Supporting Seattle Entrepreneurs (Video)

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Learnings from Seattle Startup Week (Video)

Startup Week is a free, five-day celebration of your community that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship. Each Startup Week is led by local entrepreneurs and hosted in amazing spaces all over town. Get a behind the scenes look at the recent Seattle Startup Week and see what it’s all about. 

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Ask An Entrepreneur: I Want to Start a Non-Profit. How Do I Win My First Grant?

Response provided by Marissa Elena Yáñez, Founder and CEO of Empoder and Empower Girls through Code.


I want to start a non-profit. How do I win my first grant?

Last fall I decided it was finally time to start my own non-profit, Empoder. I buckled down and wrote my first grant proposal for a pilot after-school computer science education program in East Palo Alto, California. And low and behold, I won! The first grant proposal that I ever wrote and I won a $40,000 Google Rise award!

People often ask me, what was the secret to winning your first grant? So I’ve come up with the following advice….

1. Make sure you are pretty much a PERFECT match for the grant you are applying for.

As a startup organization, it can be a lot tougher to win grant money, at least initially. A lot of funding agencies and family foundations only award money to established nonprofits that have already demonstrated an impact in the community you are working with. This can be a frustrating, yet not hopeless experience.

To begin with, look at organizations similar to yours. Identify other startup organizations and organizations that do similar work and look to see who has funded them in the past. This will give you a lot of insight into who is looking for and/or willing to fund small innovative startup organizations and programs such as yourself.

Once you have identified potential funding sources or grants of interest, look up the list of previous winners for these grants to determine whether your organization and the program you are proposing fits the profile of the organizations previously awarded. If you don’t fit the profile, don’t bother…unless you happen to have all the time in the world and just want to practice your grant writing skills.

Read the fine print: a call for proposals will typically announce the demographics of the population they want to serve, the geographical area(s) that interest them, and additional specific details about the type of work they want to fund. Make sure the mission of your organization and the program you are proposing matches the interests of the funding agency. This is the first thing funding agencies will look at when evaluating proposals, so if you don’t match the key interests of the funding agency, just know up front that your likelihood of winning the grant is little to none.

Keep in mind, there’s more to being a good match for a grant then simply fitting the “theme” of what a funding agency is looking for. For example, just because my computer science educational programs can be categorized as “STEM Education” doesn’t mean I apply to grants simply because they fund STEM programs. In fact, I don’t bother applying to 98% of grants that fund “STEM Education” simply because once I look deeper and read the fine print, I realize I am not that “perfect” match, so I move on.











2. Form partnerships in the community you want to serve!

One thing that helps make a grant proposal irresistible is if you are able to demonstrate your ability to integrate into and work with existing organizations, schools, businesses and/or agencies within the community you want to serve. No one wants to see organizations work in isolation and reinvent the wheel when it comes to infrastructure or systems that already exist.

For example, in proposing my after-school program in East Palo Alto, rather than finding a location to offer a stand-alone program, I formed partnerships with the Ravenswood School District and the Ravenswood Education Foundation that allowed me to offer my program at three public schools in East Palo Alto using their classrooms and equipment that already existed. I also formed a partnership with the after school program that was already in place and was able to work with students who were already enrolled in the state sponsored after-school program. This demonstrated my ability to maximize local resources and work within existing systems, all of which funders love to see.

3. Don’t forget about Evaluation and Metrics!

In the last several years, more and more emphasis is being placed on program evaluation and metrics. Bottom line, funders want to know that the work they are funding will ultimately make an IMPACT in the community, AND that you have the ability to MEASURE this impact. Make sure your proposal defines a set of meaningful metrics that you will use to measure the impact of your proposed program.

If you don’t have a background or expertise in program evaluation, make sure you get feedback from people who do. I happen to have a strong background in program evaluation and metrics, so this is usually one of the strongest elements of my application. But even if you don’t have a background in this area, find someone who does and don’t neglect it! More and more I’ve had funders tell me that the first thing they look for is whether or not the program they are funding provides a meaningful measureable impact to the community. So be sure to address this!

