Make Way for Edupreneurs!

This post was written by Mabel Zhuang, Curriculum Developer at LaMeire College Consulting and Masters Student at Teachers College at Columbia University.


Something’s Missing

I first stumbled upon the startup world of education technology (edtech) at a demo night in San Francisco that a friend of mine had an extra ticket for. As I was recently admitted into an education graduate Master’s program, I went simply interested in learning more about education. What I got was not just an introduction to the exciting possibilities of technology within education, but that night, I caught the startup bug.

Since then, I’ve been heavily involved with the edtech startup scene in both coasts, and a comment I often hear is, “Where are the educators?” We are in a space where ideas and innovations are constantly generated, but a large majority of these ideas and innovations are coming from everyone but educators. Why aren’t more people collaborating with the individuals who are directly working with students on a daily basis to truly understand the problems and needs within today’s education system to build solutions that actually make sense? Why aren’t more educators jumping into the game and starting their own edtech ventures? Why aren’t there more educators becoming entrepreneurs?

When it comes to understanding what the problems and needs are in our current education system, it’s the teachers. Teachers know what they are lacking, what they need, and what works when it comes to instruction and learning because it is something they encounter every day. However, when it comes to building a product and launching it into the market successfully, the individuals who know best are the developers and businessmen. There is a wealth of expertise and resources that is often underutilized, and if educators are simply able to tap into this wealth, we can see amazing results.


An Educator Taking the Lead

ericEric Nelson did just that. As a 9th grade social studies teacher in Forest Lake, MN, he found his students were bored and disengaged with world events. How could he get his students excited and interested in the news? He found the answer in fantasy football. That may sound odd at first, but here’s how he fused fantasy football with geopolitics. Nelson did not have his class create fantasy leagues and participate in the draft, but he used the same mechanics that appeal to him and masses of other people who play fantasy football and created a game called Fantasy Geopolitics. In the game, students create teams of countries and score points based on how often those countries appeared in the news. He found that by enlisting this “Fantasy Football” format, his students were having a ton of fun, while simultaneously learning about the complex relationships that arise from interactions among geography, politics, and the economy!

This was last year. Fast forward to today. Nelson’s Fantasy Geopolitics will be the first Startup Weekend Education-sponsored company at this year’s EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit in Nashville. Though Nelson came from a teaching background, he was able to utilize the knowledge, resources, and people power he acquired at Startup Weekend Education Chicago and 4.0 Schools to build a real company out of this incredible game so that social studies teachers everywhere can sign up and play the game with their students.

My hope is that there will be an increase in Edupreneurs such as Eric Nelson, teachers who are able to see their ideas to better education come to fruition. The resources are out there so let’s start sharing and collaborating!

Oh, and be sure to check out this awesome short video I made about Startup Weekend Education and Eric Nelson! 

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Meet the Curators of Startup Digest's Education Reading List

Many of you may have heard about Startup Digest, the region-specific and community-led newsletters highlighting the latest and greatest events and opportunities in your area. However, how many of you also know that Startup Digest has an array of Reading Lists, grouped according to various themes, and curated by experts in the field? Well if you didn’t know, now you do! And in this article, we’re excited to feature the Curators of the Education Reading List, highlighting the latest news and information about startups and innovations in education.

Jessie Arora – Founder TeacherSquare: Connecting educators and edtech

JA Profile picJessie is focused on improving educational outcomes for all types of learners and empowering educators to play a more active and meaningful role in tech adoption in our schools. She is particularly passionate about cultivating the education startup ecosystem to help create tools and services that improve teaching and learning for all students. As an angel investor she focuses on the K12 education space, applying her experiences from Google, Citizen Schools and the Stanford Graduate School of Ed. She blogs at and you can follow her @Jessie_Arora.

“I’ve been actively following and sharing what is going on in the edtech world over the past few years, with an emphasis on cool things students and teachers are doing, so helping curate this list was a natural fit.”

