With just 9 days away, we’re full steam ahead for our event and rallied several experts in the fields of entrepreneurship, data science, and software development. Behold!
Co-Founder, President, Chief Scientist
Data Research Analyst
Strategy Director, Co-Founder
Chief Technology Officer
Executive Vice President of Strategy
CEO and Co-Founder
Developer Platform Evangelist
9 Mile Labs
Lead Software Development Engineer
Co-Founder, Front-End Developer
Mehar Pratap Singh
CEO and Co-Founder
CEO and Co-Founder
Thank you to everyone who volunteered to support this event!
Tickets are selling out soon! Go here to RSVP: swseads2016.eventbrite.com
Interested in sponsoring? Contact Lee Ngo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, there! Startup Weekend Seattle: Data Science is moving right along!
With half of our tickets sold and a month left until May 20th, we’re projecting to sell out!
Promotional codes still available!
In return for the support from the following entities, we’re offering promo codes at 50% off for up to 10 people:
Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA)
The WTIA has graciously written a post about our efforts! Read more here:
Claim the WTIA discount with “WTIA” or go here:
New Tech Northwest
Long-time friends of the Puget Sound community, New Tech is supporting our promotional efforts as well.
Claim the New Tech Northwest discount with “NEWTECHNW” or go here:
Our local news source for all things startup and technology, GeekWire has graciously promoted us on their active website.
Claim the GeekWire discount with “GeekWire” or go here:
This and many other promotions currently available will expire in less than one week by April 30! Claim your tickets soon and join the fun!
New Bronze Sponsor: Algorithmia!
We’re grateful to add another sponsor to the mix! For the uninitiated, Algorithmia is an open marketplace for algorithms, to help data scientists and developers monetize their brilliant creations.
Thank you, Algorithmia! For more questions about our event, email us at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to register! Follow this link or sign up below: swseads2016.eventbrite.com
Startup Weekend Seattle: Data Science
After attending 15 Startup Weekends over the course of four years (wow, that’s both impressive and embarrassing), I’ve noticed a pattern in the ideas worked on during the 54-hour worldwide phenomenon of a startup competition:
Everyone thinks they know how to work in big data, but few people know how to actually do it.
Many startups begin their companies based on what they know (stop me if you haven’t heard one of these at a Startup Weekend before):
- User-driven advertising campaigns (i.e. the Facebook model)
- Freemium-premium subscription models (i.e. the Pandora model)
- Commission-based transactions on demand (i.e. the Uber model)
- Software-as-a-service directly to enterprises (i.e. the B2B model)
What Startup Weekend newbies fail to realize is that there is a fruitful underlying approach to modeling their technology, even among startups: tapping into the enormous collection of data collected by all of these apps. This data can be re-structured in ways to create meaningful, valuable insights for some particularly interested entities.
However, what is the difference between meaningful and non-meaningful data, and how can that be commercialized within the confines of a weekend competition? Enter the data scientist.
Data science is the hottest field in software technology right now. Even the companies listed above are applying themselves more in the data science sectors, improving upon their predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms. Whenever technology hits the news, it’s due to some experimentation in artificial intelligence or improved automation: all of which extend from the field of data science.
Thus, I have been inspired for a while to do a data science-themed event, one that creates an entire category specifically for data scientists to participate and work with the standard developers, designers, and non-technical entrepreneurs.
I want the broader startup community to discover the direction the high tech industry is taking while exposing data scientists to the fun and excitement of entrepreneurship.
Perhaps it’s time for Startup Weekenders to focus less on what’s already been done and more on what everyone wants them to do: innovating in the space of big data.
In just a few weeks, we already have the support of the following groups:
Galvanize is an education company providing support for developers, data scientists, and entrepreneurs at several campuses throughout the U.S.
LIFFFT is a product development acceleration service that help customer-focused organizations learn more, build faster, and experiment at lower risk.
ProCogia is a technology firm that takes out the ambiguity from decision making by providing timely actionable insights from analysis of your data.
New Tech Northwest is one of the largest community-driven technological resources in the Pacific Northwest area, hosting monthly meetups and engaging content.
Washington Technology Industry Association is the state’s ‘fixed point’ for the technology community, mobilizing industry, education and government to make the region the leading technology community in the world.
We are still looking for support to keep costs low and encourage others from underrepresented communities to participate. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help.
