Startup Weekend Education: Why Participate?

Startup Weekend Education is an fun innovative, community-building event that brings together innovators & doers of all backgrounds including educators, parents, students, designers, software developers, marketers, and other enthusiasts to start companies (or launch ideas)  that solve real problems in education in just 54 hours. The participants that attend have 60 seconds to make a pitch (optional), the pitches are whittled down to the top ideas, and then teams form around the ideas to come out with several developed companies or projects. Finally, the weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors.

Here are the top eleven, starting with EDUCATION specifically:

Education in the U.S. (and many places in the world) may be one of the human rights issues of our time. Kids deserve access to an excellent education. Education as an entrepreneurial space has recently gained much traction and interest, including interest and backing from the venture and incubator community, but there’s still much work to be done with not enough bright spots of success. We believe that if we bring you — our educators, students, designers, developers, business people – together and help facilitate your collaboration in new and innovative ways, we can help contribute to the growing movement to close the achievement gap.

Education/professional development:
Startup Weekend Educations are all about learning through the act of creating. Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.

Build your network:
This isn’t just a happy-hour. Startup Weekend Education attracts your community’s best makers and do-ers. By spending a weekend working to build scalable products that solve real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships and possibly walk away with a job or a even an investor.

Co-founder dating:
We all know it’s not just about the idea – it’s about the team. Startup Weekend Education is hands down the best way to to find someone you can actually launch a startup with.

Learn a new skill:
Step outside of your comfort zone. With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are prefect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just try something different.

Actually launch a business:
Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months. There are so many companies that have come out of Startup Weekend Education and are still thriving today.

Get face time with thought leaders:
Local education, tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekend Educations as mentors and judges. Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.

We cover what you need for the weekend (and it can pay off for long after):
Your ticket covers seven meals, snacks, access to exclusive resources, possible swag, all the coffee you can drink, and more.

Join a global community:
Join over 193,000 Startup Weekend alumni, all on a mission to change the world.

Who you’ll meet at Startup Weekend EDU
Startup Weekend EDU’s mix is roughly 25% educator/education space, 25% developers and coders, 25% designers, and 25% business/marketing. Everyone wants to make a difference in the lives of learners. Some participants attend an event to network, more to learn a new skill, others attend to develop/build a product, and some attend to learn how to create a new venture. Many attendees plan on continuing to work on their product after the weekend.


If you’re ready to take your next step…
It’s time to register now for our latest Techstars Startup Weekend Education San Francisco event on October 19-21.


This article was revised from a previous article published in 2011 on the SF SWEDU blog.


Startup Weekend EDU “Cheat Code” From Our Friends At EdSurge

(This article was republished from a previous post from 2012 on the SWEDU SF blog that is STILL relevant)

Here’s a great guest blog post by our friends at EdSurge. Heed their shared wisdom, as they’ve been a part of every Startup Weekend EDU… and countless other great education and educational technology initiatives!

Good for you for taking the entrepreneurial plunge! Startup Weekend-­‐EDU promises to be an exhilarating, mind-­‐expanding, and yes, exhausting experience. Expect to learn about lean startups, about project management, and about working with teammates (most of whom may be strangers). The journey really counts here. And of course, you’ll get to network with others interested in edtech entrepreneurship.

So to help you make the most of it, EdSurge, your handy-­‐dandy source for what’s happening in edtech, has pulled together the wisdom of some smart folks and compiled this Cheat Code for you. Many thanks to our experts, including:

  • Justin Su, an entrepreneur with Goalbook and consultant with Stellar K12
  • Frank Catalano, author, consultant with Intrinsic Strategy, and veteran 
analyst of digital education and consumer technologies
  • Audrey Watters, technology journalist, blogger for HackEducation
  • Betsy Corcoran, Co-Founder of EdSurge


Top Ten Tips for Triumphing at Startup Weekend EDU

  1. Bring: several ideas, an open mind, flexibility and an extra toothbrush.
  2. Plan to pitch an idea: This isn’t a spectator sport.
  3. Be willing to morph: if your idea isn’t lighting up people, jump to a team 
that sounds more promising.
  4. Do some homework before you come about the “EDU” part. Expect to 
validate your market.
  5. Learn from the educators.
  6. Use the mentors -­-­ but wisely.
  7. Get to know the judges.
  8. Practice your pitch. Practice your pitch. Practice….
  9. Network: Bring business cards and contact info.
  10. Have fun!

Top Ten Tips for Triumphing at StartupWeekendEDU (extended play version)

1. Bring: several ideas, an open mind, flexibility and an extra toothbrush.

Startup Weekend EDU is a DIY ideafest. Bring raw but interesting ideas. It can be an idea that you’ve tried out on some friends. What you should leave at home: an ironclad determination to find “code monkeys” who will build your vision. You’re in learning mode here: expect to end the weekend with some radically different ideas than the ones you brought with you. And yes, although you are likely to get home to sleep, you’ll be spending a lot of time in a relatively small room-­‐-­‐so mind your hygiene!