Deborah Chang – Educator Entrepreneur

Profile PicDeborah believes in solving big problems in education through entrepreneurship. She was the Lead Organizer for Startup Weekend Education in New York City, and she currently works as a consultant to early stage education technology companies. Previously, she was a Teach For America teacher at KIPP Academy in Houston and a member of Team Talent Development at Achievement First Network Support in New York. Deborah’s passion for education stems from her belief that all children deserve an excellent education, regardless of their socioeconomic background or zip code. Deborah is a graduate of Princeton University, where she studied education policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. You can follow Deborah @Debryc.

“I’ve been passionate about technology that solves problems in education ever since I was a classroom teacher and am now happy to share resources that can help this community of educators and entrepreneurs.”

Sign up for Startup Digest’s Education List today, and be sure to check out the other ones too!

Meet March's Educator of the Month: Jeremy Young

This March, Startup Weekend Education recognizes Jeremy Young as the “Educator of the Month!” Jeremy is one of Startup Weekend Education’s most active members, having already participated in four different events in just this past year alone! Jeremy Profile He’s pitched a variety of ideas, collaborated with people from around the country, and has continued to grow as an educator and entrepreneur. Jeremy knows that a lot can get done in 54-hours, and him and his teammates have continued to create great innovations at Startup Weekend Education.

San Francisco, March 2013

Science Superhero is a website for parents to find fun and safe science labs to do with their children.

“Next Gen Schools” Edition, San Francisco, June 2013

UberSpace is where I want to send my (hypothetical) kid to high school! The school emphasizes how you work (effectively and joyfully) not what you work on.

San Francisco, November 2013

GroupUp is a mobile app that allows educators to create seating charts and student groupings on the fly; the first in a set of apps replacing the teacher clipboard. GroupUp won the Clever prize for allowing teachers to import their rosters seamlessly!

Oakland, February 2014

DesignED is a professional development series and online curriculum promoting creative confidence in K-12. DesignEd won 3rd Place!

So what does Jeremy do in his day job?

“This is my fifth year teaching high school! I have taught the gamut of sciences from Biology to Chemistry to Physics to AP Computer Science with a few life lessons sprinkled in here and there. I am drawn to entrepreneurship because at its core, it’s about solving problems. As an educator, I often find myself asking questions like: ‘Why have I spent 20 hours this week creating curriculum, when a rockstar teacher down the street must have phenomenal lessons on stoichiometry?’ or ‘How do I choose what is important to teach?’ I am taking next year off to reflect on these questions through an entrepreneurial lens!”

Why does Jeremy keep coming back to Startup Weekend Education?

“I came to Startup Weekend Education to start a company. I stayed for the community. I have met people whom I am proud to call my friends and whom I would be honored to call my co-founders. Startup Weekend Education has loads positive energy. It is inspirational to be part of a group of bright individuals dedicated to solving a problem.”

UberSpace Team Pic

How has Startup Weekend Education changed Jeremy?

“The first Startup Weekend Education Friday night was a blur. I entered a foreign world of technology and entrepreneurship. New vocabulary included wireframes, bootcamps, and MVPs. By the fourth Startup Weekend Education, I was happy to find several familiar faces. The language felt familiar. I even found myself hacking together a website on Sunday, something I was mesmerized by a year before.”

What People Are Saying About Jeremy?

“I love Jeremy’s infectious sense of humor that permeates any Startup Weekend event in which he participates.” – Brian Greenberg, CEO of Silicon Schools Fund

“Jeremy is a caring educator with a constant focus on incorporating innovative pedagogy and technology into his classrooms in Physics and AP Computer Science. He frequently participates in Startup Weekend Education and other events to work with people in the technology and education community to develop ideas to improve the educational experience for teachers and students alike. We also often have long lunch and dinner conversations about the topic and you can just sense that he is totally into it. I’m honor to have a friend like Jeremy and I’m super excited to continue to watch him pursue his life’s work – education innovation.” – Li Jiang, Investor at GSV

Stay in touch with Jeremy on Twitter, and subscribe to the Startup Weekend Education newsletter to find out how you can get involved in our community of educators and innovators!

Every month, Startup Weekend Education features an Educator and/or Innovator of the Month! Have someone you’d like to nominate? Email with his/her information.