Join us in this grand experiment of taking Startup Weekend into the future with data science.
Startup Weekend Seattle: Data Science
Each of my previous facilitations have been special in their own right:
- My first in NYC, shadowing the EDU vets on how to run a proper Startup Weekend,
- Orlando, where I had a blast participating in the first ever college education edition,
- Miami Diversity, the Startup Weekend version of a Spanish-language telenovela, and
- Triangle Trailblazers, where diversity is a prime directive, not an afterthought.
This next event may surpass them all – Portland is and always will be my hometown. I was born in Oregon City and went to school in the Beaverton School District, graduating from Southridge High School. (I’d rather not say when because, well, I’m old.)
Leading up to the event, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “home”, especially as I’ve recently claimed a new one after moving to Seattle.
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Pittsburgh: Where I Found Myself (and just a few months before 30 – whoo!)
Before moving in August, I lived in Pittsburgh for three amazing years. I had just married my brilliant (and crazy-tolerant) wife, and other than striving to be the best husband possible, I had no idea what to do with my life … until I discovered Startup Weekend.
From that intense, eye-opening 54-hour experience, I launched my own ed-tech community, which was admitted into an incubator, received seed investment, and even found customers. I continued to volunteer and organize for SWPGH six times, launching its first education edition in February of this year.
Above all, I made friends who simply “got it” – people who came from the Startup Weekend world as well, and knew how to “give back” in the Brad Feld sense. When we weren’t organizing in the Pittsburgh community, we’d go on an Eat ‘n Park run or watching Silicon Valley on HBO On-Demand. It was grand.
I truly considered Pittsburgh my home until two opportunities opened up for me and lured me back to the West Coast: briefly serving as east coast regional manager for UP Global before its acquisition by Techstars, and now joining the mission to transform education, technology, and entrepreneurship with Galvanize.
Seattle: How I Quickly Thawed the “Seattle Freeze”
The move from Pittsburgh was … precipitous. I didn’t have the best chance to express my love and gratitude to everyone that did so much for me in Pittsburgh over the years (though I tried to cover as many bases again here). When I moved to Seattle, I was warned of the “Seattle Freeze” and heard it would take time for me to make friends.
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That has not been the case … because of Startup Weekend. The first people I contacted were my former co-workers, who then introduced me to the local Seattle community leaders. Instantly, I felt like I found my family here, connected by a shared passion and experience to build community through entrepreneurship.
Recently, I was invited out to the Techstars Community Leader Retreat to get to know Portland’s Dina Moy and dozens of other organizers from the US and Canada. I came away with the trip with two impressions:
- I am completely down with the Techstars vision and rationale for why it acquired UP Global. Techstars may be the largest for-profit accelerator in the world, but it was originally founded on the mission to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship to the world.
Supporting initiatives like Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and Startup Week won’t really be profitable in the short run (why mess with a good thing), but in the grand design, these programs will cultivate both better startups worthy of support and stronger, focused communities that can support them.
That’s the vision that Techstars and UP Global shared, and that’s why I’m willing to stay on as a community leader and global facilitator. The terms of engagement do not really change from a non-profit status (in fact, they never actually did when you discover the legal difference between donation and sponsorship). Why should our support of the community change because of it?
- We may come from different cities, but we’re all Startup Weekend nation. Every community leader had a story to share, and the rest of us listened. Whether it was a startup story or a Startup Weekend anecdote, we “got” each other. (The altitude may have been a factor.)
If You Can’t Find Your Community, Create It (and Startup Weekend can help)
I look back on the last three years of being a Startup Weekender and can’t believe how far I’ve come from my previous status as a graduate school drop out. I didn’t make a lot of money, win any major awards, or acquire any common materialistic milestones like a new car or house.
I did, without question, make a lot of friends, and unlike the ones I made before, these friends stay in touch and support me however they can without asking anything in return, and vice versa. I also traveled a lot to places I never thought I’d ever go to until I was “summoned” by people I never met before.
Every time I go facilitate, I ask to crash on a couch or even on the floor just for the opportunity to bond with another community leader. Anytime a community leader asks to visit me, I prepare a spare room for them, no strings attached.
I’ve found my family, and we’re actually not that difficult to find.
Just look for the ones that “get it.”
Lee Ngo is a Seattle-based community leader and global facilitator for Techstars formerly based in Pittsburgh. He currently works as an evangelist for Galvanize.