4. Update your website/social media/etc. to highlight your most recent accomplishments!

As a startup non profit, many organizations may not have much to show as of yet, or may not have taken the time to build a comprehensive website. Before you submit that grant, take a week, get wordpress, and set up and/or update your website! Your website is the first thing funders will look at to “vet” applicants. So make sure it shows you at your best! Also, update your LinkedIn, your twitter etc. so that it presents your best foot forward. Yes, funders will look at it all, your website, your social media accounts, most likely even your facebook. Be sure it highlights you at your best!

The UP blog will soon be moving over to Techstars! 

Meet The Trailblazers of Triangle Startup Weekend

Over the course of 54 Hours, more than 70 people came together in Durham, NC to pitch ideas, collaborate, and produce startups that solve real world problems.

See how these Trailblazers embrace building, having fun, and making change.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

6 Things I Learned as a College Student Working at Startup Weekend

Guest Post By Andrew Weiss, student at the University of Oregon. Andrew attended his first Startup Weekend during Global Startup Battle in Eugene, OR and created the Silent Style team. 

6 Things I Learned As A College Student Working At Startup Weekend

1. Have A Great Team
This is a concept that gets reiterated over and over again because it still holds true! If you surround yourself with a hard­working, innovative and diverse group of people, it makes the roller­coaster experience much more fun and manageable. Also get to know each other! These are the people you are going to spend an incredible amount of time with and so it is best to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, pet peeves and passions as soon as possible to be the most effective team out there.

2. Stay Organized
It is CRUCIAL for your team to know where they are going and how they are going to get there. You don’t always need a leader to delegate tasks, in fact autonomous leadership is sometimes the best option because your teammates know what they are best at and how they can contribute. If you don’t do this everyone will be working on tasks that may be insignificant and don’t contribute to the larger goal. Keep each other updated and focused! Every hour you should review what you have
accomplished so far so you can feel good about yourselves and what you need to accomplish in the next hour to reach goals you set for the day.

3. Visualize Your Success
Entrepreneurship can be a tough field to break into because you might put hours, days, weeks, months and years into something you may never get paid for. Fortunately, this makes success that much sweeter which is why quotes, vision boards and mock trophies should be created to keep everyone in a happy and productive state­ of ­mind throughout the day. Humans are visual creatures, and if you place yourself in an environment where you can already feel the success, you are more likely to succeed.

4. Don’t Make Assumptions
We spent two days working on a product that specifically targets women because we saw one company in a certain industry grow in revenue from $3 million to $12 million in two years. However, the one female judge from our competition said she never wears similar products and none of her friends do either. Talk about heartbreak. Even though we did research and sent out surveys on the product and similar ones to it, we
still made broad assumptions and didn’t narrow it down as much as we should have for the prototype we had ready to insure our success.

5. Use Your Resources!
As part of the Startup Weekend, we had the honor of having an incredible amount of resources throughout the weekend from free websites we could use to instructional videos on how to stand out from other companies. We also had constant advice from mentors who helped us and already found solutions to problems we didn’t even know existed. Without all their help we would have been confused.

6. Push Forward
Rejection is a part of life and that is reality. Success stories consistently show that those who are the most successful have the most resilience. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company that he started and Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So if you are truly passionate enough in your product or service and want to make it happen, you will. That is the truth. So push
forward fellow entrepreneurs, and let’s continue to innovate and make this world a better place!

Ask An Entrepreneur: As a marine biologist, why did you get into entrepreneurship and what role do you see entrepreneurism playing in your industry?

