twenty middle-schoolers showed up to the one-day SW event at Giaudrone Middle School, prepared with pitches in hand. Like their elder entrepreneurial counterparts, they articulated their business ideas to a room full of their peers, and then to a panel of judges.

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The judges included: Zeek Edmond, Giaudrone’s principal; Michael Gilbert, a Giaudrone teacher; Kathleen Cooper, a business writer with The News Tribune in Tacoma; and Andrew McDonald, executive vice president of Columbia Bank.

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My mother, Roselee Sauser, is a teacher at Giaudrone, and played an integral part in organizing the event on behalf of the students. Leading up to Startup Saturday, she hosted several after-school crash courses on startups, prototype brainstorming, and pitching. The event demonstrated the importance of good ideas, but emphasized the idea that success comes from teamwork and commitment – evidenced by a student who was too shy to pitch initially, but eventually won first place at Startup Saturday.

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Above all, the event emphasized that sometimes it’s not so much about the idea as it is about the team and the passion — as a young girl who was too shy to pitch initially ended up winning First Place at Startup Weekend Kids.

1st Place | Comfort Pillow; a customizable body-pillow that you can control from your smart phone. Adjust different massage and heat levels, different colors and patterns, and choose music based on your mood.

2nd Place | Help Me Out; an app that “helps you out”! Targeted towards the blind, this app will troubleshoot issues that disabled people face on a daily basis.

Runner-ups:

  • Ultra Pool
  • Engine Oven
  • Zone In
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Check out this video highlighting Startup Saturday Kids!




Kids Launch the Darnedest Companies

This article was written by Dwight Battle and was originally posted here

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Last year at a Startup Weekend, I was introduced to the most amazing six-year-old entrepreneur, Ashwin. We worked together on his product, Gap Tooth Stickers. After I wrote about it here on the blog, the story blew up, and Ashwin became a bit of a celebrity-news appearances, and calls from Shark Tank and national talk shows. Personally, I got emails from folks inside of Google, all the way to entrepreneurs from the UK and China. It was pretty incredible.

So when Ashwin’s mother reached out to ask me to be a mentor at the first-ever Startup Weekend: Youth Edition, I jumped at the chance.

On Saturday, I headed down to City Hall, not really knowing what to expect. Circumstances had kept me from catching up with the organizers of the event, so I was going in blind. I had a rough idea of the day’s format, but I figured my job was to show up, drink some coffee, and watch some kids bounce around some wacky ideas for a few hours.

Boy, was I wrong.

“This is a safe environment for crazy ideas.”

The idea of SWYE was to give the kids a compressed Startup Weekend experience

Team Magink
Team Magink

along with a few improv sessions to spark their imagination and some group discussions with some entrepreneurs. We quickly learned that wasn’t going to fly-these kids were here to work.

After initial introductions and a brief keynote, we began asking the entrepreneurs for business ideas. Some of them were silly (Yelp for restrooms), some of them were incredible (a deep sea diving apparatus to test lava from the center of the earth), and some of them were blindingly how-is-this-not-already-a-thing obvious (a stock market geared to kids). Some of them were feasible businesses, and some of them weren’t, but all of them were easily as good as anything I’ve seen pitched at a “normal” Startup Weekend.

The great thing about kids is they don’t let their imaginations get shackled by the limitations of the real world. A lot of the ideas came from places adults wouldn’t consider-one young girl pitched an idea of an app that enables latchkey kids to check in with their parents when they’re headed home from school. A team of teenage boys pitched an ink that disappears over time so that their textbooks wouldn’t be ruined. A rather brilliant 11-year old girl pitched an idea to make remembering your tests and study groups easier, and came ready to code the thing herself. Ashwin pitched an idea of a video game that teaches kids how to make video games, complete with a sketch of the interface. Any of those ideas would fit in at an “adult” Startup Weekend, but not many of those would have come from the minds of adults.

The entrepreneurs split into teams, and again, there was some concern that the kids might not work well together, or be shy, or get upset that their idea wasn’t choses, or would let one strong personality take over the group. But just about none of that happened. The kids worked well together. Kids who came in a group welcomed new kids into the group, and the older kids didn’t overpower the younger kids. There weren’t any cliques, or any “cool group”, as far as I could tell. They all came together with the singular goal of working on a common goal. Quite frankly, we adults could learn a lot from them.

I wound up working primarily with two teams; in the morning, I worked with Magink, a temporary ink that fades over time. The idea came from two teenagers, Chris and Blake*, who were frustrated that after spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks (they have to pay for them now! In middle school!), that the value of them plummets at the end of the year if they write in them. And the administration frowns on them selling their books to other students. Their idea was to create, patent, and sell an ink that would automatically fade to blank at three-, six-, or nine-month intervals. The use cases quickly grew beyond teenage notetakers, and we realized that while we had a pretty broad market, it would be best to focus on the use case that Chris and Blake were the most comfortable. I worked primarily with them on their final pitch, but the younger entrepreneurs jumped right in and chipped in to help define their problem, detail their solutions, and validate their assumptions. I even helped two of the girls, Nina and Alicia, come up with ideas for their logo.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

The second team presented an interesting challenge. I found myself staring down an unexpected foe-one that would challenge every fiber of my being. A foe that would question every core belief I’ve made in my fourteen-year career.

