Interview with Hubert Palán

Hubert is the founder and CEO of productboard, Inc., an all-in-one product management platform that helps product leaders understand what users need, decide what to put next on their roadmap, and align their whole product team. productboard, headquartered in San Francisco, California, is proudly backed by Index, Credo, Reflex, and Rockaway. productboard made its public debut at the coveted TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco in 2016. Prior to productboard, Hubert was the Vice President of Product Management at GoodData. He lives with his wife Jenna and their baby boy Hubert V. in Oakland, CA.

Hello Hubert, thanks for finding some spare time for us. So let’s dive in. You must be super proud of your team according to your last successful launch of the new version on producthunt. Was there anything which surprised you in terms of reaching the voters? What worked for you besides the fact that productboard is the right product to market there.

We are very proud indeed! Product Hunt is a highly respected community and a great place to let the world know about your new product, especially if your product targets digital product makers. Our new version of productboard won the product of the day on November 15th and placed 4th in the ranking of products of the whole week. We ended only behind Mozilla’s new Firefox browser and Tesla’s electric Semi and Roadster. Feels pretty cool to be up there with such products, if you ask me 😀. As of today, we are amongst top 400 products of all times, and we are still climbing up.

It was surprising to learn about the details of the whole Product Hunt ecosystem. We definitely learned that preparation pays off, and that a successful launch is not a coincidence. To make the launch a success, we worked very hard not just on the product itself, but also on having great marketing assets, and making sure we stay very focused on our message in all our communication. We also planned carefully our outreach to the Product Hunt community and to our Customer base. We are proud to have very passionate fans and we saw the launch as an opportunity to thank them for their continuous support. And they heard us and came out and voted for us, it was awesome!

(productboard being #4 product of the week on producthunt)

Another very positive surprise was to see our whole team come together and work relentlessly on making the launch a success. It is rare and inspiring to be on a team of people with complementary skills, who share common purpose, clearly defined set of goals, and approach for which they held ourselves mutually accountable. We managed to create such unique experience and I am thankful for it.

How did family influence your project management approach? Would you say you are more efficient now? What did you change?

Our baby boy is turning two in one week, productboard is little over three. They are both my babies or startups if you will 😀 Starting a family while trying to get your company off the ground is hard. Both need a lot of energy and attention and it is a constant battle of priorities. The good thing is that it forces you to spend your time really only on the most important things. You get better at time management, delegation, communication, because if you want to achieve your goals, there is no other way. Would I wish there were more hours in a day? Of course, but for now I am grateful I have been able to keep both of my babies healthy and growing! Any prioritization aside, I wouldn’t be able to succeed without the support of my amazing wife Jenna.

You are one of the kind that experienced to be judge at startupweekend in 2012 and 2017. Were there any differences you noticed? And from the judging perspective what do you appreciate the most during the pitches?

Yes, I was lucky to have the opportunity to judge two of the startup weekends. And I definitely see differences. Overall the quality of the pitches has improved. The teams did a better job with structuring their pitches, making them more entertaining and interactive. You, the organizers, managed to bring together a great group of mentors who coached and helped the teams. Overall the whole startup ecosystem has matured significantly in the past five years. We all have a better knowledge of what makes a pitch great, how to structure it, and how to present it. Most importantly I feel like there is more clarity on where to channel the team’s’ energy in the couple days preceding the pitch. I think the mentors really helped here.

Being a judge is always very motivating and inspiring because the energy of the teams just hits and powers you for days. That is the one thing that hasn’t changed, the teams were as excited five years ago as they are now. They put a great deal of care into their work and it shows. That is why I didn’t hesitate to be a judge again, and I hope I will have the opportunity to come back in the future.

I have to ask this one. Why would you recommend anyone to attend startupweekend?

Absolutely. It doesn’t matter whether you want to found a startup yourself, whether you want to join an existing startup team, or whether you just want to get a taste of what it is like to start working on something new. Startupweekend is a great way to learn new skills. The format, the focused couple days with a clear deadline, forces all participants to come together, align their efforts and reconcile their differences. It creates an environment where people get to know each other much more than they would otherwise, and that to me is one of the most valuable parts of the whole experience. The foundation of any startup is a small group of very passionate people working against all odds on something they strongly believe in. If you want to have a successful startup one day, start building relationships with people who could be on your team now. I know what I am talking about, I met Daniel Hejl, my co-founder, and CTO at that startupweekend five years ago. We wouldn’t be talking about productboard’s Product Hunt success today if it wasn’t for that startupweekend in 2012!