Response provided by Dr. Asha de Vos

Photo credit: Robert Leslie

Dr. Asha de Vos is a Sri Lankan marine biologist, educator and founder of The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project. She is the first Sri Lankan to obtain a PhD in a field related to marine mammal research and established the first long-term study on blue whales in the Northern Indian Ocean. Her publications on Sri Lankan blue whales, have led to this population being designated as a species in urgent need of conservation research and action by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Her pioneering work has been showcased internationally by Channel 7 Australia (2010), the BBC (2010), the New York Times (2012), CNN (2012), WIRED UK (2014), the New Scientist (2014), TED (2015), Grist (2015) and National Geographic where she serves as a guest blogger. Amongst her many accolades Asha is most notably a TED Senior Fellow and A Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Ask An Entrepreneur: As a marine biologist, why did you get into entrepreneurship and what role do you see entrepreneurism playing in your industry?

Having an entrepreneurial mindset means I don’t hesitate to think outside the confines of my academic space in search of a new ways to change the status quo for our planet. Last year WWF shared sad news that humans had reduced population sizes of all the planet’s better-known species by half in less than two human generations. Hearing this concerned me and made me realize that what we are currently doing to combat this problem simply isn’t working. Our methods to protect and conserve nature are broken and we need something different and new– FAST.

As a marine biologist, my focus is very simply to save the oceans. I realized though that while the victory of saving (at least momentarily) a population of the largest animal to ever roam the planet from it’s biggest threat (getting killed by ships) would indeed be a sweet one, it wouldn’t do enough for the system as a whole. We need to think bigger and broader, and that’s exactly why I am transitioning out of the ivory tower of academia into my own organization that believes that ‘oceans for all, forever’ truly is the only way forward.

Photo credit: Steve de Neef











For years I have pioneered research on a unique population of blue whales in the Northern Indian Ocean. Once I cleared a path for this kind of research in a part of the world where it didn’t exist many other teams started to work on the same conservation issues I was concerned with.

It fascinates me that there is this assumption that entrepreneurs are only people who work in business and industry. My job is as far from that as you can imagine.

It fascinates me that there is this assumption that entrepreneurs are only people who work in business and industry. My job is as far from that as you can imagine. I spend a lot of time in, on or around the ocean, working on boats, amongst blue whales and other incredible creatures. But beyond that I work with media to talk about the oceans and how we can look after them, I experiment with different tools that can connect people with the oceans and I also take people on the ocean so they can be inspired and understand my passion and the need for conservation.

20150211-_N2L2188 (1)
Photo credit: Steve de Neef











Being bold, despite where I came from and the challenges I faced has allowed me to be a voice that represents a set of views that never really existed before. This is what I love about being entrepreneurial – it gives me the freedom to explore the space beyond me and do something useful for the planet. It gives me the freedom to try things out and make mistakes. It gives me the freedom to dream big, take more risks and shape our future.

Given my experience ‘thinking-outside-the-box’ and knowing the benefits of perusing the space beyond, I encourage everyone to adopt a similar mindset. There will always be new challenges but isn’t that what life is about? An exploration of the unknown? The pushing of boundaries? As Mark Twain said, ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect’. At this point, you have a choice, but to change the world, you have to CHOOSE to be different.

Entrepreneurs are people who turn the seemingly impossible into the possible.

Next time you face a challenge, think about what your colleagues would do in that situation. Now discard those options and think about how you can overcome that challenge in a new and innovative way if you had unlimited resources. You will be amazed at what you come up with once you remove the barriers and constraints to free flowing thought. Remember, entrepreneurs are people who turn the seemingly impossible into the possible. I would argue that within all of us lies an entrepreneur just waiting for the opportunity to break free. My advice, give in.

How a Little Mentorship, Teamwork and 54 Hours Can Turn an Idea into Startup Magic

Article by Pratibha R. Find her on LinkedIn.

When I heard that my college (NIT Tiruchirappalli) was going to host Startup Weekend in Trichy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard a lot about it from others who attended it last year. However, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be useful.

My friend Ashwin and I got interested in entrepreneurship over the last year or so, after a lot of discussions about our dreams and goals in life. So in the end, we decided to sign up for the event because we thought that if nothing else – we would learn about what it takes to build a startup!