Teenage girls.

Team StudyBuddy
Team StudyBuddy

StudyBuddy is an Evernote-lite, note-taking app for students. It would enable students to record their classes, and add bookmarks and footnotes that are tied to the timecode. Their goal was to build a lean, focused note-taking app that did one thing, and one thing well. Early in the afternoon, it seemed like we wouldn’t get to this point-these were five preteen girls who spent the first hour bickering, and there was one preteen, Ellie, who was clearly more advanced than the others, and had no problems letting everyone-including me-know it. We weren’t getting anywhere-it was starting to remind me of my first Startup Weekend experience. The other girls were getting frustrated, myself and the other mentor were getting frustrated, and, perhaps by divine intervention, everyone took a break.

While I was working with another team, one of the girls came up to me, and asked me a question. Then another one. Then before I knew it, the five of us and I were just talking, and I found out a little about them. April was shy, but she liked to draw. Sara liked to dance. Ellie was quite the little mastermind with coding Java and HTML, a feat I remain completely impressed by, as I can’t code my way out of a paper bag. Once we started communicating, the girls got super engaged, and things started progressing quickly. I quickly tasked the girls with duties-Ellie, now our CTO, started writing out the code for our website (by hand. Really). I named April our Creative Director, and she wrote it down on her piece of paper, and looked up at me with the biggest smile I’d seen all day, one that will probably melt my heart whenever I think about it the rest of my career. Stephanie pitched the original idea, so she was our CEO. Brynn spent the day figuring out pricing, so she was our COO. And Sara? She had the most important role of all-Chief Dance Officer. And she owned it.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing day. I got to spend some time with Ashwin, who now insists I call him Boss, and who proudly calls me his first employee. Although I think my main job is resetting his digital watch every time he messes it up. I got to work with some outstanding young entrepreneurs, who inspired me to look at my career with fresh eyes. I’m thankful to the organizers for putting it together, and humbled that they saw me as someone who could provide guidance and mentorship to this group of extraordinary young entrepreneurs. I can’t wait for the next one.

 

(*Names changed to protect the underaged.)

 




"Live Warfare": How One 15-year-old Surprised Everyone at SW Tampa

15-year-old Nathan Eyal recently attended Tampa Startup Weekend. Despite being the youngest at the event, Nathan surprised everyone – including some who had doubted him initially – with the most successful startup at the end of the weekend. He shares his story below.

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 I came out of Startup Weekend standing up taller and knowing now that just because I am 15 doesn’t mean I can’t have a kick butt idea and a real business!

Sweat dripping from my forehead, I made a split-second decision to push forward toward my opponent.   With my finger on the trigger, I quickly kept shooting as I dove through the air, landing behind the next bunker.  The referee rushed in to check my opponent and as I watched, he signaled that I had hit my opponent and he was out.  My team had won the paintball competition!

As we drove home, I sat in pure exhaustion thinking about how much I loved paintball; the tactics, the physical challenges, and the pure rush of the game.  I sat there wishing there was another way to experience the same things that make me love paintball but without the long distance commutes and expensive costs of the sport .  My brother and I had laser tag guns, but they didn’t register hits properly and the easy cheating took the fun out of the game (and would nearly cause WWIII between my brother and me).  Airsoft had similar problems with no way to verify hits and the expense.

The search was on for a paintball style mobile application.  I searched, but virtually no apps existed in this field, and the few that I found were inaccurate and impractical for real play.  They used inaccurate hit detection such as shirt color which caused many false hits and wouldn’t pick up head shots or other body hits outside of the torso area.

So I went to my dad and we started brainstorming about various ways to make a practical paintball-style app.  This evolved into app ideas for a real-life FPS game with many functions and game styles.  “Wouldn’t it be great,” I said, “to be able to play games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield with friends in real life instead of sitting around playing video games for hours (like my friends and I often got yelled at for doing).  “Go outside and play and get some exercise,” my parents would say.   How could my dad resist helping me with my idea now if it would get me to do exactly what my parents always yell at me to do?!

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I became obsessed with this idea and spent every waking moment outside of school working on it, except for some food and breaks and when nature called.  I was lucky enough to attend a forward thinking school called the Ampersand school where the teaching method enabled me to weave my interests into my curriculum.  Eventually, I had an opportunity to enter a school entrepreneurship competition set up much like the popular TV show, Shark Tank.  I ended up winning my division which inspired me more to continue my pursuit of the idea.  My dad was helping me when he had time outside of work, but I now needed a team that could help create a minimum viable product to test the idea further.  My dad and I believed in it so much that we signed up for Startup Weekend Tampa with the goal to find a team to help us.

Friday afternoon, we reached the USF campus and started feeling the hussle and bussle of the competition with a line of cars being directed by pink-shirted college students.  As we entered the hall to sign in, the atmosphere was electric. I was nervous, but very excited.  Everyone is a college student or a business professional.  I was by far the youngest person in the room.  The fact that I have a baby face just exacerbated the problem.

