Meet Your #RSW2015 Judges: Don Golini, Theresa Mazzullo and Alex Zapesochny

Don Golini

Don Golini is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the development, management and commercialization of new technologies. As President and Founder of QED Technologies, Don took a novel finishing process from a university laboratory to worldwide commercial success. Today, QED develops, manufactures and markets precision finishing and metrology equipment for the optics industry. QED grew from 5 to more than 50 employees with personnel in 5 countries. QED was acquired in June 2006, by Illinois—based Cabot Microelectronics Corporation (NASDAQ: CCMP), and Golini stayed on as President until 2010.

Today, Don serves as Chairman of the Rochester Angel Network (RAN), is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at High Tech of Rochester, serves on various boards and advises several companies in the Rochester area.

Theresa Mazzullo

Theresa Mazzullo has been the CEO of Excell Partners since 2006. She has a 30-year track record in business, finance and entrepreneurship. In her role as CEO of Excell Partners, her duties include portfolio management, governance, compliance, reporting, community integration, finance and fundraising.

Theresa spent six years as President & Principal of EPIC Advisors, Inc a 401(k) retirement plan company with $1.5 billion in retirement plan assets. In her capacity as President, she built an infrastructure that supported annual revenue growth of 20%.  She also directed business-planning process regarding business strategy and tactics in the areas of finance, sales, marketing, administration, operations and information technology to ensure increased profitability and the achievement of the company vision. Ultimately, she led the team to a successful exit in 2005.

Alex Zapesochny

Alex Zapesochny is an attorney and President and CEO of iCardiac Technology. Prior to co-founding iCardiac, he served as General Counsel and Director of Business Development for Lenel Systems, a developer and global supplier of enterprise software, hardware and services for the electronic security industry. The company expanded to serve over 10,000 organizations throughout 75 countries, including over sixty percent of all Fortune 100 companies. The company’s financial growth earned it 39th place on Inc. magazine’s ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing privately-held companies, and Lenel was ultimately acquired for $440 million by United Technologies Corporation (NYSE: UTX).

In private practice, Alex has provided legal and business counsel to early-stage companies.

Meet #RSW2015 Keynote Speaker Cort Johnson from Atlas Venture

Cort Johnson from Atlas Venture

The organizing team at Rochester Startup Weekend is pleased to announce that Cort Johnson, a Venture Partner at Atlas Venture in Cambridge, Mass., will be this year’s keynote speaker. Cort will be addressing all the attendees of #RSW2015 on the afternoon of Saturday, March 21, 2015 at Brand Networks.

This is great timing; the tech team at Atlas made national news this week by opening up a contest to crowdsource its new brand. The winning entrant will receive a $50,000 stake in the firm’s new $200M fund!


Prior to joining Atlas in 2014, Cort co-founded Terrible Labs, a leading product design and development shop based in Boston. At Terrible Labs, he led business development, marketing and operations, collaborating with both Fortune 500 companies and startups to build web and mobile products.

While at Terrible Labs, Cort also co-founded and spun out TicketZen, a mobile app that allows citizens to scan and pay parking tickets with their mobile phones. TicketZen can be used to pay parking tickets in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.

Before Terrible Labs, Cort was Chief Evangelist at SCVNGR, a location based services startup in Boston, where he helped grow the mobile-based platform to millions of users and thousands of customers.

Cort broke into the startup scene after founding DartBoston, an organization focused on bringing together Boston’s twenty-somethings and college students interested in building companies. DartBoston hosted hundreds of events, connecting thousands of Bostonians looking to get more involved in the startup community.


In addition to being a premier speaker with exactly the kind of experience we look for in selecting keynote speakers for Rochester Startup Weekend, Cort brings a little something extra to the party this year — he’s a die-hard fan of Rochester as a native of the city.

We are excited to hear how Cort sees the evolution of Boston’s startup economy and to pick his brain about how we can drive our own startup economy forward.

Please join us in welcoming him back to Rochester by tweeting @cortlandt  …and don’t forget to use the weekend’s hashtag: #RSW2015

Educators and Entrepreneurs Will Connect to Build Novel and Inspiring Edtech Products at Startup Weekend NYCEDU March 27-29

Startup Weekend NYCEDU  brings together a diverse group of educators, developers, designers and entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a positive impact in education to build potentially game-changing edtech products over the course of 54 hours. Interdisciplinary teams race against the clock in order to develop viable concepts that address the authentic needs of teachers and students. The teams are supported by experts in business, design, technology and education.

