Vittana Blogger Challenge: What Does Education Mean to Us

At Startup Weekend, education is one of our most popular “E” words. (The others are entrepreneurs, experiential, empowerment, and ecosystems.  Yes, we like “E” words.)  In fact, our Mission Statement states that we are a non-profit dedicated to educating entrepreneurs in startup communities around the world.

Learning in a classroom or at the workplace is essential.  But learning in the real world is equally important.  When we talk about education at Startup Weekend, we are referring to hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work education.  Education that you don’t passively receive but that you have to work for.  The kind where you have “Eureka!” moments and where you learn about yourself in addition to learning about entrepreneurship.

When we push people to step outside their comfort zones at Startup Weekends, when we encourage them to try something new or to seek advice from mentors and teammates, we are asking them to stretch the limits of what they think they can do.  By asking questions and daring to think big and disrupting the status quo, our attendees are learning what they are truly capable of—not limiting themselves to what they thought they were capable of.

There are no set lessons that Startup Weekend attendees are required to check off a list.  They don’t have to learn how to write a business plan or build a website.  But they are required to use the tools at their disposal to self-educate in order to break out of inside-the-box thinking and their own imagined limitations.

We believe that giving people time, tools, and access like-minded people is the best way we can educate them about the challenges of entrepreneurship but also about the opportunities they didn’t realize were within their reach.

This blog was written for the Vittana Blogger Challenge. Vittana was founded on the belief that education can change everything. Vittana believes education is the most powerful tool we have in the world, whether to fight global poverty or transform lives. “Literacy is not enough. Make a difference today.”








Voting is Now Open for Global Startup Battle

From November 22 through November 28, 2011, Startup WeekendTM will be hosting an online Global Startup Battle designed to foster friendly competition and community awareness among the global Startup Weekend community.  Forty-eight winning teams from Startup Weekend events that took place November 11-14, 2011 and November 18-20, 2011 have the chance to compete to become the ultimate Global Startup Battle winner.

Over 60 communities, spread over 5 continents, held Startup Weekends over these two weekends.  In total over 4,500 attendees, mentors, speakers, and judges worked on startup ideas during these events, with thousands of ideas pitched and hundreds of teams formed.

The Global Startup Battle contenders teams led by college students, business professionals, retirees, stay-at-home-moms, even a 10 year old!  Ideas fell into many categories including green tech, profit-for-good, mobile, gaming, education, e-commerce, travel, food, and more.

The winner of Global Startup Battle receives prizes which are intended to help their startup gain exposure in the global startup community as well as provide services and support to continue working on their team and idea.

Prizes include a table at the Startup Pavilion at Demo Asia in Singapore (February 2012), a table in the Launch Pad at the Launch Conference in San Francisco (March 2012), 40 hours of web design services from Creative Design Agency BTrax ($6,500 value), a PR launch package courtesy of The Kauffman Foundation, and a startup legal package from Cooley LLP ($5,000 value).

Voting is open to the global Startup Weekend community and beyond starting at 12pm PST on November 22 and ends at 11pm PST on November 28, 2011.  Anyone can vote for their favorite startup by going to the Startup Weekend Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/startupweekend, and clicking on the “Contests” tab on the left hand side.








A Huge Thank You to Microsoft for All of Their Support During GEW

It’s no secret that Startup Weekend loves Microsoft.  And why wouldn’t we?  Microsoft, particularly through the Microsoft BizSpark program, supports entrepreneurs around the world, helping them build innovative, disruptive products through access to software and support.
Here’s a look at the events that Microsoft has been involved with both last weekend (11/11 – 11/13) and right now (11/18 – 11/20):
Week 1
Cambridge – Harvard iLab
Seattle
Buenos Aires
New Haven
Princeton
Aarhus
Denver
Bucharest
Week 2
Vancouver
Toronto
Copenhagen
Warsaw
San Francisco
New York City
Orange County
Las Vegas
Washington D.C.
To learn more about Microsoft BizSpark, check out their website.  To find upcoming Startup Weekend events, head to our event page.