Why do you think that productboard is successful? What are the ingredients which make company successful?

There are many things that contribute to a company’s success. I just mentioned how critical it is to have a team of people dedicated to a common vision. That is key.

The team then has to deliver to the market a truly excellent product. To be able to do that in the least risky and the most predictable way, the team has to 1. gain a deep understanding of the needs of the customers, 2. form a focused product strategy on how to tackle those needs, and 3. align around a clear product roadmap.

The deep customer insights bring you confidence that you are solving an important problem, focused product strategy gives clarity to your prioritization, and roadmap alignment assures that you channel curiosity and creativity of everyone on your team in the right direction.

This is the recipe for success of every product team and we have been following it at productboard. We’ve spent the first year doing a thorough market research and validating problems and solution ideas, thanks to which we gained a very deep understanding of needs of our target customers. We have a very clear vision and go-to-market strategy and we prioritize our efforts against specific goals and objectives in 6-week periods to make sure we work on the most important thing at any given point in time. And we have a shared roadmap that guides the team. We have an unfair advantage though, we have the best tool that helps us with all three of the areas, it is called productboard 😀


I am interested, BUT.. I have a couple of questions..

I am interested, BUT … I have a couple of questions..

(Even Donald Trump is not fully sure whether to go or not)

So let’s dive in.

… BUT I don’t have an idea

That’s okay. You will not be forced to come up with something. Others will have ideas and you can join anyone based on your own preferences.

… BUT I don’t have a team

Don’t worry. As we said before, you can join any idea-team you want to. Just keep in mind it is good to have a multidisciplinary team so you can divide the work and create something in the course of the weekend.

… BUT I don’t have a place to sleep

Let us know, we should be able to accommodate you at a beautiful squat. Well, it’s not an ordinary squat, it’s a techsquat where the organizers live. Most probably we won’t be able to offer you a bed but we will have enough sleeping bags and pads.

… BUT I don’t want to hack during a night

This is up to you and your team. But remember, we will kick you out of the Opero on Friday and Saturday by midnight.

… BUT what are the criteria to win

Validation of your idea, and we will help you with that. Also, the viability of the business is important. That means the business model and a strategy to get first customers. Last but not least, the level of your prototype/product will be evaluated so make sure you have a developer or designer in team 🙂

… BUT what I can win

Endless fame and glory! And apart from that, we have some books, kiwi coupons, spots in Opero for winning teams and some surprises. Also, free tickets to some amazing events!

… BUT am I good enough

If you are willing to exchange 20-40EUR and your weekend for learning new things and trying your best to build something then you are the right person to attend no matter what skills you have.

… BUT my English isn’t perfect

That’s even better because you will get the chance to practice. We don’t expect expert English speakers. We expect people who want to learn things.

… BUT it costs too much

You should know it’s a non-profit and we have to pay the bills for catering, venue, etc. But if the money is a problem let us know, we will help you out.


So we hope it helped you and here is the video from the last event we organized. Yes! It’s gonna be fun so grab your tickets –>

startup, startupweekend, prague

5 Reasons to take part in SWPrague as a Developer by alumumnus Petr Holík

5 Reasons to Take Part in SW as a Developer by alumnus Petr Holík

Proven Concept

Describing Hackathon in one sentence?

A weekend spent in front of a screen, full of coding, where boredom is plentiful, where one goes from frontend to backend, from coffee to Red Bull.

Does this apply to Startup Weekend?

No. The main goal of SW is to come up with the best possible concept of a product, validate it and maybe create a basic prototype. Whatever the outcome – a poster, a presentation, a mock-up or a fully functioning app – the most important part is the process, the verification of the design, business and technical aspects of the given product.


You can create and develop home alone, in a café with friends or with colleagues at work. Would it not be much better though if you could get immediate feedback from a creative design student, an experienced businessman or an overly critical investor?

It is not surprising that such an environment, where people of all ages and from different educational and cultural backgrounds interact, the most creative ideas emerge because of these synergies. You will have the unique opportunity to think about your ideas from new perspectives thanks to meeting and discussing with your team, mentors and judges.   