The event started on Friday evening (11th Sept). Everyone had one minute to pitch an idea. The participants of SW Trichy then voted for the best ideas and the top 17 were selected. Ashwin and I pitched for two different ideas, and to our surprise both of them got selected! Ashwin delivered his pitch in the beginning and I delivered the pitch towards the end (65th pitch), when Anurag Maloo – the Facilitator of the Startup Weekend Trichy, encouraged more students to come over and pitch their ideas.

sw3The people who pitched these top voted ideas got to form a team with the rest of the participants and worked over the weekend to make a minimum viable product and then deliver a final pitch (five minute presentation) in front of the judges on Sunday evening. Over this period of two days (Saturday and Sunday), mentors from various companies came in and helped the teams with developing and marketing their idea.

I think one of the overarching themes of the Startup Weekend I attended was the importance of sharing resources. Most of the participants were in the business/ marketing/ design crowd and there were very few developers and coders to go around. So a lot of teams had to share developers. This was particularly visible in my team. People from Ashwin’s group and mine decided to come together and work as one big team (9 people) for both the startup ideas.

This worked out surprisingly well. Everyone really made use of their expertise and in the end we had a cool MVP (minimum viable product) to present to the judges.


Ashwin’s startup idea was based on making international transactions easier. We called it ‘Surrogate Buyer’. My startup idea was based on wearable technology and I named it as “e-Tex” just 2 seconds before I got up to pitch for the idea on Friday. We were working on creating a customisable display on a T-shirt as our MVP for e-Tex. Although everybody – mentors and general public (customer validation) – loved the idea of our startup product, we were quite unsure if it would be a successful business. That is when the mentors played a vital role. The mentors gave us a lot of insights and criticism, which was very crucial to the development and improvement of our startup. We moved ahead confidently and surprised everyone with our MVP during the final pitch, and we were also able to clarify a variety of concerns and questions from the judges. I think that in the end, that was what helped us bag the first place among the other 16 startup ideas.


Startup Weekend was awesome. It was a truly brilliant learning experience. We witnessed a variety of people coming together and discussing ideas and concerns, learning to work together over an impossibly brief period of time to meet a specific goal. The most valuable takeaway from the Startup Weekend program was the interaction with the mentors from various backgrounds. The teams were able to draw from the substantial repository of knowledge about businesses and markets that the mentors possessed, which helped the teams refine and polish their idea and come up with a viable model for monetizing it. When it was finally time for the final presentations, everyone was surprised at what they could accomplish with less than 54 hours of work. I think, in the end, the most important lesson that I learned over the weekend is to be open to new learning experiences. It just might change your life!

Funded on Kickstarter: Comic Book about Startups Gets Crowdfunding Vote

This week, Kickstarter voted overwhelming support for My First Startup, a comic book that lets children learn entrepreneurship on their own terms, in a fun and non-patronizing way. The comic book met its Kickstarter funding goal with a full week to spare.

This vote of confidence from the crowdfunding community shows that teaching kids Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 1.42.46 PMentrepreneurship is important and exciting. My First Startup helps parents teach kids an alternative to the 9-5 career. Ultimately, it’s helping parents raise kids who feel empowered and comfortable in the world where running your own business is as welcomed and rewarding as having a traditional job.

And it’s now clear that parents see the value of teaching their kids entrepreneurship in this novel way, helping kids develop problem solving skills, creative thinking, time-management, work-life balance, mathematical and analytical skills, and so much more.

Encouraged by the support, My First Startup’s creators are adding to the comic book in a way that helps kids bring their dreams into reality even more. They have plenty of creative ideas, starting with Stretch Goal #1: If the new (stretch) funding goal is is reached, the creators will add more pages to the comic book. Rather than continuing the story, the extra pages the extra pages will provide practical guides for kids on key issues in starting a first business, like “what type of business to start,” “what additional costs to expect.” and more. And the creators have even more exciting ideas ahead (once the first stretch goal is funded).

