Meredith Sandiford is the Executive Director of The Capital Network – Boston’s leading non-profit organization providing extensive educational programs and a community to help early-stage entrepreneurs master the entire funding process and successfully raise seed capital for financing their high-growth startup.
For entrepreneurs seeking between $50K and $4M in seed, angel or venture capital investment, TCN provides the most comprehensive set of early-stage financing education, networking and resources available. Through its program and events, the organization provides entrepreneurs the tools and guidance needed to build a fundable business, including advice from leading experts in the field of early-stage financing. These events also provide investors the opportunity to see some of the area’s hottest startups up close and gain exposure to exciting new technologies and businesses.
Asad Butt is the Director of Operations at LearnLaunch Accelerator (formerly LearnLaunchX) which is greater Boston’s leading edtech startup accelerator. After a highly selective application process, LearnLaunch accelerator provides the most promising edtech startups worldwide with seed funding, an unmatched team of mentors, intensive coaching and all the tools needed to grow a successful edtech startup.
LearnLaunch is dedicated to connecting, supporting, and growing greater Boston’s education technology ecosystem to drive innovation and transform learning. It offers a vibrant community, educational events, a collaborative co-working space, and a selective accelerator program to promote the growth of the education technology sector in greater Boston, a world education hub.
Daniel Sullivan is currently Founder & CEO of Crowdly – “Afterlike Marketing”. Crowdly is the leading Advocate Management Platform for Facebook that allows big brands to find and rank their top advocates within their brand communities. He also serves as Strategic Advisor at WeFunder – platform for investors who want to invest in startups they care about.
Daniel is a serial entrepreneur, interested in social application of technology to utilize the strength and engagement of networked communities and audiences. He’s deeply passionate about and has been working on building smarter, better, more useful communities for over a dozen years. Has served as strategy consultant at Dell working on building stronger personal knowledge networks. Daniel is also the co-founder and President at Speak With A Geek, Community Manager at CollegeClub.com.
Chris Quintero is an Associate with Bolt, where he is a member of the Operations team. Bolt is a different kind of venture capital fund, designed from the ground-up to address the needs of early-stage startups at the intersection of hardware and software.
Chris has an engineering background and has worked on diverse range of design projects in Chile, Vietnam, and Cameroon as well as the US. He splits his time between the rapidly emerging Boston and NYC hardware startup ecosystems.
Chris is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and an advisor to Engineers without Borders and the Georgia Tech Invention Studio.
Raffi Tchakmakjian is a serial entrepreneur. Today he is Co-CEO of LIFT. LIFT Session is the first digital platform designed specifically for the entire fitness ecosystem — fitness clubs, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts. It is the next evolution of training, where fitness
services, instruction and monitoring can be conducted anytime, anywhere.
Raffi also has two recent consecutive successful exits under his belt. Raffi was VP of Product Management and Business Development at Wyse when Dell acquired Wyse for $950M USD, and previously, Raffi was co-founder and Vice President Product Management and Business Development at Trellia when it was acquired by Wyse.
After the Dell acquisition of Wyse, Raffi was responsible for global business development and strategic alliances in Dell’s Dell Cloud Client Computing, a $1.4B business unit in 2014.
Raffi has a BS Engineering from the University of Montreal and an MBA from McGill University.
Mike has balanced several careers simultaneously, centered around technology, entrepreneurship & innovation. He’s been active as an entrepreneur, educator, public speaker, mentor, strategy consultant & board member for the past 30 years.
His primary profession has been as an advanced technology entrepreneur, where he was an early, pre-product & pre-revenue team member & CXO of five VC -backed startups. Two went public on the NASDAQ, & 5 of were acquired in trade sales by strategic acquirers. Today, he is Managing Director of StartupNext Boston, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, the world’s premiere pre-accelerator program. StartUp Next has a strong track record of placing entrepreneurs in top ranked accelerators including Techstars, 500 Start Ups and R/GA. He is also a Community Impact Fellow for OpenIDEO, which brings the IDEO Human – centric design methodology to addressing social challenges.
As a startup mentor, Board Member and angel investor, Mike serves as managing Director of Southboro Capital Group, where he is especially active in health IT and med tech, marketing tech, music tech and social entrepreneurship and enterprise IT. As a Techstars Boston mentor, he’s worked with companies including Evertrue Localytics, Testive, TheTapLab, Crowd.ly and Libboo, amongst others.