A New Perspective

Us IT specialists are often considered weirdos living in their bizarre world of ones and zeros. And if we are honest, it is often the case. These days though, being only good at coding is not the recipe for success. Developing is a complex combination of skills with programming being only a necessary requirement. SW is the perfect opportunity to step out of that bizarre world thanks to cooperating with various people that you would not have the possibility to meet otherwise. Stepping up your game is, therefore, a positive side effect that will make you a better person and a better developer.

Test your idea

If you bring your own idea to SW get ready for criticism, seeking compromise and struggling to push through your point of view. No one will play nice with you and it will not always be easy. But nothing is more important than constructive criticism, and you will be able to capitalize on this experience.

SW Is Just the Beginning

I brought an idea for a perfect start-up to SW. At the end of the weekend, I was able, together with my friend and 5 other fantastic people, to come up with a project that had little to do with the original design. And this process is exactly what SW is all about.

Three members of our team still work together on new projects, making use of the perspective and experience gained on our journey.

Do you want to be part of the next startupweekend?

Grab your ticket and use code “developersdevelopers” for 20% off the price.

Interview with Henrike Lode

Hej Henrike! How are you? How is Johannesburg treating you?

Hi! I’m doing great, enjoying the warm weather and fantastic company. I’m very excited to attend A MAZE./ Johannesburg and preparing for my performance: a spoken word poem about games and empathy, interlaced with songs that I will be playing and singing myself.

I know, that you do a lot of cool things, but let’s start with the best one. Lohika Aps, what is it about? What do you do and what do you want to achieve with your products? Why did you decide to have this approach (learning by playing games)?

While I’m a curious person who loves learning new things, primary and high school almost extinguished that flame entirely by forcing me to execute repetitive tasks, that was neither interesting or challenging for me, and didn’t present me with any real life applications or motivation. I founded my company Lohika in 2013 after graduating from a Master degree in Game Design at the IT University of Copenhagen. During my studies, I realized how passionate I was about transforming the concept of education and about making great educational games. I like exploring the core of a given scientific subject and turn it into game mechanics that are engaging and challenging. At Lohika we create an environment and atmosphere where the players are given plenty of motivation to explore on their own, where their curiosity is stimulated so that they will want to practice and enhance their skills in order to achieve goals they personally care about.

In our current game, To Be A Whalethat I’m working on together with Richard Baxter, the player’s’ avatar is a newborn whale whose movements are controlled through text commands. The player types command like “tail up” and “tail down” into a terminal to move the whale, and learns to write small behaviors in “whale code”, which is a fully functional programming language for controlling the avatar.

How is it to be a teacher for you? Could you tell us more about your course “Game design with a purpose” you teach at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts?

I love teaching because it gives me a chance to study the games I care about in more depth, discuss them with the students, and spark the idea in their minds that they can find a deeper meaning in the games they go on to develop. We have been covering educational games, games for health, games for social impact and gamification projects, by analyzing and discussing games, and creating prototypes in small groups. Every week the students study a game, article, podcast or video recording of a talk and present their analysis in class. Over the course of the semester, the students create 5 different prototypes in paper or digital form. Throughout the years I have been attending many different games conventions, making connections with indie developers all over the world, judging games at competitions, and I have attended every edition of the Lyst symposium on love, sex, and romance in video games. I was lucky to be exposed to many different games that deal with taboo topics or have been made by people that are underrepresented in the games industry.

Teaching allows me to pass on my experience and knowledge, and give my students a chance to see games in a different light than the classic commercial way.

I know you are interested in other things apart from games and learning. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

I am a feminist, and I’m working hard towards making the games industry a more fair, safe, and diverse place, where women, people of color, people of non-traditional sexual orientation and identity, and other minorities are as welcome and respected as anyone else. Making games and giving talks allows me to travel the world, grow my network of friends and creatives, and get to know new people, cultures, and lifestyles. I love going to game jams and always aim to work on games that push the boundaries of game design, as well as the topics games can cover. For example, I made a few personal games for my family, a game about identifying and banning female nipples on Instagram, and am working on concepts for games about menstruation and abortion.

Imagine, you happened to be a teacher at high school for one day in one class. What would you do?

The most important thing for kids in highschool is to figure out what they are personally passionate about and to learn that anyone can be creative.

I would introduce the class to some creative game design techniques, and demo some simple and free prototyping tools for apps, games, stories, websites, and film, to help them get started in the creative process. In my experience, once presented with a blank canvas and a set of tools, it becomes much easier for children to apply themselves, dig deeper into the creative technologies they are interested in, and create content that they deeply care about.