Y Combinator: Get Your Pen and Pad Ready – 5 Tips for Engaging Female Founders

This was originally published on Huffington Post.

By Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Director of Startup Weekend Education at UP Global.

Sam Altman, soon-to-be President of the esteemed accelerator, Y Combinator (YC), posed a question on Twitter today, that a few friends prodded me to answer:

“Question for current and potential female founders – what could YC do to encourage you to start companies?”

My initial thought was, what took you so long to ask? What took this “Lean In,” “I’m a boss, not bossy” (or “I’m bossy and so what?!,” depending on who you ask), “Fem Tech” movement to finally be embraced by the male-dominated Silicon Valley startup scene? But rather than digress into a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” inquisition, I concluded that a more beneficial response would be to just answer the question. And so I did.

Here are 5 simple things I think YC and any other incubator, accelerator, and supporter of startups and entrepreneurialism, can do to get more women to start their own ventures:

1) Exposure (aka “Show n’ Tell”)

Show us women who are starting companies, and tell us how they’re doing it. There is nothing more impactful than social proof – exposing us to the fact that there are women, past and current, who have done or are doing this. Learning about who they are, and what they did to get there, can help women see the possibilities for themselves in a way that reading yet another article about Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk just doesn’t quite match up.

2) Early Exposure

Start the conversation about business, finance, entrepreneurship, and technology way before we spot “Entrepreneurship 101” in the course catalog leading up to the freshman year in college. We should be informed at an early age that building a startup is an option, and that there’s a way to prepare for it prior to graduating high school and selecting our major in college.

3) Men Take a Stand

Men, alongside women, should step up to lead the discussion about how to foster more female-led startups. Encourage men in your organization to engage in conversations and activities that result in increased empathy for the perspective and experience of female founders. Have the majority call for the inclusion of the minority. Now, wouldn’t that be a powerful shift from within!

4) Walk Your Talk

It’s one thing to say you want diversity; it’s another thing, entirely, to actually hire leaders in your organization that reflect the minority and can help you build a culture that is truly prepared to welcome and support the longevity of diversity in your organization. Truly be the change you wish to see, by first, getting the right people in the door to reflect your stance and support you in your goal of increasing diversity.

5) Access to Opportunities

Women need access to both the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, and network to start a company and the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. So to those who are on the selection and/or funding committees of these startup courses, programs, incubators, and accelerators, and venture capital firms, this is where I’d encourage you to ask yourself questions like, Are we being intentional about how we market our program, in order to make sure we reach a female audience? Are we being mindful of our own judgments, preconceived notions, and stereotypes, and truly making the effort to screen aspiring entrepreneurs as objectively as possible?

Now, this obviously isn’t an exhaustive list about what can be done to close the gender gap in the tech/business/startup world (and I sure do hope others will offer their own suggestions). However, for what it’s worth, I hope it’s a start to moving us from dialogue to action – action that’s reflected in the true investment of time, talent, and discipline to make these much-needed changes a reality.

Oh, and by the way, Sam, for the sake of moving the conversation forward, I’d like to ask you a question, now: What will YC do to encourage other minority groups (e.g. African-Americans, Latinos) to start companies?


From One Educator to Another: Advice on Being an Entrepreneur

This post was written by Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, the Director of Startup Weekend Education.

Last month, I had the privilege of speaking on Teach for America Oklahoma’s Social Innovation Panel. The advice that my fellow panelists shared in that conference hall was so powerful that I immediately thought others interested in making the transition from educator to entrepreneur, or passionate about being more “entrepreneurial” in their current role as educators, would benefit from receiving this information. The following is a summary of the three biggest pieces of advice each panelist, and former Teach for America Corps Member, shared with current classroom educators interested in learning more about entrepreneurship:


In photo from left to right: Andre Feigler, Vinit Sukhija, Carlisha Williams, and Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

Andre Feigler is the Founder of Youth Run NOLA and and Founder and CEO of Enriched Schools, which makes it easy to find the perfect substitute teacher, guest speaker or flexible staff for your school.