Learn more about the Kickstarter project and pledge your support here.

Seattle Startup Week is Back and Bigger than Ever!

Seattle Startup Week is back, and this year’s organizers are expecting it to be bigger than ever. Registration opened today on the Seattle Startup Week website, and you can sign up and attend as many events as you’d like!

Seattle Startup Week 1

Seattle Startup Week is a free, five-day celebration of the Seattle startup community happening October 26-30, 2015, that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship. It’s led by local entrepreneurs and hosted in amazing spaces all over town.

One of those spaces is Basecamp, Powered by Chase. For the second year in a row Basecamp will take place at Impact HUB Seattle, 220 2nd Ave S, Seattle, WA. Basecamp is a great place to network, recharge and take in great programming. Plus, they have daily Happy Hours from 4-6pm that are always a lot of fun!

Here are some programming highlights for the week:

–     Monday, Oct. 26 // Intellectual Property Essentials for the Hyper-growth Startup

–    Tuesday, Oct. 27 // Operation Failure: Learning that failure is a constant

–    Wednesday, Oct. 28 // Sustainable Design for Hardware Startups

–    Thursday, Oct. 29 // Grit and Resilience: What You Need to Scale Up

–    Friday, Oct. 30 // Rethinking 21st Century Higher Education

Check back often as new programs will be added daily leading up to the event.

While Seattle Startup Week is mostly about learning, there’s also a lot of celebrating that goes. The Opening and Closing Parties are not to be missed. It’s a great way to connect with others to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship.

And of course, none of this would be possible without the generous support of the Seattle Startup Week sponsors. We’d like to thank Chase for their continued support of Startup Week and for returning again this year as the title sponsor. Their support of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Seattle is truly remarkable and we’re very thankful to have them as a partner.

Sign up today to get your all-access pass and RSVP for as many programs as you’d like!

To follow the event on social, use these hashtags: #ChaseBasecamp, #StartupWeekSEA.

Ask An Entrepreneur: How Do You Maintain Balance Between Professional and Personal Relationships?

Maria Barak, Managing Partner of a boutique consulting firm, Altshuler & Barak, LLP, shares her experience of starting a business with her spouse. 

20150822_MariaBarak_VINO4110_web-4000x1778-(ZF-9372-56989-1-005) (1)







I built my career at Deloitte’s assurance practice where I served a variety of clients ranging from some of the biggest corporations and SEC filers in the Bay Area to local start-ups in alternative energy and consumer business fields. After 11 years, I left Deloitte as a Senior Manager to start my own boutique accounting consulting firm with my husband and business partner, Vadim.

Starting a business partnership with a spouse can be a challenge, but there are a few things that I learned through my own experience that are critical to have in order to maintain balance between professional and personal relationship.  

1. Try to keep things separate. 

It is hard to keep your personal life (especially problems) out of business but it’s a must.  The same goes the opposite way. I found setting up a specific time to talk about each side to be helpful. It’s much easier said than done, but it can be achieved with practice as long as you add a lot of patience and respect to the mix.

2. Set clear business goals.

You need to sit down and discuss what your vision of the business is and come to an agreement from the very beginning. If you’ve been married for a while, you may think you know everything about each other and take many things for granted.  Because of that, it’s best if those goals are laid out on paper and are revisited periodically by the two partners.

3. Have recurring status meetings. 

It may seem silly to have business status meetings with your spouse, but it’s the time to check in with each other and make sure that both of you are working towards the common goal, as well as express any concerns or frustrations you may have. Open communication is the key to success here. 

4. Understand your role and responsibilities.

Like in any other workplace, you need to understand your role and responsibilities. For our consultancy business, the split came naturally as myself and my spouse specialize in different aspects of the business, assurance and tax, respectively, but the rest of the work is divided based on personal traits and time availability.

You can find Altshuler & Barak on LinkedIn and Facebook.