Henrike, thank you for the interview and see you soon, take care 🙂


Interview with Jaroslav Chronak from Skillandia

Hello Jaroslav, first of all, thank you for your time. Last time we talked you mentioned how difficult it had been for you to get to the point you were at that time. So what were the biggest challenges?

Yes, the first kind of difficulty was the limited capacity and ability to deliver what you want or what you promised the investor. Capacity in this context means that in the Angel phase of an investment only the founders are available full-time, and there were two of us together with a limited amount of full-time people and then we had just many external supporters who believed in the vision. So it was a kind of amateur theater. With these limited resources you have to deliver everything – product development, marketing, HR, strategy, networking, sales, project management and more. Very demanding is also the constant role switching, even several times during one day. The tension between ambition or promise and the ability to deliver was very strong.

The second kind of difficulty was maintaining our direction. We always work according to principles of agile development. At the same time many inputs – reactions from the market, reactions to trends, a lot of feedback from events like TechCrunch, Startup Grind, a lot of recommendations from advisors and colleagues, competition, requests from clients – create very demanding conditions on staying on course and one must watch out in order to avoid falling into traps. And we encountered some of those, but fortunately, we were always able to come back on the right track again. It is very important to have a long term vision, to always check decisions to prevent chaos.

And the third? The moments when the money runs out…

What does Skillandia do? What is your unique value and who can benefit from it the most?

What is unique? As trainers, coaches and consultants we have deep experience with how people learn and this we transfer into our learning platform. Unique in our case is the focus on trainers, coaches, and mentors as the main target group. We want to provide them with a simple tool which enables them to do their job in a much more effective way and to increase their impact significantly. Unique is our approach in the form of a simple learning course builder, which guides trainers and coaches to build impactful quests for their groups, supporting micro-learning. Unique is our focus on development in small groups where people learn and share, overcoming challenges guided by their real life trainers and coaches. Unique is the way in which we support the so called blended solution, a combination of real life trainings and online learning, leading to real changes in both knowledge and behavior. We also provide content to our clients. We got Stevie Award 2017 in Las Vegas or our way how Skillandia Studio creates micro learning online courses.

(Skillandia at TechCrunch Disrupt)

You mentioned you took part in conferences such as Techcrunch. How was that? What were the biggest surprises for you? Is there a right moment when you should, as CEO, attend such a huge conferences?

I consider these events extremely important in early stages of a startup from several perspectives. First, you receive very direct questions about your product and idea, you really need to work on your pitch. You receive a lot of feedback and also a lot of inspiration from others people or startups. You have to start to think about how to become scalable if your ambition is to get an investor, etc. Such events are very useful for building up your long term strategy.

So I would say – just do it! But it is also very demanding and tiring – imagine three days in an old dark theatre in NY, from morning till evening, standing in front of your rollup and computer in the crowd and talking, talking from morning till evening, just the two of us.

Imagine now for a moment that you don’t have Skillandia. Would there be any area in education you would focus on? If so, why? And why, if not?

Before I was involved in Skillandia I was in the area of leadership training, management and sales, guiding large companies through changes, mainly cultural changes, dealing with how the company is managed and led top-down. Probably I would keep doing this.

And if you ask me at this point in time, I would focus on helping companies to build the most effective blended learning system as I have rich experience in both areas. Skillandia opened the door to a lot of new knowledge for me – online learning, nudging, microlearning, gamification, how to build learning platform, etc. And I can see a lot of companies struggling with exactly these things.

Is there anything you would like to add/share?

Yes, running a startup is a great experience, and it is very demanding. It is a long distance run with many obstacles. What helps is if you have a very strong vision and if the founders are friends who really trust each other and share the same set of values. In critical situations, you find out that a startup means that when you reach some milestone, like getting an investor, you start something working on something new again. You just keep starting again. And all you need to do is keep going … find good guides, advisors, supportive investor, etc.

Interview with Branislav Jakabovič

Who are you? What do you do? What’s your background?

An optimistic enthusiast excited to connect professional business world and various projects with high aspirations to improve our society. After spending nearly 15 years in consulting and corporations, I co-founded and co-lead LEAF, a Slovak NGO with an aspiration to help develop the future generation of Slovak & CEE leaders.