  1. Be truthful with yourself about your passion and honest about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re going to head down this path, build something that sets you on fire and that you have some unexplainable desire to pursue. If after reflection you realize you have no choice but to honor your idea or charge at your vision — give it all you’ve got. Be fearless, relentless and bold in the face of inevitable failures and have the conviction that it will work.

  2. Along the way, find mentors and surround yourself with people that are good, and great — those that can help you learn to fail faster and forward, stay grounded and live with compassion, and become wiser and more focused with your drive — and learn from and listen to them.

  3. We need you, the teachers. You know and experience most of the critical, urgent and real problems in today’s education system, and thus, are experts in creating solutions that improve learning and life outcomes for kids. I would challenge folks to think boldly about how we might “redesign” education to inspire, challenge, and support students for the future — questioning structural and pedagogical assumptions — and not merely settle with small change or minor improvements for schools of yesterday.


Vinit Sukhija is the Manager of the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Initiative at Teach for America, which focuses on engaging corps members and alumni to develop, sustain, and grow their own game-changing social ventures that will end educational inequity.

  1. You don’t need to be the founder of a new venture in order to be a social entrepreneur. Launch something new in your classroom, your school, or in your community that solve a problem that really bothers you!

  2. Empower your students to be innovators – never forget to leverage your students’  life experiences and creativity as you lesson plan.

  3. Discover your true passion in education, and run with it. Create a vision for the future of education and work relentlessly – within entrepreneurship or not – to make it a reality.


Carlisha Williams is the Founder and Executive Director of Women Empowering Nations, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of girls and women through self-esteem development, global education, and leadership outreach programs. Also, Carlisha’s documentary, The World They Knew, just debuted!

  1. Start now. I encourage educators to begin being the change they want to see even while still in the classroom. Whether you are impacting two or two hundred in year one, it’s important to take the first step in working towards your dream.

  2. Passion is everything. The greatest asset of any social entrepreneur is a deep passion and love for the work. A great way to stay anchored in that is by writing a vision statement that reminds you of why you are in this work. My vision statement has kept me focused during the ups and downs on the journey of entrepreneurship.

  3. Know what makes your work unique. A great investment of time before starting a venture is researching what other businesses and organizations are doing who work in areas similar to your interest. Use what is already out there to learn from their work, inspire new ideas, and define your target audience.


My Tidbits of Wisdom:

  1. Other people, who are not professional educators, really do care about education too, and should be welcomed in this space as potential collaborators and allies in improving educational experiences for learners. It’s programs like Startup Weekend Education that move dialogue into action, and create a safe space for anyone and everyone to pursue their education ideas and collaborate with like-minded individuals who have complementary skill-sets.

  2. Be selfish in your pursuit of a selfless venture. I know it might seem like a contradictory statement, but what I’m saying is to selfishly choose a venture or initiative that you are truly passionate about. The fact of the matter is, when you are working on something you sincerely care about, you will have the resolve to stick with it, when the going gets tough – and I promise you, it will get tough!

  3. Your business, your leadership and management skills, your relationships…everything will get better when you, as an individual, get better first. Really take ownership in your own personal and professional development and watch how those internal improvements positively impact your external circumstances.


Edsurge's Inaugural Tech for Schools Summit

Come join the party! The Baltimore EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit aims to ensure that educator voices are heard by the innovators building educational tools for schools. Educators also want to discover and play with cutting edge tools.

“This will be the first time that companies, teachers, and districts will be in the same space to talk about how we can make purposeful decisions about what the best edtech companies have to offer our instruction and learning for our kids,” says Jenna Shaw, middle school teacher at Patterson Park Public Charter School in Baltimore City. edsurge

“We can be hands-on, ask the questions that really matter, and make decisions around innovative instruction and curriculum development,” she adds. “These conversations often happen in silos, and the Summit allows a space for everyone dedicated to making education better to dream big about the future.”

Ellen Craviotto, an elementary teacher from Peabody Charter School, traveled from Santa Barbara to Mountain View to participate in a similar EdSurge Summit in Mountain View last November. “I have been teaching for 24 years and it was the first conference I have gone to that I really felt the spirit of collaboration between the companies and the teachers.”