As an educator, Mike held a long-standing faculty appointment as Senior Lecturer at the MIT. He taught for over a decade in the MBA & Executive Education programs. Today he’s Global Professor of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Management at Hult International Business School, with campuses in San Francisco, NYC, Boston, London, Dubai and Shanghai. He teaches in multiple Masters degree programs. He’s been named Financial Times Professor of the Week, Hult Professor of the Year & has won 4 Global Teaching Excellence awards. He’s part of a small core team that spent two year’s redesigning Hult’s MBA curriculum, & won the Global Association of MBAs Annual Innovation Award in October 2013 for creating the one of the world’s most innovative MBA program.
As consultant, Mike served as a corporate strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co. He’s long served as an advisor to research universities on technology transfer & to foreign national & provincial governments on innovation policy & cluster formation.
As public speaker, Mike has keynoted many events on Innovation and Entrepreneurship & has recently been active on the TEDx speaking circuit, where he has spoken on themes including the Entrepreneurial Renaissance.
He graduated with an MBA from Yale, where he was named the annual Jess Morrow Johns Memorial Scholar & was the first ever recipient of the Procter and Gamble Marketing Leadership Award & the recipient of a Yale Teaching Fellowship.
He has a BS degree in Engineering from Rutgers, , magna cum laude, where he was named to the National Engineering Honor Society. He also won the annual Engineering Medal of Excellence from Rutgers for lifetime career achievement, was named Alumni of the Year, and has served on the School’s Board.
Boston Startup Weekend EDU
November 21st, 2014
In November 2013, I facilitated my first Startup Weekend EDU during Global Startup Battle (GSB) with an organizing team led by Jess Falkenthal. It was Jess’ 15th or 16th Startup Weekend (I’m not sure how she keeps count!) and I was impressed by how many weekends she’d spent pitching, building, and presenting new startups. A year later, after six SWEDUs in six different cities, I get it…these are addicting!
On November 21, ahead of the official beginning of the holiday season and as a part of GSB 2014, I organized and facilitated Boston Startup Weekend EDU. This was our first event in over 2 years and only second education vertical in Boston – surprising for a city renowned for its academic prowess. While the four months of planning and weekend packed full of logistics was certainly exhausting, I rolled back into work Monday morning feeling both grateful for and inspired by the people and teams that gave us a small glimpse into their interests, passions, and talents.
We kicked off the weekend on Friday night with 36 pitches, mostly targeted toward the K12 markets with some lifelong learners and higher ed enthusiasts mixed in. I announced 11 ideas that had made it through the voting round and came out on top, but even as early as Friday close, these didn’t end up as the teams moving forward the next morning. You see, the team formation process very much resembles real life – you’ve got a great idea and other people agree it’s great, but now you have to hustle and convince them that they should spend their next 48 hours helping bring your idea to life. This is usually our participants’ first lesson that execution is everything!
Saturday morning is always a bustling time. People are still pumped from the night before and looking for their first cup of coffee to get things rolling. To incentivize people to get started bright and early, we scheduled two workshops first thing. I’ve done this a few times at SWEDUs and have always been fortunate that talented and generous people in the local startup community want to donate their time by giving free classes. This time around, we chose a 90 minute session on Lean Startup Methodologies by Brendan Kohler and a crash course in coding from Firehose Project. I liked that both taught participants something they could immediately put into practice, and acted as a teaser for topics they may want to explore in more depth later on. Another thing I learned from #SWEDUBay with Jess and have successfully implemented a few times now is that ice cream breaks make people really happy and can pull you up out of your Saturday night slump.
By Sunday morning, I notice that people are rolling in later – a sign that it was a late night of working. At this point, teams were still in flux and as we go into pitch practice with our group of coaches, the roster only partially resembles what we ended with on Friday night. But this is what Startup Weekend is all about…the constant return back to the drawing board, some shuffling of team members, new people dropping in halfway through – organized chaos. One team announced that they decided not to pitch the morning of, and by 5pm that day had come up with and presented a completely new idea entirely. Another team decided to pursue a different idea on Friday night only to have all but one team member bail by Saturday morning, but made a compelling pitch all the same. If you only attend Friday and Sunday evenings, you’d probably only be able to connect half the dots.
After hearing 11 impressive presentations, our winning teams from Startup Weekend EDU were:
- Newhall: A dynamic community geared towards high school students that allows users to securely showcase personalized portfolios of their interests, hobbies, and talents both inside and outside the classroom and which can later be accessed by teachers, recruiters, colleges, and employers. Our judges endearingly called it a “social network for nerds” with many possibilities. Vote for them in Global Startup Battle here.