As we waited for the event to kick off, I chatted with the people around me, hoping to find an app developer who may be interested in helping our cause.  Wouldn’t you know it, the person to my left is a developer who graduated from Harvard, “you know, the one in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” he said.  Luckily he wasn’t extending his bottom chin as he said it and left out the “dear boy” from his sentence.  He placated me with a few words after hearing my idea, then engaged in a discussion with a competing team in the row behind us.  “Guess I’m too young or too green for him,” I thought.

In the front of the room sat a poster-sized paper pad with a list numbered 1 through 30. People were signing up to present their competition ideas.  We had never seen these types of presenters so we signed up for position number 25 thinking it would give me more time to fine tune the pitch by watching the others.  Position 29 was open, but we were afraid they might flip the list and make the higher-numbered positions go first.  That concern evaporated as the list kept growing longer.  As more people signed up, the list grew to 40, then 45, before it finally wrapped up in the low 50’s.

“Welcome to Startup Weekend,” a vivacious college student announced.  “This is it, we’re starting,” I said to dad.  Then they put up a slide with a few bullets about what the pitch should include.  This isn’t the way I rehearsed it. Watching the other presentations was like riding a roller coaster.  It was entertaining, exciting, and scary.  “We should change the pitch,” I told dad.”  “It’s a slightly different format, but the same basic information,” he said.

As our position grew nearer, my excitement turned into nervousness.  With the new format, the pitch got muddy in my head.  They called our number to the line where we’d have a few more minutes before the pitch. My excitement from before now started turning into anxiety.  “You know your stuff,” said dad. “Just tell them about you and your idea.”

We took the stage and the iPad timer started counting down.  “I’m Nathan Eyal, and I love playing paintball,” I started.  The crowd responded with some reassuring cheers and “Woohoos!”  That took some of the tension off, and helped me crank through the rest of the pitch.  The clock ticked down to zero and we were done.  As we walked off the stage, the crowd’s cheers and applause made it sound like people really liked it.  I didn’t know if it was just a nice group of people being supportive of the “little kid” or if they really liked the idea, but either way, it made me feel great.

After the initial round of cuts, we were still in!  Now came the time for the various people there donating their time and talents to choose which business idea they were going to work on.  Obviously, being that our idea was an app, programmers were critical to its continued development. As we sat at the table, just my dad and I, waiting and hoping a programmer would choose us, my dad said, “You know, Nathan, if we don’t get any programmers on our team, it will be impossible to make any real progress and win Startup Weekend.”  I looked at him and said, “I’ll be right back.”

As he tells people, “out of only a handful of app programmers at the event, that little stinker came back with not one, but two programmers he had convinced to work on his business idea!”  Once we got two programmers, three more support people ended up joining.  It was a grueling weekend of hardcore work from morning till night.   Seven of us brainstormed and worked on the app in the same room all weekend, only stopping for bathroom breaks and a few hours of sleep.  Even meals were brought in to us so we could continue working.   We only had until Sunday evening to get the Live Warfare prototype app and business model developed and tested enough for the final presentation.

Sunday evening came quickly and the team pushed for me to be the primary presenter.  Matt, one of the developers, presented the two slides on the backend structure, dad presented a couple of slides on our pivots, and I presented the rest.  At the third or fourth slide, I tripped up a bit, leading to a mini internal panic.  I turned toward the slide pretending to address one of the points, but really trying to gather myself quickly.  Soon I was back in stride and pushed through the rest of the presentation relatively comfortably.

Then came the question and answer period.  I could tell my dad was eager to answer the judges questions, but I made sure to jump in since I definitely knew the answers to their questions.  After the last question, we got a huge round of applause and walked off the stage to a line of high-fives from audience members sitting by the isle.  What an amazing feeling of support and camaraderie!

Like most teenagers, the money and prizes were initially exciting, but the connections we made, the quality feedback we received to improve the idea, and the validation I received were worth far more than any money or prizes. 

The presentations wrapped up and we waited impatiently for the results.  Luckily my team members had a great sense of humor that helped ease the tension of the moment.  The judges returned and started announcing the winners.  When we didn’t get 3rd or 2nd place I thought, on one hand, “who would really pick a 15 year old kid’s idea over all these adults, including Harvard graduates’ ideas?”  But then I thought, who wouldn’t?!  Everyone in this room would want to be playing this game right now if they could.  “And in first place,” the man announced…my heart pounding hoping to hear my company’s name…”Live Warfare!”  We did it!  We had won first place!  We won some money and prizes, but mostly we won validation!  Like most teenagers, the money and prizes were initially exciting, but the connections we made, the quality feedback we received to improve the idea, and the validation I received were worth far more than any money or prizes.  I came out of Startup Weekend standing up taller and knowing now that just because I am 15 doesn’t mean I can’t have a kick butt idea and a real business!

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Learn more about the next Startup Weekend Tampa or find a Startup Weekend in your area!  Don’t see a SW in your city? Learn more about Organizing one here