2. Plan to pitch an idea: This isn’t a spectator sport.

Pitching is part of the learning experience: You will learn a lot about your idea and yourself if you are brave enough to stand up and pitch an idea. Ideas love company, so arrive with several. Even if an entrepreneurial enterprise isn’t fully thought out, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pitching. Sometimes, simply hearing others pitch may change or crystallize one worthwhile concept out of two or three in your head.

3. Be willing to morph: if your idea isn’t lighting up people, jump to a team that is sounds more promising.

Past Startup Weekend EDUs suggest that between two to three times as many ideas get pitched as wind up with teams. Listen carefully to the rest of the pitches. Who would you enjoy getting to know this weekend? Who has an idea that clicks with what you know about education? Successful entrepreneurs share one particular trait: they are enormously persistent, with a fail-­‐and-­‐try-­‐again mentality. If your pitch doesn’t win fans, you’ll likely get inspired to rework and improve the idea, or think up a different idea that’s way better. Or you may end up working with such an awesome team during the weekend that you join them. Either way, as long as you’re fully engaged, you will learn-­‐-­‐and that is why you’re here.

4. Do some homework before you come about the “EDU” part. Expect to validate your market.

The biggest single failing of edtech entrepreneur wanna-­‐bes is naïveté about the edtech market. “Education” is not a single market even if it’s all lumped into one Startup Weekend. There are big differences between customers and buying behavior across K-­‐12, higher education, continuing education and lifelong learning. 
So do a little homework (flip through past copies of EdSurge) or come with allies. Bring an educator, instructor of professor along for the weekend. Let people know you’re attending a SWEDU and find out if you can call, tweet or contact them on Saturday for input. Customer validation is golden: if you can reach a group of educators or students on a Saturday, you will be a very valuable player on any team and make many friends. 
Once your team gets rolling, be ready to validate the idea. If you can’t demonstrate value to customers, the judges will tear you apart. Such validation will improve your idea, too: Justin recalls how a mentor once directed his team to prove its business model could really hold up. “We cold-­‐called and interviewed a dozen potential ‘customers’ and half of them told us straight up they wouldn’t pay. We ended up retooling our business model and our pitch was much stronger in the end (and the judges commented on how they liked our market validation).”

5. Learn from the educators.

You remember being a student? Guess what: that doesn’t count as “on the ground” experience in the classroom. Customers also have to be willing to pay for products. Use StartupWeekend as an opportunity to meet school leaders and teachers and learn from them. In many cases, they are likely to be your customers and users. And the difference between your perspective and their’s might surprise you. Remember, they are breathing their school and interacting with the “digital natives” every day.

6. Use the mentors -­-­ but wisely.

The mentors can be amazingly helpful. They can also be distracting. Use them thoughtfully. Read all of their bios beforehand and understand their expertise. Proactively reach out to them when you want help in their areas. Mentors will often offer advice on every aspect of your idea: after talking with five or six, you might feel more at sea than when you started. Think of their advice as data points. Remember that when it comes to the actual core problem you’re trying to solve, you and your team probably know more about it than anyone else in the room.

7. Get to know the judges.

The judges will probably be hanging around for part of the weekend prior to the pitch competition-­‐– so talk to them! Get their thoughts on what you’re working on.

This isn’t about gaming the system-­‐-­‐it’s about getting very relevant feedback. If the judges are making themselves available and are willing to give advice, you should definitely reach out to them.

8. Practice your pitch. Practice your pitch. Practice….

The pitch matters. The last thing you want is to spend 54 hours doing everything right, fleshing out an awesome idea and building a sweet prototype only to deliver a mediocre pitch that doesn’t get anyone excited. Start working on the PowerPoint early. Keep refining it through the weekend. Practice delivering your pitch to anyone who’ll listen. The little things matter: pace of speech (don’t go too fast), eye contact, confidence, enthusiasm. Get constructive feedback and keep practicing. If you’re really brave, video yourself. Watching yourself will feel intensely awkward and embarrassing but nothing will drive the points home harder. Also plan for what might go wrong: do you have something to say if your slides have to be rebooted?

There are infinite ways to deliver an effective pitch. Be yourself. Everyone has his or her own style. Go with your strengths and your own personal style. Authenticity counts. Likeability does, too: Who wants to give money to jerk?

Devote one slide to your team: If you can convince the audience that you and your team are the best ones to tackle the problem and you’re worth listening to, then they will be that much more attentive to everything else you say. So start there – convince everyone in the audience that you are the shiznit and grab our attention!

9. Network: Bring business cards and contact info.

The people you meet during Startup Weekend EDU will become a lifelong resource for you. These are future co-­‐founders, employees, employers, mentors, advisors, partners, investors or friends. Carry business cards; share your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. You won’t want to forget-­‐-­‐or be forgotten-­‐-­‐by these people.

10. Have fun!

OK, even though this sounds a bit rah-­‐rah it’s true: enthusiasm will help carry the day. You’ve come to this event to find your passion and figure out what to do about it. Be passionate. As long as you’re enjoying the ride, you’re probably doing the right thing. Besides, these events are as addicting as potato chips: you’ll be back for more!



Are you ready to do this? It’s time to register now for our latest Techstars Startup Weekend Education San Francisco event on October 19-21.