As one of the proud community leaders of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh, I believe that our events bring out the best in our community. We’re the ones who teach others to stand at the edge and leap head-on into the unknown. We encourage people to listen to our city’s problems, create solutions, and iterate them if they don’t work out.
However, I think we sometimes get a little caught up in the glory of the startup world and forget about the pressing needs that are surround us at all times. Pittsburgh’s certainly a city on the rise, but it’s a city with a lot of work to do as well.
All proceeds go entirely to 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit initiative to reuse unsellable food and convert them into healthy, delicious meals for our community’s hungry. The event will take place at The Livermore in East Liberty on July 25th from 7pm to midnight.
Here are 7 figures that motivate our entrepreneurial efforts to curb this very serious problem (facts and figures mostly extracted from Feeding America):
That’s the percent of people who live in Allegheny County who are “food insecure,” or are unable to feed themselves adequately. That seems small, but here’s another number.
The number of people who are food insecure in Allegheny County. You could almost fill Heinz Stadium three times over with that many people.
How many children are food insecure in Allegheny County. That’s greater than the capacity of PNC Park.
How much an average healthy meal costs in our region.
How much it would cost to eradicate hunger in Allegheny County every year.
The price of a ticket to the Summer Harvest. Using 412 Food Rescue’s efficient, ecological approach, each person who attends this will be able to feed a family of suffering from hunger for an entire week.
The number of people it takes to make a difference.
As an entrepreneur and a community organizer, I am convinced of the power of a single individual to make a huge difference in their community. This is not idealism – such impacts happen all the time. After all…
If you’d also like to sponsor or donate, please contact me at email@example.com. Thank you for reading!
Lee Ngo is a community leader based in Pittsburgh, PA.
At first, I found it strange that the organizing team of the Triangle event I facilitated on June 12-14 pursued a “trailblazers” edition. Initially I had thought the team wanted to create a diversity-themed event similar to the one I had facilitated in Miami just two weeks prior.
I learned quickly that the rationale behind that branding had to do with the perception of the world “diversity” as potentially not ideal. The term “Trailblazers” alluded to the multiple pioneers that have come from all walks of life in North Carolina, but not directly to women, people of color, or other underrepresented peoples.
This move honestly troubled me for two reasons:
Do people actually feel excluded when an event calls for diversity?
Do people not want to be part of an event that prioritizes diversity?
After 10 Startup Weekends as a participant, volunteer, organizer, and facilitator, I’ve come to not only appreciate the diversity of each event – I crave it. The greatest killer of an event is monotony – if it looks and feels the same as it did before, it will lose its luster.
My last two events were among the most memorable because they knew a simple fact:
Diversity improves community. Always.
Below are some key lessons I learned during my time in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill that weekend.
1. History matters, especially from diverse narratives
We’re all familiar of the most famous narrative of innovation out of North Carolina – the location of the famous Wright Brothers’ historic heavier-than-air flight. The state also has a rich history of innovation from lesser-known figures such as:
Sequoyah – creator of the Cherokee alphabet, which allowed for increase communication between and across Native American peoples.
Lunsford Lane – born into slavery and invented a special tobacco that raise enough money to buy his freedom.
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner – inventor of 35 products and holder of five patents, granted retroactively as she was denied previously for being a black woman.
I felt it was important to tell these stories as well in Durham at the event. Innovation can truly come from anywhere, but it takes a special drive to push it forward.
2. Diversity strengthens communities on the rise
I was truly captivated by the beauty and sprawl of the downtown Durham innovation sector. Everything from American Underground to the Iron Yard is all within walking distance, and the community is very familiar and well-integrated.
I can see why the Triangle has been selected for the location of the next UP America Summit in September. It has everything the country could want and so much more!
3. You can have a diverse team of literal professionals
In all of my Startup Weekends, I’ve never seen a more impressive, academic, and professional group of people that I did at Triangle Trailblazers. In this photo, I estimate there are at least twelve or thirteen advanced degrees and over one hundred years of professional experience.
Moreover, they ran their even with aplomb. Excellent communication, precision, and consideration for the needs of the community. Great, great work!
4. Diversity is more than just about race or gender
This event was attended by nearly equal parts female and male and predominately people of color, particularly African and Latino American. Also like in the Miami event, the Triangle event brought out another underrepresented group: the differently-abled.
