I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “I have an idea…” or “what if…”. Unfortunately, most of the time, it stops there. You get back to your life, caught up in the day to day challenges of just getting through your regular routine. You realize that as much as you love your idea, even if you had most of the skills needed to implement it, you would have to give up too much of your most valuable asset to make it happen: time. Yet occasionally, once in a while in spite of all that, we see ideas and “what if’s” turn into something real. In fact, every once in a great while, they even change the world. How does this happen?
As the Founder of a tech startup in Houston, I ask myself this question on a regular basis. What is the blueprint for success? What are the key ingredients to really making it work? The stories from idea to success are as varied as the ideas themselves. However, there is one key ingredient in every story without exception. Any guesses? The answer is so obvious, we often overlook it. People.
You can’t get around it, and there are no exceptions. I’m a big fan of project-based learning (learning by doing), and one thing we all know is that to get good at any team sport takes practice. Not just practice on your own, but practice playing with an actual team.
Playing with others is a very different dynamic than just sharpening your individual skills. It isn’t just working together, it’s defining roles, getting a feel for your own strengths and weaknesses, and finding inspiration through contributing and furthering the objectives of the whole. It’s learning when to pass the ball. It’s being “in the zone.”
Yet, there’s no real outlet for this when it comes to growing innovative ideas. We have lots of talented and skilled people, no doubt about it, but where can you go to get that kind of practice and experience to formulate a new idea and make it into something by working together with others? How do you get practice on a team? It’s almost like being a musician when you’re not in a group. Where do you go to play in an actual band?
Now there’s an opportunity. In Startup Weekend Education, a non-profit initiative of Education Entrepreneurs and Up Global, participants from all walks of life come together for one weekend to pitch individual ideas that help solve problems and improve outcomes for learning, and then everyone votes collectively to choose the most popular ones.
Teams of people with complimentary skill sets are then formed around each chosen idea. Each team works together to develop a business plan, go to market strategy, presentation, and demo or prototype of the product or service, and then refines their story and pitch. All this happens in 54 hours, with the help of some of the community’s most experienced experts, entrepreneurs and mentors in education and innovation coaching the teams.
The event ends with a pitch competition on Sunday evening, with top education innovation investors, influencers, and leaders in Houston acting as judges. In fact, just having so many representatives from the local startup and education communities all in one place is in and of itself a rare opportunity.
What’s even more amazing though, is that Houston is not alone. The participants at this Houston event will actually be kicking off the largest startup competition in the world: Global Startup Battle. This event takes place worldwide in over 250 cities from November 14th-24th, and all Startup Weekend Education participants are automatically included. That means that everyone who participates in Houston Startup Weekend Education will also be competing globally for amazing prizes, including ringing the bell at NASDAQ. Now that’s cool!