This particular Startup Weekend is focused on innovation in the field of education. Where do you see the biggest opportunities?  

I am sure that education plays a critical role in the long-term prosperity of our region as well as in the ability of each young person to live a fulfilling and satisfactory life.

On one hand, it continues to struggle with monetization, in part, especially in the CEE region with a tradition of a free school system. Still, I see an increasing number of young people, their parents, or even business entities investing into innovative educational solutions. Besides application development, I see significant opportunities in personality/talent assessment and different online mentoring models.

How difficult was it for you to start LEAF? What has been the biggest lesson?

It has been a challenging, but a very enriching journey. The biggest challenge is to build an organization with strong entrepreneurial drive, yet aligned with LEAF mission and values. I consider particularly inspiring to connect people that come from corporations, start-ups, NGOs, state organizations and education sector and help them develop their strengths.

Diversity can kill all your efforts – but if you find the way to uncover its potential, it moves the entire organization to a new impact level.

In your opinion, how will education change in 10 years?

Despite the fast-changing world, 10 years is not a long period of time for education. I believe that the majority of young people will continue to attend similar schools as we know now, maybe with slightly better technology. However, increasing number of young people will actively search for alternative models (both offline and online) to satisfy their need to grow. Knowledge becomes less important than skills or abilities. At the same time, I expect that a higher number of older people will look for ways to learn (e.g. in digital skills). For me, a big question mark is genetic engineering and its impact on learning attitude.

What is your approach to mentorship? What can participants of Startup Weekend Prague expect from you?

I prefer to ask questions and challenge team’s assumptions in their projects.

I am not the one to indoctrinate what the right solution is, instead, I expect participants to own the mentoring process.

Why do you think that people should join Startup Weekend Prague EDU?

  1. To get inspired (by new innovations in education)
  2. To connect (with potential future mates, partners, or mentors)
  3. To engage (in specific projects that can help them explore their own potential)

If you became a high-school teacher for one day, what would you teach, and why?

Being married to an inspiring teacher, I have deep respect for the teaching profession – and still, do not think I deserve to be one. Building on the focus of our LEAF Academy, one day I would like to find time to help young people grow in areas of ethics and entrepreneurial leadership.


Interview with Andrea from Tripinder

Hello Andrea, how is everything? How did you enjoy your summer?

Hey, thank you, I am doing great. I’m still busy working but I’m also enjoying the perfect weather and summer we now have in Prague. I went surfing for a week but now I don’t miss water too much. You can still meet me kayaking and paddle boarding close to the city center though.

Could you tell us why you decided to participate in startupweekend despite having already a lot of work experience? What were your expectations?

I already had an idea in my head before I had heard about startupweekend from my friend. He told me that the best place to put it into practice and test it was an event like yours. First, I just went there to see the process of converting an idea into a real business. When I then saw the people and the atmosphere I decided to pitch my idea.

Today (17.8.) you launched the beta version of your app – tripinder where you have more than 15 trips already. How did you spread the word about it?

As Tripinder is and will always be based on community and cooperation, I first started to spread the word about it among travelers while attending their meetups. Also my friends who liked the idea started to share it among their friends and colleagues.

How difficult was it for you, being someone with no extensive technical skills, to manage launching it?

From the very beginning I knew it will not be easy but I was lucky enough to have found two digital agencies. After we agreed on how MVP should look like I simply chose one. Now we are working as a team talking about the future possibility of an official partnership and project development.

Are there any reasons why people from the corporate environment should attend startupweekend from your point of you?

Of course! What I really appreciate is how open-minded and generous the people I met in the “startup world”, which is quite new to me, are.

In many ways, it changed my thinking and behavior in my everyday working life. I realized the same principles can be used in both regular businesses and startups. As they say, sharing is caring 🙂

Is there anything you would like to add? Feel free to do it 🙂

I hope you all are enjoying this summer with your friends and family and if you are traveling, that’s even better! I really think it makes you richer and it expands your horizons.

Interview with Michael from

Hey Michael, how are the things? I noticed you got your startup – on the wheels, where have you been so far and how did you get this idea to host the events?

Hi Martin, I’m doing great. Pretty busy attending all the art vernissages, festivals and also working on Kumš, which is finally up and running.