NetShelter, Premier Sponsor of SW Toronto, Discusses Starting Up in Canada

Startup Weekend is proud to announce a premier sponsorship with NetShelter Technology Media. NetShelter is the largest network of the most influential technology blogs on the Web, with more than 4,500 independent bloggers across leading tech blogs such as SlashGear.com, MacRumors.com, 9to5Mac.com, Phandroid.com, CrackBerry.com, Phonescoop.com, IntoMobile.com, and hundreds of others.

NetShelter is a venture-backed company whose support of Toronto Start-Up Weekend is grounded in their growing success in the digital media space, including innovative approaches to online advertising and brand engagement in social media.

Founded in 1999 by co-founders Peyman and Pirouz Nilforoush NetShelter’s mission is to help technology bloggers, marketers, and consumers become more informed, influential, and successful. Today, NetShelter’s network of bloggers publish more than 48,000 stories monthly that are recommended by 3.5 million tech enthusiasts and read by over 150 million people globally. The company enables technology brands such as Samsung, Microsoft, and LG to leverage influencers and their content to build their brands.

NetShelter is looking for talented developers to join their staff, which includes some of the brightest minds in the business. We like to think outside the box and are passionate about changing the world. If you are looking to work in a fast moving start up environment and are passionate about building cutting edge technologies that empower the biggest tech blogs and brands on the web today then NetShelter is the place for you.

NetShelter will be at Toronto Start-Up Weekend November 18th to the 22nd. For more information, visit www.netshelter.com.

We took some time to sit with Pirouz Nilforoush and pick his brain about some of the tips and advice he could offer Toronto’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

What were the unique challenges to being a startup in Toronto? 

I think that one of the biggest challenges stemmed from a cultural perspective. Back in 2006, Toronto didn’t really have much of a startup culture, and as a result, there were fewer people with startup experience and mentality. That’s not to say that there wasn’t talent – there definitely was; but there was a lack of understanding around what it actually took to build a successful company. This forced us to expand our horizons. We were very driven and aggressive, and unfortunately, it was hard to find people with a similar mentality, experience and work ethic.

The other big challenge we saw as a Toronto-based startup was with the culture/mindset of the investment community. Regardless of how talented or smart the entrepreneur, there is very little early stage funding available. The way we got funded wasn’t because we had a brilliant idea; it was because we met the Canadian VC requirement of generating significant revenue – pure and simple.

It’s a disappointing reality that someone with a revolutionary vision who needs some starting capital to make that into a reality has such a difficult time getting that money. The belief is that nobody funds something that isn’t already generating revenue and I think this stems from the investment community’s aversion to risk. There’s a wealth of smart people, but if you haven’t figured out your business model and proven it, very few investors are going to take a chance on you.

NetShelter is funded and headquartered in Canada; however, the bulk of its revenue is generated in the US. How do you manage those challenges?

That’s been the case since we started. Online advertising’s biggest market is in the US and for us to be able to maximize revenue for our bloggers we needed a strong presence in the US market.

Additionally, while we were in Toronto, one of our biggest challenges was competing in a maturing market while being disconnected from the realities of that market. Essentially, we were in Toronto trying to compete against folks in New York and Silicon Valley. Because most of our clients were in the US, we learned a valuable lesson – be close to your clients and understand their challenges. This lesson forced us to bulk our presence in their US.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs attending StartupWeekend?

  • Focus on delivering a product that solves a very specific problem in the best possible way.
  • Keep design and functionality very simple.
  • Get it launched as soon as you can.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in building NetShelter to where it is today?

Focus on getting the right people on board and eliminate the wrong people. One of our biggest regrets is not making changes fast enough. We learned that one bad apple in a startup can have a big impact on the entire team.








Moglue (SW Seoul) One of 6 Finalists at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing

This article was originally published by Jason Kincaid on TechCrunch.

The rise of the iPad (and, to a lesser degree, other tablets) has led to myriad new kinds of apps that are flourishing. And, as someone who still enjoys flipping through a good Dr. Seuss book from time to time, there are few trends I enjoy more than the rich, interactive children’s books that are catching on.

These books typically feature music, sound effects, some animation, and other nifty niceties that make books more fun for kids to play with (and can also supplement learning). And there are plenty of people out there who can pen and illustrate a good book, but don’t know much about programming in Objective C. That’s where TC Disrupt finalist Moglue comes in: it lets just about anyone create children’s books, using a simple and straightforward UI.