- Parent Primer: A site to help parents better engage with their students by providing them with videos about what their children are learning in school and how these lessons are commonly taught – a Khan Academy for parents. Our judges loved that the team identified a real barrier to better parent engagement.
- Lean Gap: A gap year / summer program for high schoolers to engage in real entrepreneurship by building a viable business during the course of the program. Team leader Eddy Zhong is a 17-year old three-time entrepreneur himself and made a compelling case for why high schoolers are both well-prepared for and need this kind of education. I think we only need to look as far as the competitiveness of the Thiel Fellowship to get validation for Lean Gap.
We had great prizes for our winners with the goal of providing them with the resources and support they need to keep pursuing their ventures. However, despite significant incentives to win, I would say that the level of competition is rather low with a strong emphasis on collaborative learning. I tell participants upfront that perhaps the most valuable takeaway is the connections they form with each other, and at least one agreed, noting, “It was a valuable experience just being in a room full of passionate and talented people wanting to make an impact”.
And you inevitably end up learning a lot about yourself, which either points you in a new direction Monday morning or at least gives you the small push you needed. Another participant contacted me after to say, “I came into this weekend not really knowing what to expect, but I had a sneaking suspicion I would be the only one who didn’t know what she was talking about and who would be able to contribute the least. I have no tech background, no business background, and I’m not even really an “educator” in the traditional sense of the word. But all of that hesitation fell away as I found myself in a room of people congregated around one inkling of an idea that we thought just might be worth something. Working tirelessly all weekend, I learned so much from the people on my team, and know I was able to teach them, too. So ultimately, what I walked away with as an incredibly transformative and validating experience. I am certain now that the education startup community is where I am going to thrive best, and I’m really eager to find companies that will help me grow into this space.”
I love to hear that our events help people realize their passions and interests or gives them the confirmation they needed that they can pursue them – it’s what sets SWEDU apart from a typical hackathon or business competition. It’s the reason organizers and facilitators volunteer their time…they want to spread the magic!
I want to end with a big thank you to my organizing team, coaches, judges, and all of our participants who spent their weekend with us…and a call to action. I was ecstatic to hear that people want to organize the next Startup Weekend in Boston and their hometowns. I can’t wait to help you get started. But there are still other ways to get involved, keep this community engaged, and open it up to new folks. Plan a bootcamp on topics you want to learn more about, launch a edtech meetup group (there are great examples from other cities), help me organize a SWEDUBos reunion! If any of this sounds interesting or you have your own brilliant idea, let me know at email@example.com. Remember – No talk. All action.
For more coverage of Boston Startup Weekend EDU, check out these posts by Julie Zhou and Fernando Albertorio. If you want to share your experience on the Startup Weekend EDU and UP Global blog, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attendees for Boston Startup Weekend EDU came together from all over North America to work on problems relevant to the education space. Participants had varied backgrounds as educators, students, developers, etc. but each participant had the same passion and excitement to learn and cooperate with each other. Of the thirty-six pitches presented on November 21st, eleven teams were formed. Please cheer them on and look forward to what they produce throughout the weekend!
Teams Formed on Friday Night (November 21)
· Edocracy: Curriculum design and collaboration platform for educators
· Edubids: Transparent vendor platform for educational products with parental and educator input
· New Hall: Collaborative community for students to showcase their accomplishments and life experiences
· Future Vision: Interactive experience that introduces college-bound high school students to real world career paths
· Lean Gap: Empower tomorrow’s college students with the entrepreneurial mindset and confidence to chart their own path
· Mendel’s Garden: Multi-user interactive virtual environment for promoting STEM education
· Gradestar: Academic motivation platform
· Freelanship: Platform for project-based internships
· EdVenture Camp: Camp designed for educators to develop their entrepreneurial skills, emotional fitness and personal development
· Wrap Around Students: Information sharing among teachers and schools for students as they transfer between schools and districts
· Parent Primer: Web platform to help parents who want to be engaged with their children’s education but do not know how
Come join us at Demo Night tomorrow, November 23rd at 51 Melcher Street, Boston beginning at 5pm and see what the teams have produced. If you’re not local, watch the live stream at www.bit.ly/swedubosdemo.
Startup Weekend Cape Cod – November 14th, 2014
We’re finally getting caught up on the event paperwork. The next step is to get the fledglings out of the nest and into the real world. We’d like to keep the conversations and the communities working together. What are you planning to do this week and next?