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Andrej is one of our Startup Weekend participants from the spring event, as well as volunteer from the fall event.  Currently a student at Leaf Academy in Bratislava, Andrej’s had a unique opportunity of meeting many enterprising students from an international environment; moreover, he agreed to share a few words with us in the following interview.

Hello, Andrej! Thank you for your time. How are your studies going? Is there any interesting project you have been involved in lately?

Thank you, Jakub! Previous weeks at school were very enjoyable. We were “learning by doing,” as we call it at LEAF Academy. For example, a visit of the Auschwitz concentration camp helped us to understand what humanity is capable of and think about ways how to prevent our society from doing something similar in the future. The future was also the main topic of our last experiential day when we participated at Startup Awards & FutureNow Conference in Bratislava. We had a chance to hear a lot of inspiring ideas about the future of government, internet and mobility, and also to get to know the Slovak startup ecosystem a little bit more. It gave me motivation to work harder on my ongoing project. Me and my friend are currently helping one of the second-hand shops in Bratislava to boost their profit and create a strategy for growth.

You happened to participate in the spring event, does Startup Weekend have anything to offer also to young people like you, who perhaps don’t have the intention of executing their business plan yet?

I think that Startup Weekend is more about learning rather than building successful startups. It does not matter whether you are an experienced professional or a high school student, all of the participants go through the same process from problem validation to building a prototype, and in the end it depends on each person how much he or she takes from this experience. I heard stories from people meeting their future investors and co-founders, or encountering current technology for the first time in their lives at the event.

Going back to my participation at Startup Weekend, it gave me significant insights into leadership thanks to the fact that I was leading the team of 8 people. I learned about tech trends, and different techniques and tools that are very useful while turning an idea into reality.

After all, I believe we should encourage more young people to participate at Startup Weekend to help them understand today’s exponentially growing technology and importance of adapting to it. 

Conversely, do you think that high school students can be an enrichment for their teams?

Definitely. I have seen many teams that had a high school student on board. Some of the teams were even led by high school students which shows the confidence and leadership potential of young people. Nowadays, technology and information are available to almost anyone in our region. This creates a lot of opportunities for self-learning. That is why we can see more and more young people having skills such as programming, design or digital marketing, but also design thinking or strong communication skills. This skill set is crucial for most of the Startup Weekend teams in order to deliver a prototype. However, it is not just about skills, it is also the mindset and approach of young people. I am sure that high school students can bring creative ideas and a strong desire to achieve great results which increases the motivation of the whole team. Therefore, I believe that high schoolers can be an enrichment for their teams.

Instead of participating, for the last Startup Weekend you decided to go and be a volunteer; how did this experience differ from the previous one?

It was quite interesting to experience the event from another point of view. I was surprised by how much work has to be put in in order to organize such an event. Now, I could clearly see how much time and energy the organizers put into making Startup Weekend happen. Another significant difference was in the type of people that participated in the events. The fall event was focused on education, so there were many people without tech and business backgrounds participating, while most people at the spring event were experienced professionals.

What made me really happy was that there were at least twice as many high school students participating as in March. In the end, I am very grateful for both opportunities, and I will surely attend Startup Weekend again!

What are your plans for the near future?

I am now looking forward for the winter break when I will have more time to be with my family, hang out with friends and finally get some rest after a relatively demanding period of time. Eating sweets and drinking hot tea while watching Christmas movies are the activities I am probably going to spend most time at. Ohh, and I want to do some sledging, so let´s hope there is some snow.

Jakub Zelina