Two teams that hoped to aid the visually-impaired worked from start to finish during this competition, with one app – The Blank App – going on to win the AT&T Special Award for Connectability.
It’s great to see Startup Weekend bring out the best of ourselves, regardless of whether it is convenient or profitable.
5. A new owner, but the same mission for diversity
With the recent Techstars acquisition of UP Global, there are many community leaders such as myself who are left with several questions about the future of the organization. While tax incentives and financial strategies are important, I think the preservation of UP Global’s Burning Man-inspired philosophy of “radical inclusion” should be at the forefront of the discussion.
To me, prioritizing diversity should be self-evident, and it should not ever be a point of contention.
However, until our communities evolve to that point, we’ll just have to stay vigilant. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Triangle Trailblazers team for inviting me out to be a part of their special event, and I’ll see everyone in September.
Lee Ngo is a community leader and facilitator based in Pittsburgh, PA.
After 9 Startup Weekends in three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (in fact, I’ve written previously that I might be addicted to it). However, for some that the journey could be really intense at times, and not everyone makes it to the finish line feeling the same way.
Recently, I facilitated Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition, where I was taught the concept of “la pasión,” which is Spanish for “people in Miami are really, REALLY emotional.” I was tasked to harness la pasión in a community that had a plethora of it, in a way that would make everyone come away from Startup Weekend Miami feeling as wonderful as I had 8 times before.
Below is a list of lessons and tips for a facilitator, organizer, or volunteer to apply that would help maintain a sense of stability to an otherwise potentially chaotic event.
1. If you’re an organizer or volunteer, your mission is to execute the event as orderly as possible
In Startup Weekend, Murphy’s Law generally applies – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It is vital that every organizer and volunteer is informed of the weekend’s tasks and can easily communicate with one another to correct any situation that arises.
Best practice: Print up a universal task list that specifies each delegation and giving a copy to all your volunteers. That way, even if they don’t have an assignment, they can look at the list to see if someone else needs help with something.
2. If you’re the facilitator, your first priority is to take care of the lead organizer
Generally, lead organizers shoulder the most burden, and the stress can be overwhelming. They should be acknowledged especially for their months of hard work leading up to the big show.
Facilitators should check in with them hourly and make sure they’re fed, hydrated, and as relaxed as you can get them. If necessary, give them a hug (more on that later).
3. Communicate to people on their level – perhaps even in their language
Startup Weekend is an educational event at its core, and the most effective way to teach is to contextualize it with abstract reasoning that they understand. Learn more about them to understand their thinking processes.
An added challenge for me: most of the attendees of Startup Weekend Miami speak Spanish as their first language. I do not – except for what I’ve learned on TV – so when people weren’t looking, I’d review my Dora The Explorer Lessons on YouTube and bust that out randomly. You’re welcome, mi amigo/as.
4. If teams are arguing without end, facilitate a scrum
Inevitably, disagreements occur in a competition, but they become difficult to resolve when people are not talking in a respectful, orderly fashion.
To resolve this, get them to stand up and talk in a circle, one at a time. Here’s a quick video to teach you how to run a proper scrum – a very popular method of coordinating large, diverse teams.
(The key lesson starts at 6:32)
I did this with one team in particular. More on that later.
5. Have a quiet space – one for volunteers, one for participants
We all need to decompress, so give your people a place to rest, nap, socialize, and blow off some steam. Don’t go so far as create a distracting place such as a game session – you still want people to focus on on the main goal.
6. Throw in a dance session or two (you’ll have to start it)
It was a foregone conclusion that I’d be dancing in Miami. It was just a matter of how often. I like to keep the music playing in a common area for attendees to come out, relax, and practice their salsa.
Dancing is a great way to stay loose and relaxed, and it’s probably less terrifying than, say, public speaking.
7. Prevent “hanger” by providing snacks and insist that everyone drink water frequently
Startup Weekend is a high-energy competition, and with brains working on overdrive, they’ll need to be replenished. I try to have a bottle of water and a protein-rich snack on my person at all times. Keep your people well-fed, and they’ll be well-tempered, too.
8. Give out hugs and high-fives whenever possible
At a hyper-networking event like Startup Weekend, these physical embraces lead to lasting connections that you’ll appreciate long after this experience.