Well, we knew, that we will have to focus not only on online marketing but also on the offline activities, as we wanted to meet the art lovers and artists personally, established connections with them and also got feedback straight away. Our first exhibition was part of Design Piknik, that is the biggest (and probably the only 🙂 ) event of its kind at Vysočina, combining design, food and music festival so it was an ideal opportunity to meet interesting artists and show potential customers what Kumšt is.

Right now we are preparing our first exhibition in Prague so hold tight and follow us for the news about the upcoming events.

What has been the biggest challenges you have to face?

Definitely time. Time is our greatest opponent, as we are all having full-time jobs and Kumš is still a side project. Therefore we have to work in our free time. Sometimes it is also quite difficult to communicate with the artists, but we are providing them 24/7 support and we are also trying to do our best to make our platform as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.

Is the team still the same as it was at startupweekend in Prague?

At the beginning of the startupweekend there was 6 of us, but one of our members had to quit after the first day and later we had to say goodbye to another Kumštýř, so at the moment we are 4 Kumštýř.

What do you want to personally achieve through

I believe that if you want to achieve something, you have to dream big, that’s why I believe that we can not only help young people to become independent and successful, but also make a revolution in a way art market is perceived by the general public.

We want to show people, that everyone can afford original artwork without having to be an expert, investor or millionaire. We want people to buy art, because they like it, not because someone said it’s good or bad.

How did you come up with the idea? Was it difficult to pitch it and get people during a weekend on board?

The essence of the idea comes back to the time when I was working part time jobs during my studies where I met with some art students. They usually had to do tiring and dull jobs that had nothing to do with art because it was impossible for them to make living by selling their art as no galleries wanted to exhibit artworks of unknown artists and most of them didn’t know how to promote themselves on the internet.

That’s when I get this idea to help these people in a way, that could also change a way general public perceives the art market.

The pitching was a huge adrenalin as I was not used to speaking in front of so many people and I didn’t really prepare any exact speech, so it turned out to be quite an improvisation. But at the end of the day, more important than the form of the pitch was the idea itself, because that was the only thing that most of the people managed to remember after watching 40 pitches in a row.

Is there anything you would like to add? Feel free to do it now 🙂

If the things don’t come as expected and you don’t succeed, don’t give up or break down. Rise above it, don’t take it too seriously. For me the most important thing is to enjoy what I am doing, it doesn’t make sense to be successful at something if you don’t enjoy what you do.

And also important, self-promotional part: don’t forget to check our website,, follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @umenijeKumst and if you know anyone who might be interested in our Kumšt, tell them about us!

( on the wheels)

Interview with Iulian from BookVoyager

Hey Iulian, how are you? How are the things?

I am great! Enjoying last days of summer and working on our startup – BookVoyager.

At BookVoyager we have developed an objective approach toward book recommendations that combines traditional friends and magazines recommendations with an automatic content analysis based on reader’s specific criteria. This allows people to discover books they haven’t heard of and select books according to their own taste. BookVoyager is focusing on providing detailed cross-criteria filtering that the reader selects, making the recommendations more objective. This will save people’s time and will improve the experience of choosing the next book to read.

The last time we had chatted you mentioned you got into the accelerator program Founder Institute Chisinau with the idea you won our startupweekend in Prague. I also know that your team had to split, could you tell us a little bit more about your journey?

I have applied to Founders Institute Chisinau with one of my colleagues in April this year. However, BookVoyager wasn’t the only idea we had in mind. While in the Founders Institute Program, which lasts for 3 months, you have to do research and customer development for at least three ideas, in order to pick the best one that can succeed. This step lasts for one month, after which you have to select a single idea on which to focus.

We had 5 ideas and needed to figure out which one to go with. After thorough research and customer development, we were left with two and decided to go with BookVoyager, as it had more validation, including at Startup Weekend in Prague.

Regarding our team, we had to split, because right after the Startup Weekend I didn’t have the opportunity to work on the idea, as I had to arrange some other work. Besides that, our team probably was the only one that consisted of team members from 3 countries :), which would make it harder to collaborate, especially when in the beginning you need to be closer to each other as there is plenty of strategic planning and product development. But we had a great team with a skillset that helped us win.

We also agreed to meet some time in the future, when some of us will be in the country we reside in. Also, when my colleague and I decided that we will go with BookVoyager, I wrote them and asked if there is no problem if I would go further with it in the Founders Institute program and they were not against it.