In the Baltimore area February 22?  It’s not too late to register!

DATE: Saturday, February 22

TIME: 9:00 am to 3:30pm (Breakfast, lunch and snacks all provided!)

PLACE: Four Seasons Baltimore Free parking for educators!

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Meet, talk with entrepreneurs building technology. Try out what they’re building. Give them feedback on what you need in your class

MID-DAY BRAIN BOOST: Only one panel! Get the real scoop on implementing blended learning from the people who really know–students.

EXTRA EXTRA! VIP Keynote: Deputy Director James Shelton will share a few words to kick off the event.

MSDE CREDIT: Teachers can opt to earn MSDE credit for participation. Yes, free MSDE credit!

Can’t make the Baltimore EdSurge Summit? Stay tuned for info on upcoming EdSurge Summits in other cities!

Want to make a summit happen in your community? Contact Katrina Stevens, Startup Weekend Education Facilitator and Organizer at

Startup Weekend Education's Innovator of the Month: Christopher Nyren

Christopher Nyren at CHI SWEDUThis month, Startup Weekend Education recognizes Innovator, Christopher Nyren, three-time Startup Weekend Education Organizer of ChicagoLos Angeles, and Twin Cities (coming up in May!)

Christopher founded Educelerate, a not-for-profit network to foster start-up ventures focused on education technology and innovation. They hold monthly Meetups and Workshops (either free of under $4) involving a membership base of over one thousand Educelerants in Chicago, Los Angeles, Twin Cities and (in the works) Phoenix. Christopher also founded Educated Ventures, and since 2012, has successfully raised and invested nearly $50 million across ten separate client capital raises and direct investments.

What People Are Saying About Christopher?

“Chris has a real presence in and is a true advocate for the Chicago edtech ecosystem.  He was able to generate strong sponsor interest in our first-ever Midwestern Startup Weekend Education from his vast network, and at the same time found opportunities to showcase local startups that have been the foundation of Chicago’s edupreneurial community.  Chris has a unique mix of corporate and investing experience combined with a love of working with founders – lucky thing that he’s bringing that passion to Startup Weekend Education events across the US in LA, Phoenix, Twin Cities, and back to Chicago this year!” – Vicky Guo, Startup Weekend Education Facilitator, and Chicago and Oakland Organizer Organizing Team

“Every time I chat with Christopher I am not only inspired, but really learn from him. He is my new hero!” — Dr. Michael K. Clifford, Chairman at

Stay in touch with Christopher on Twitter and subscribe to the Startup Weekend Education newsletter to find out when tickets for his team’s Twin Cities event goes on sale.


Every month, Startup Weekend Education features an Educator and/or Innovator of the Month! Have someone you’d like to nominate? Email his/her information.

Startup Weekend Education Just Had Their Biggest Month Yet!

Dame cinco!!! Why you ask? Because Startup Weekend Education just had its most successful month to-date, conducting five different events in three brand new cities around the world in a 30-day time period!  Spanning three continents, incredible local Community Organizers lead the charge, orchestrating events for over 700 people to come together and build great solutions to some of education’s biggest problems! Check out all the winner’s below, and be sure to visit the event pages, as well, where awesome Organizers and volunteers blogged about the events.


ATHENS, GREECE – January 17-19th – New Startup Weekend Education city!


  • 1st: E-Antibullying – helping to eradicate cyber-bullying

  • 2nd: Museum Challenge – augmented reality/gaming experience for kids at museums

  • 3rd: Culture Loves Autism

Check out the action on Twitter at #AthSWEDU

LOS ANGELES, CA – January 24-26th – New Startup Weekend Education city!


  • 1st: – Unlock the creative electrical engineer in your classroom

  • 2nd: GoalEd – A Game to help kids with goal-setting

  • 3rd (Tie): OwlLook – Curated list of recommended resources for teachers

  • 3rd (Tie): Seek – Students make connections b/t educator lessons and the real-world by creating treasure hunts utilizing geotagging

Check out the action on Twitter at #LAEdu

SAO PAULO, BRASIL – January 30th-February 1st – New Startup Weekend Education city and first-time in South America!