Obviously your book isn’t going to look amazing if you’re not so good at drawing, but for all of those artists looking to make the jump to the tablet — or anyone who wants to craft a custom story book with family photos for their kids — this seems perfect. Text and images can be dragged and dropped onto the screen, then animated using one of many different effects.

These apps are built using clients available for Mac and Windows, and can be ‘one-click’ published to iOS and Android. The builder is free to use, and Moglue will make money via a rev-share for users who publish their books.

 








Mingly (SW LA) Releases Public Beta, Raises $500K

Mingly keeps you connected with the people that matter most and
filters out the noise of social networks;
Closes $500k in seed funding from Idealab and others

Startup Weekend LA company Mingly today announced the launch of it’s public beta and that it’s closed $500K in seed funding from Idealab and others.

Mingly is a web service that makes it easy to stay connected with the people who matter most, while bringing order to the chaos of social networks.

According to Tyler Koblasa, Founder and CEO of Mingly, “Our personal network and the people we connect with are our most important assets,” said Tyler Koblasa, Founder and CEO of Mingly. “Social networks have given us many ways to connect and build relationships, but we’re now bombarded with a never-ending stream of news, updates and events. We make new friends and connections easily, but often fail to develop the important relationships. Mingly is here to solve this pain.”

With Mingly users can:

  • Get organized with a social address book that merges Gmail and social-network contacts
  • See a brief snapshot of the people they’re emailing that shows recent updates, conversations, bio, interests, and more
  • Save time by sending Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn messages right from Gmail
  • Stay in touch by getting alerted to key news like birthdays and job changes
  • Build relationships by setting follow-up reminders for new contacts
Mingly is now available at www.getmingly.com for Gmail, in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. A web-based and mobile version with support for non-Gmail users is also in development.
For more information, head over to www.getmingly.com or follow the company on Twitter @GetMingly.







Startup Weekend Expands with new Google Partnership

Today, Startup Weekend announced a two-year partnership with Google designed to foster startup communities around the world.  Google is supporting Startup Weekend through a global sponsorship, which will not only allow for the expansion of current operations, but also enable the global roll-out of pre-Startup Weekend Google developer workshops and vertical specific initiatives in areas such as education and health.

Marc Nager, CEO of Startup Weekend, says the partnership with Google is “giving us a unique opportunity to create new opportunities for early stage entrepreneurs in communities around the world that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. Who better to have as our first Global Partner helping us lead the revolution in entrepreneurial education?”

The initial partnership roll-out will begin in cities with active Google developer communities in the form of GoogleTechnologyUserGroups (GTUGs) and existing Startup Weekend communities.  The pre-Startup Weekend GTUG workshops will help develop the technical skills of ambitious entreprenuers so that they may quickly and successfully implement those skills just days later on real startup projects at Startup Weekend events. Workshops are already scheduled in Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas, and internationally in London, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo. Cities around the world will be added over the coming months. Startup Weekend and GTUG leaders in other cities are encouraged to contact Startup Weekend (contact information listed below) to develop pre-event workshop opportunities through this partnership.

Mary Himinkool, Head of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach at Google, says, “We’re passionate about promoting entrepreneurship globally and in local communities.  This partnership with Startup Weekend will help to expand the footprint to more cities and help support the 200 cities in which Startup Weekend is already active.  We hope to help empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to build startups and ultimately realize their dreams.”

For more information about the partnership, please contact Zac Cohn at zachary@startupweekend.org or visit http://startupweekend.org/google

 








Scanadu (SW Brussels) Raises $2M, Seeks to Build "Medical Tricorder"

This article was originally published by Robin Wauters on TechCrunch.

Meet Scanadu, an innovative health tech startup I daresay you’ll be hearing a lot more from in the future. It’s not the easiest of tasks explaining what the company is building at this point, but let’s call it a personal, mobile, auto-diagnostics product – they refer to it as a Medical Tricorder.

Founded in January 2011 by a team of entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds, the roots of Scanadu actually go way back. One of the company’s founders, and its chief executive officer, is Walter De Brouwer – something of a legend here in Belgian entrepreneurial circles, and beyond.