“It’s not often that teachers work side by side with developers and designers eager to hear about the issues they face in their classrooms,” said lead organizer Deborah Chang. “By bringing people from such different backgrounds into the same room together, Startup Weekend NYCEDU is able to create a catalytic mix of talent and passion that jumpstarts new ideas and novel solutions.”

On Friday night, attendees will take the open mic to pitch their ideas to the group in 60 seconds or less. After groups form, the rest of the weekend will be spent formulating the most popular ideas – typically web and mobile applications – with the help of mentors and seasoned startup entrepreneurs. By Sunday, teams will be ready to present their ideas in front of a panel of judges, including Preeti Birla (Innovate NYC Schools), Wiley Cerilli (First Round Capital), Christy Crawford (Bronx Community Charter) and Jason DeRoner (TeachBoost), who will award prizes based on business model, customer validation and execution and design.

“Elemental Path is proud and excited to be a sponsor of NYCEDU,” said Arthur Tu, co-founder of the company.  “As technologists driven to continuously push the envelope, we believe great educational innovation comes from a fusion of pedagogy, design, technology and business – SWEDU is the perfect venue for that fusion.”

Notable companies built during past Startup Weekend Education events include Clever and Three Ring. This March’s event is the fourth Startup Weekend Education event held in New York City.  Vidcode, the team that took home the top prize at last year’s event in NYC, has been featured in Forbes, Teen Vogue and more. This year’s winners will receive a prize package that will help them to launch their business and join the pantheon of inspiring companies created during Startup Weekend Education events.

“I met my soulmate founder at the event. We both pitched ideas and merged teams, and have been together ever since,”said Allie Diracles, co-founder of VidCode. “Startup Weekend NYCEDU helped us not only form our team but led to our first big contacts with incubators and advisors in the field who have been game changers in our success over the last year.”

In addition to Elemental Path, this year’s event is being sponsored by Avenues: The World School (site sponsor), 4.0 Schools, Noodle, KidHoo, Google for Entrepreneurs, .co, Coca-Cola, Amazon Web Services and Post-It Brand.

For more information or to register, visit

About Startup Weekend EDU: Startup Weekend EDU events are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.  Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekend EDU events culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.  Participants create working  education startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. All teams hear talks by industry leaders and receive valuable feedback from local entrepreneurs. The weekend is centered around action, innovation, and education.  Whether you are looking for feedback on a idea, a co-founder, specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute, Startup Weekends are the perfect environment in which to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

Our Favorite Resources for NYCEDU Prep

There are a ton of great resources online that can help you better understand the edtech landscape both locally and nationally and the intense but rewarding Startup Weekend Education experience. Here are a few of our favorites:

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Feel free to share additional resources with us here and we’ll update this post with your recommendations!


Pitching your idea at Startup Weekend!

This post originally appeared on

Are you going to be pitching an idea at Startup Weekend?


Each person will get 60 seconds to pitch their idea to the audience. Only 10-15 ideas will be selected to move into the weekend. Pitching an idea is not an easy task. It takes practice to sell your idea & vision in 60 seconds.

As a reminder, you can’t pitch your existing business/app. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. A key facet of the weekend and a central value for participants is the spirit of complete collaboration, buy-in and ownership. We’ve found that having existing businesses in the mix undermines this spirit, in addition to creating an imbalance between those ideas that are truly ground-level.

If you have an idea and you have been doing some customer research, researched on the internet, designed some wireframes, talked to businesses to see if there is any demand, then great! That’s fine. We expect you folks to do your own due diligence beforehand.

In 60 seconds, you need to cover:

  • Who are you? (5-10 seconds)
  • What’s the problem? Use this time to set up the story. How did you discover this problem? How can we (the audience) relate to it? How many people are affected by this problem? Build that connection to the audience to capture their attention. (10-20 seconds)
  • What’s your solution? Mobile? Web? Something physical? (10-20 seconds)
  • Who do you need? Developers? Designers? Product folks? (5-10 seconds)

Take the time and practice your pitch. Practice in front of your friends and see if you can convince them to vote for you.