  • 1st: TV JOCA – The first web communication channel for news geared towards children.

  • 2nd: Good to Go – A system that helps English learners improve their fluency and confidence.

  • 3rd: Curió – A robust resume search

NYC TEENS – January 31st-February 2nd – First ever Startup Weekend Education Teens edition!


  • 1st: Ducky – Keeps students interests afloat

  • 2nd: Passionate Pursuit – Supports the integration of students’ creativity/passion into school work and everyday lives.

  • 3rd: Integration Orientation – Helps end racial segregation at schools.

Check out the action on Twitter at #NYCEduTeens

NYC ADULTS – January 31st-February 2nd – 3rd annual Startup Weekend Education in NYC!


  • 1st: Vid Code – Interactive mobile platform to get teenage girls interested in coding

  • 2nd: The Golden Egg – DonorsChoose for education software development

  • 3rd: SimplifAID – Helping students make sense of their financial aid packet after they receive it.

Check out the action on Twitter at #NYCEdu


Here’s your chance to take part in the action. Pitch your idea or work on a team at any of these upcoming events:

  • Feb 21st – Oakland, CA

  • March 28th – St. Bonaventure, NY

  • March 28th – Toronto, CanadaLibrary Edition

  • April 11th – Recife, Brazil

  • April 18th – Phoenix, AZ

  • April 25th – Copenhagen, Denmark

  • May 2nd – Minneapolis

  • May 16th – Bay Area, CA – Next Gen Edition

  • May 23rd – Cambridge, UK

  • May 30th – Abidjan, Ivory Coast

  • June 27th – Sydney, Australia

  • July 4th – Montreal, Canada

  • September 12th – Oakland, CA

  • Oct 3rd – Mexico City, Mexico

Johannesburg, Ann Arbor, Prishtina, Ibague, DC, Montreal, and Rochester events are also coming in 2014. Sign up to the Startup Weekend Education newsletter to receive notifications for when tickets go on sale!


Learn more here, or apply today!

New Year, New Site, New Opportunities

It’s bright, it’s shiny, it’s new

You’ll surely discover an interesting thing or two

So stop what you’re doing and click here to view

Our brand new site is ready – the one we built specifically for you!


Ok, I think that’s about all the cheesy rhyming you can stomach in one sitting, plus I’m sure I’m losing “cool points” with every line, so I’ll get right to it: We have BIG news! In addition to Startup WeekendNEXT, and Startup DigestUP Global’s fourth program, Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU), just debuted a brand new website!

SWEDU Screenshot

So What is This “SWEDU” Thing?

Founded in 2011, SWEDU is a global initiative that equips local communities with the entrepreneurial skills, knowledge, and network to effectively solve pressing education problems. Composed of passionate educators, entrepreneurs, developers, and designers, SWEDU is on a mission to revolutionize the education and learning markets. The program brings together people in these networks over the course of 54-hour events to help design and produce viable companies that solve some of education’s most pressing problems.

Thanks to the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,  SWEDU is broadening its program to provide more tactical support both prior to and after the event, as well as serve as a resource hub of timely and timeless content that education entrepreneurs can utilize to advance their endeavors. Only two and a half years old, SWEDU has already expanded into 30 cities and every continent in the world (except for that really really cold one), directly impacting the lives of thousands around the globe. Its expansion plans mark an unprecedented opportunity for anyone and everyone to play a role in creating the future of education, and the addition of the website, now makes it easier for people to find out how they can get involved.

A Quick Site Overview

There’s some really awesome information to dive into on the site, and plenty more to come over the next few months, but for now, here’s a quick run-down of some of the great things you’ll find:


You’re the Builder and We’re the Toolkit

One of our favorite quotes at SWEDU is “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” by Mahatma Gandhi. It stands out to us because we recognize that it is you – the individual, the group, the community- that has the power to create a world you can be excited about and proud of. It is you who are the leaders of this movement of change, it is you who will shape the future of this world. And as for SWEDU, we simply want to provide you with the best resources, support, and network you’ll need along the way.