He says he had the basic idea for a personal health monitoring service back in 1999 when he was working at the renowned Starlab research institute, which he jump-started alongside MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte. And from watching Star Trek.

“Sci-fi stories are business plans in disguise,” De Brouwer tells me, referring to the invention of the mobile phone, which was inspired by the Star Trek communicator. “I’ve tried to build the Tricorder once before, in 1999 at Starlab, but the technology was too immature.”

De Brouwer says the idea resurfaced in his mind in 2006, when his son was hospitalized for 3 months following a serious accident. So he conjured up the idea of using one’s smartphone as a personal doctor of sorts, leveraging many of the things modern cellphones can do to help people auto-diagnose and manage many of the easily identifiable health conditions that may arise.

Scanadu’s first product, the ‘Medical Tricorder’, is built specifically with parents with kids in mind, and to help avoid expensive trips to hospitals based on insufficient information and/or anxiety.

“Today, the health tools in your home probably consist of a thermometer and a box of band-aids. We can do a lot better,” says co-founder and COO Misha Chellam.

The company has worked with IDEO to create a video that captures its core vision well that includes the quote I used for this posts’s headline, albeit paraphrased. You can watch it below.

Scanadu has raised $2 million from a network of global angel investors, including Playfish co-founder Sebastien De Halleux, and is currently moving the team from Belgium to the San Francisco Bay Area (the lab is being established at NASA’s Research Park).

The company is building a core team of biomedical engineers, software and hardware developers, and AI specialists. They also have a Medical Advisory Board that includes Stanford-affiliated Dr. Daniel Kraft and Dr. Jordan Shlain, founder of Healthloop and Current Health.

Scanadu is currently seeking technology partnerships with telemedicine and diagnostic technology startups, and hiring more people to join its quest to build a personal ‘pocket doctor’.

 








LaunchRock (SW Philly) Launches and Gets $800K in Funding

This article was originally published by Alexia Tsotsis on TechCrunch.

Viral startup launching platform LaunchRock is announcing a get of $800K in seed funding today, from investors 500 StartupsVenture51Quotidian VenturesSocial Leverage, Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, David Tisch, Diego Berdakin, Paul Bricault, Dharmesh Shah, Ryan Holmes, Paige Craig, Scott Becker, Eric Cantor, Mike Edwards, David Famolari, Stephen Gill, James Levine, Daniel Wolfson, Philip Reicherz, Adrian Stone and Lance White (What a mouthful!).

In addition to announcing financing, LaunchRock is also, um, launching to the public, so that anyone who wants can create their own startup launch page as of today can. Coming out of private beta, the startup has introduced a design revamp which includes new launch-page themes, additional social options like Tumblr and LinkedIn and a more streamlined email invite flow.

LaunchRock founder Jameson Detweiler tells me that he plans on using the funding to bolster the marketing and analytics part of the LaunchRock launch packages, “The thing that our customers are telling us (and the thing we see them struggle with) is what to do with the [email] list after they’ve built it,” Detweiler says.

The service for the most part is still free and Detweiler is testing a variety of pricing models, leaning towards a performance-based approach, “We believe that we’re only at the beginning of data driven, social marketing. 99% of people who log into Google Analytics have no idea what they’re looking at or, more importantly, what to do with the data. We’re using the capital to build tools that aren’t just marketing, aren’t just analytics, but a combination of the two. Tools that just work. [So] don’t pay us for the tools, pay us for how well they work.”

Aside from themselves (enter your email into LaunchRock’s ubiquitous launch page to get started), LaunchRock has seen some  well known startups and celebrities use it as part of their product launch strategy, including The Olsen Twins, Jessica Simpson, TaskRabbit, Birchbox and hilariously, TechCrunch Disrupt startups Shaker and Shakr.








Vampires, er, entrepreneurs get inspired at Startup Weekend. You can too!

Entrepreneurship is for everyone–even vampires!  Check out this cheeky and inspiring video from the team over at Startup Weekend Romania.  Then grab your cape and fly on over to your local Startup Weekend.  With over 75 events happening this month, the nearest event can’t be too far away!