What would you like to achieve with BookVoyager? As we all know, sky is the only limit, maybe not anymore 🙂

As any startup, we have grandiose plans :). We have shifted from B2B to B2C, but eventually, we will get back to B2B, as we can bring more value to publishers and bookstores, which inevitably will help people who read books get a better experience and find books they will enjoy much easier. In the end, we want to become the leading provider of relevant book recommendations for online bookstores and publishers who also sell books online.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about pitching but they are not sure if their idea is good enough or they are simply afraid? Since you stood up and pitched it. 

If you don’t have experience in pitching – you will definitely be afraid and have emotions, but that is normal. At Startup Weekend you can practice and become better. But you should realize that there will always be people who will like your idea and people who will say it is worthless. And if there are not too many people who dislike it, consider working on it further. But you won’t know for sure which group prevails until you pitch your idea to those people.

Any secrets or learning from the participating in startupweekend you would like to share?

As I am a technical person, naturally I tended to get to the coding part faster, but coding is by far not the most critical part. First of all, define the problem you want to solve and get out to your potential customers, talk to people and find out what their pain points are. Having a great UI with a working backend is cool, but showing the jury how you approach an existing problem and how people you talked with reacting to your solution is way cooler. Talk to participants, to organizers, and to mentors and you will get amazing insights and will make valuable connections.

If there is anyone from abroad and he would like to join our startupweekend, let us please know, since we are able to accommodate you for free – airbnb style 🙂 As well as taking care of you from any station you arrive in. 

Interview with Arturo Guizar organizer of SW EDU in Lyon

Hey Arturo, thanks for your time. So tell us, how was the startupweekend EDU in Lyon from the organizer point of view.

It was awesome, but also very challenging to organize. It is not like other verticals because there is a special attention on communication about what is the ed-tech ecosystem. In a country where the education is public, it is not easy to say that you can create a business. So, we have to take a special attention on how we promote this event.

(Arturo in action!)

Why did you decide to organize this vertical? What were your expectations?

Actually, we met a group of motivated students from different universities that wanted to organize a startupweekend since a while. They were very active organizing other events for their respective universities, but they wanted something more, something that could mix several profiles (students and professionals) to tackle the education issues.

So, we had a meeting with all of them and we expected to boost the ed-tech community in Lyon through the organization of this event.

(It’s a big thanks to organizing team: Tristan, Anthony, Charles, Alex, Julie, Léa, Marilie, Tatiana, Charlotte, Aude and Baptiste because they did the hard work)

What about the projects? Can you share with us the most interesting ones?

I remember one that I really loved because they were addressing a real problem. It is about how students from high school can decide better their future career.

One of the biggest problems in our system is that young students choose their universities depending on what they studied at high schools. Since very early, they have to get specialized in a specific field, e.g. science, art or literature. But, without having the occasion to test or see other professions. And when you have to choose a university, then you choose the one that follows what you have already started. For instance, if you started in science, then, you will probably choose an engineering school. But, the risk of this system is to be disappointed during your first job. Therefore, the number of people converting to other professions is high.

During the SW Edu, a team proposed a service for students (high school and university) interested in trying internships in different jobs and professions. The biggest challenge for them was that they had to validate the fact that there are companies interested in hosting curious students and pay for a service. So, they actually showed some leads interested by the concept, but the business model needed to be reevaluated.

You mentioned in our previous discussion that you focused only on university problems, why? Isn’t it better to have a broad topic so anyone can come and present their idea which is related to ed-tech in general?

The University problems are already big problems: productivity, orientation, knowledge transfer/management are some of them. Moreover, these ed-tech community has a very specific bunch of experts that would not be good for other problems like kinder or college. Before the event, we spent some time talking with other organizers from US and Mexico (that started this vertical) to understand how to propose a good event. Elizabeth Becerril (from SW Mexico) contribute a lot in this because she told us to be careful on how we promote the event. She didn’t make the filter on topics, and she saw a lot of projects that were addressing interesting problems in education but they were not specifically interested in business. So, we did this choice to propose more quality with a good quality of experts.

Are there any ideas/thoughts you would like to share and we forgot to ask you?

I think that the challenging part was the promotion to attract people working in the academic. So, we got this idea of engaging one of the favorite mathematicians in France to support our event. That’s how we visited one of Cedric Villani’s conference about the human brain to present our event and ask for a photo. And it worked!

Merci Arturo!

And this is us with Cedric Villani (Field Medals) showing his support for our event