9. Plan to finish your event as soon as possible…
- Links only: Instead of letting people present and demo on their own laptops with varying file types, have them send cloud-based links to both and put them in a single document. This moves things along quickly in between Q&A sessions.
- 4:3 presentation model: Limit presentations to 4 minutes with a loose 3 minutes for judges’ Q&A works well, too. Judges average about 45 seconds per question, so a group of 3-5 judges works well.
Why do we do this?
10. … so that everyone will go to the after-party
I love the idea of an after-party, but often Startup Weekends run too late, and who can really stick around to party on a Sunday night? However, if you aim to end your event around 8pm or earlier, and your event was a rousing success, you’ll have a great time.
Also, try to have ALL of your parties in Miami, regardless of your own location. Here’s why:
When a team that nearly imploded on Saturday night…
Team BreakinBread was a fun project for me. Constantly bickering in Spanish over every single detail, I was positive that they would implode and disband by Saturday night.
To fix this, I made them do a scrum. By getting them to talk in turn and truly listen to one another, they realized that they were actually a well-rounded team that agreed on one thing: they had communication problems.
Afterwards, they delivered a beautiful presentation that impressed the judges. The rest is Startup Weekend Miami history: they won first place.
Or when a team that won 2nd place got a standing ovation…
Ernie struggles to get where he needs to be due to the lack of convenient transportation options for the disabled. His dedicated friend Juan pitched an idea:
An “Uber for the differently-abled,” Juan wanted Ernie to have access to the ride-sharing technologies that dominate the startup marketplace today (e.g. Uber and Lyft). They found great validation by tapping into people’s good nature – an uncommon approach for a Startup Weekend team.
Once I announced their second place win, Ernie stood up and made his way to the main stage. With every step, more and more people rose with him and applauded his victory with deafening cheers of support.
Or when I could not stop smiling when I was presented with this amazing certificate
The text reads:
“A special recognition for surviving your
MIAMI DRAMA INITIATION
Let all who view this document know you survived Miami. We are diverse, speak at the same time and have a rollercoaster of emotions, but at the end of the day, we’re all family and end the night laughing with J’s (JAJAJAJA). You rock!”
Perhaps I had been a bit of a curmudgeon the whole time…
In short, Startup Weekend is indeed a roller coaster (it’s designed that way), but for a small minority, that can be an unpleasant experience. Emotions are meant to run high, but there are ways to keep it balanced yet still exciting.
I hope these suggestions serve as a way to hold someone’s hand to make them feel safe right before they take the deep plunge into entrepreneurship.
Good luck, and thank you, Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition!
Lee Ngo is a community leader based out of Pittsburgh, PA.
To close out UP Global’s Editions Month campaign, I’ll be hosting a diversity edition of Startup Weekend in Miami. To be held at VentureHive, one of Miami’s top startup accelerators, this event is lead by Paula Celestino, a previous Startup Weekend Tampa winner who co-founded KlosetKarma from her experience, an app that monetizes your wardrobe.
While this is not my first time in the glorious state of Florida, this is my first time in Miami, which means I’ll be full of regret if I do not accomplish the following.
1. Take a photo of myself wearing pastel colors.
I prefer to wear darker tones (black, grey, blue, etc.) – and this will not do in sunny south Florida. Fortunately Miami is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so I should be in good hands.
2. Find a proper place to “get jiggy with it.”
Yes, like to most of you, Will Smith is pretty much the cultural ambassador of Miami to the rest of the country. My goal is to find out exactly what he was talking about in that video so many years ago. Also, I now feel super old.
3. Eat the best Cuban sandwich I can find.
This is all Jon Favreau’s fault. I had my first Cuban ever… in Seattle. I can only presume that somewhere in Miami will patronize that experience … by welcoming me as their patron… perhaps serving it with some Patron?
4. Try to look somewhat sexy through salsa dancing.
Of all the items on this list, I am the most confident in accomplishing this one.
5. Jump sideways while pretending to fire two guns in air.
The ish is gonna get REAL.
6. Find some Heat merchandise for my brother-in-law.
For reasons I do not understand, my Filipino brother really likes the Miami Heat. I’ll have to get him a Wade jersey to help him through the tough times.
7. See if I look good walking around South Beach in a speedo.
Of all the items on this list, this is the one I am least confident in accomplishing.