So here you go, builders, take a peak inside your starter-kit!

Chicago SWEDU team

Educator to Entrepreneur: Using Entrepreneurial Skills to Impact Learning

This post was written by Maggie Croushore, Founder of KidFit Academy and Co-Organizer of SWEDU San Francisco Nov 22nd.

We have an amazing organizing team filled with former teachers, entrepreneurs, startup weekend graduates, and people 100% dedicated to finding solutions to education’s most persistent challenges.

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) San Francisco Team

sf logo

A Life-Changing Experience

Early on in our planning conversations, my Co-Organizers and I knew that we wanted to do a special workshop just for teachers leading up to our SWEDU San Francisco on Nov 22nd.  Three out of five of us are former classroom teachers, so it made sense for us to hold an event specifically for educators to prepare them for the weekend. And for me, in particular, this idea hit close to home.

I remember when I attended my first SWEDU as a teacher last year. I was incredibly nervous, as I had never before been exposed to entrepreneurship and had no idea what to expect.  However, as I drove to the event, I gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone in a room full of complete strangers and pitch an idea that had been ruminating in my mind for some time.  And I am so glad I did! I ended up creating KidFit Academy, and I can honestly say that SWEDU changed my career path. I would not be where I am today without it. And so my Co-Organizers and I wanted to make sure other teachers get the same opportunity to play a leadership role in creating great solutions to their own problems in the classroom.

From the beginning, we knew that we not only wanted to recruit some amazing teachers for our event, but we also wanted to connect teachers to the growing education technology sector in a real and meaningful way.  After some conversation, we decided on the following overarching goals for the workshop.

  • Introduce educators to the concepts and skills needed for startup weekend
  • Begin cultivating a community of educators dedicated to entrepreneurship
  • Empower educators to use entrepreneurial skills to problem solve pressing educational issues
  • Provide a safe and supportive learning space for educators to brainstorm and practice pitching business ideas for upcoming SWEDU

swedu sf panel 

A Big Success

Through our event, we were able to accomplish several of our key goals.  First, we were able to recruit some amazing teachers for our event. After participating in our dynamic workshop, these teachers will be even more prepared for an amazing SWEDU experience. Also, by exposing teachers to the power of their voice in the education innovation movement, we were able to open the dialogue for future conversations bringing together education startups and teachers.

It is important to communicate to teachers that SWEDU is not just for those that might be thinking of joining or founding a startup. Classroom teachers do not have to leave the setting of a school, in order to make an impact in the edtech world.  I know that as a teacher, I was intimidated by these type of events; however, throughout the weekend, I quickly realized that I not only had a lot to add to the conversation, but I also was an asset to my team. Only us teachers have the experience of seeing many problems up front, on a daily basis, and that experience is a value-add to anyone interested in solving those problems.

At the end of our workshop, it was inspiring to see some attendees share their problems and proposed solutions. Just imagine! If they can come up with such great ideas in less than hour, what could they come up with over the course of a 54-hour weekend?

Replicating the Model

After a while, those of us in the startup scene sometimes forget that not everyone speaks the language of entrepreneurship and that can be incredibly intimidating. Having a teacher-centric event not only shows teachers how important they are, it acts as preparation for the weekend.  By hearing from former educators-turned-entrepreneurs and participating in a startup weekend mini-simulation, teachers walked away from the event with a better understanding of entrepreneurship, as well as a strong pitch for the weekend or beyond.  Teachers already engage in the thinking behind entrepreneurship; they just might not realize it, because they call it something different—good teaching.

I would absolutely recommend that future SWEDU Organizers implement this type of workshop prior to their event. Teachers need to be in the dialogue when it comes to education products and startups, as they always think of their students and have the ability to see things that others may not. Teachers are an essential part of the SWEDU puzzle, and the better you prepare them for the weekend ahead, the more empowered they will be to contribute their experience and skill-set to the development of solutions to some of education’s biggest problems.

Join us this weekend at SWEDU San Francisco, Nov 22-24