8. Learn some Spanish. After all, this is America.
During my brief time in UP Global, I worked with an amazing bilingual team and wish I could communicate with them on their level. I only learned how to laugh. Jajaja.
9. “Seriously, Paula. We’re going dancing, right?”
I will start a dance party AT the event if I have to. Speaking of which…
10. Inspire a new community of Miamians into the startup life.
Of course, the greatest thrill of all is to pass on the experiences that I had at Startup Weekend to a new community. I am especially proud to be a part of an event that’s emphasizing diversity and openness – one of the fundamental tenets of UP Global is “radical inclusion,” where everyone should have a chance to experience what’s it like to be an entrepreneur.
Just a few weeks away. I can’t wait to get this show started!
Lee Ngo, Facilitator
Startup Weekend Miami Diversity
Lee Ngo is an UP Global community leader based in Pittsburgh, PA.
During the weekend of April 17th, 2015, I had the honor of being the facilitator for Startup Weekend Valencia College Education, the first ever event that focused exclusively on college-specific educational issues. The event coincided with Orlando Tech Week as well, and I’m blown away by momentum that’s building in their entrepreneurial community.
Below are some of the highlights of my time in O-Town. (Don’t call it that.)
1. Met Gregg Pollack, the founder of Code School
Total fanboy moment – I’ve watched this guy in countless lessons while in my pajamas. Turns out he’s from my hometown as well and went to high school with my older sister. 20 years later, his online learning site sold for $36 million.
2. Rolled up to the event in a classy ride
One of the organizers insisted on driving me to Valencia College in her BMW convertible with the top down. We drove through the express lanes of Central Florida blasting Maroon 5’s “Sugar” for self-evident reasons.
3. Orlando folk danced like nobody’s watching
Even before the party got started, the organizers and mentors had a rhythm they couldn’t shake.
4. …Or danced like everybody’s watching
I’ve been planning this one for weeks: a re-creation of that awesome “walking” scene in the Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” music video:
5. Collected that multi-colored t-shirt swag
Usually I collect a t-shirt after every event I volunteer at, but #SWValencia decided to give me FOUR different colors: green, blue, red, and gray. My wardrobe is now complete.
6. Hung out with high-energy future entrepreneurs
I generally love it when kids show up to Startup Weekend. They’re full of enthusiasm and don’t cease to think of ways to make the event even more fun.
The lead organizer‘s son came up with a dance move that looks as if he’s about to chop me in the head. Fortunately, neither of us were injured in the making of this GIF.
7. Non-stop 3D Printing for everyone
With the support of local organization DeltaMaker, #SWValencia had two printing machines operating throughout the event. The trinkets made were amazing.
At first I was going to steal this Oscar replica to taunt fellow community leader and NYC living legend Andrew Young, but his response was “how cute.”
But it turns out they made one just for me! “That’ll do, Lee, that’ll do.”
8. Did I forget to mention how much dancing went on?
— Jennyly Charriez (@jennylycharriez) April 20, 2015
That’s right – even faculty and administration came out to participate at #SWValencia, with some of them taking the top prize. Pretty sure there will be some follow-up traction after this event.
9. Hugged as long and often as I could
During a break, I had some people watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk on why it’s important to establish physical contact in order to build trust, lower stress levels, and increase cooperation among groups.
"I'm not sure there's any number of Facebook likes that can replace a hug." – @ThisIsSethsBlog
— Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) June 6, 2013
(Un)lucky for Valencia, I’m a pretty big fan of hugs. I’ve even removed the detached “bro-hug” from my repertoire because, well, “no half measures,” amirite?
10. Whenever possible, I acted (innocuously) insane.
I’ll leave you with this last image of me that pretty much encapsulates my take on Startup Weekend.
Thanks for reading my post! Much thanks to organizers Josh Murdock, Jenny Charriez, and Lisa Macon for having me! My next facilitation will be in Tampa Bay for their Youth Edition event in May. If you’re close by (or even if you’re not), you should come out.
I promise to make it the time of your life.
— Jennyly Charriez (@jennylycharriez) April 20, 2015
Lee Ngo is an UP Global Community Leader currently based in Pittsburgh, PA.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
SWNYCEDU takes these variations into account and brings in mentors during Saturday morning and afternoon strictly for brainstorm and validation.
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.
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.
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)…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach out or get involved with the Startup Weekend New York City community, reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.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.