Four Things I Learned at Last Year’s Startup Weekend NYCEDU

Last year, I attended my first Startup Weekend EDU event and I walked away from the experience feeling bolder, empowered and inspired. While I was extremely exhausted and eager to get home to the Super Bowl spread and the amazing game that was awaiting (go ‘Hawks!), I knew that something inside me had shifted, that I’d face new projects and team-based work experiences in a new way as a direct result of what I picked up that Weekend. I felt like a new and improved model, a Laura 2.0. As you consider this year’s NYCEDU, I think that it’s helpful to know what you can expect to get from the Weekend. Here are five of the takeaways that I walked (translate: limped tiredly) away from the Weekend with, as told through gifs:


Persistence is key:


For last year’s event, I was on a team with six incredibly talented people. Together we worked on building Simplifaid, an online financial aid planning platform targeted at high school students to help them understand the financial impact of their college choices. It was a great idea and we were all super excited to jump in but…we had no idea where to start. Figuring out who our target market was, whether it was students, parents, high school guidance counselors or universities was a struggle. Developing a financial model based on what felt like a mountain of uncertainties was painful. It felt like we spent hours talking ourselves in circles even with the guidance of a few intrepid mentors. I can say with 100% certainty that that period was not the most fun I’ve ever had–it would not even make my top ten. I can also say with 100% certainty that what we came up with was worth every bit of the struggle. There were still tons of variables that needed to be considered by Sunday night, but we got to a place where we were proud of our shared vision for what Simplifaid could be.


Resourcefulness will take you far (sometimes literally):

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Like this mostly terrifying crow, our team had to figure out how to get what we wanted–a pitch that would impress the judges. In thinking about how we wanted to tell our product’s story while also expressing its usefulness to our target audience (high schoolers/undergraduates), we wanted to think outside of the box. We then decided to think outside the building. There was a Weekend for teen entrepreneurs happening across the bridge in Brooklyn and we thought that popping over would be a great way to get user validation and create an ad to show during our presentation. Racing over the bridge with one of my teammates to talk to the teens before they left for the day was exhilarating, and allowed me to get to know one of my team members more than I would have in the fast-paced environment we’d left.  Getting creative was also fun–our video got a litttttle kooky but it was fantastic to meet some of the brilliant teens preparing to be entrepreneurs of the future.


Fearlessness ensures success:

200 (2)

My team chose me to speak for our team when we were asked to send someone to answer the judges’ follow up questions. I was terrified; I considered myself a solid and engaging public speaker in some situations, but in others I let my discomfort get the best of me (see: pitch night). As I stood in line, making up answers to hypothetical questions the judges could pose, the guy who was next to me started chatting. He said something that I’ll never forget: the fear that renders you immobile is pointless. I knew that intellectually, but I’d never really thought about what the mitigation of fear would look like. For me, having fear and thinking about that fear meant that it was highly likely that I would stumble over my thoughts and words. Giving that up meant that I was opening myself up to a better chance for success. Internalizing his words did that, and while I’m not sure how much of a part my answers played into their final decision, the judges ended up awarding our team third place (what, what!).


Feeling included in a community is powerful:


While I enjoyed every minute of the Weekend, the most special moments were the random asides with people I’d met from the NYCEDU community. At one point, I ran into a friend who was grabbing a snack and we chatted about our very different experiences with our projects.I talked about how I was feeling out how to best contribute to the team and he talked about how this team was working through the choice between the two directions their project could take. He also gave me needed advice on how I could approach the work. In being able to have that conversation, I went back to my team energized. His ebullience rubbed off on me, and the many other small interactions I had with members of the community did the same. I was a ball of excitement by Sunday evening and I felt connected to people who I respect, people who share my deep and unrelenting passion to change the education landscape and make a more equitable world for future generations. Having that community and knowing that we were all working together for the same purpose amplified my vision and catalyzed me into thinking about how I could do more.

 If you are interested in attending this year’s event, learn more here:!

The Entrepreneur’s Journey Model

Originally posted by Claire Topalian.

Since the early days of Startup Weekend, we’ve relied on a model that we call “The Entrepreneur’s Journey” as a way of communicating our mission, the experience of the entrepreneur, and where other programs and support come into play. This simple model has become critical in conveying what we do and why we do it. Like every model, it’s not perfect, but like some models, it’s very useful. Beyond talking about Startup Weekend, we’ve used the “EJ” more and more over the years for a much broader conversation.


  This year, Marc Nager, CEO and President of UP Global, came together with fellow entrepreneurs and supporters of the global entrepreneurial movement at Google’s “Trailblazer” Summit. At the summit, he gave a talk about The Entrepreneur’s Journey. The video below covers the entire EJ model step-by-step, describes the best ways of using the model, and why we rely on it so much.

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5 Things to Expect at a Startup

As a soon-to-be or recent grad, you’re chomping at the bit to jump into the workforce. You’ve got a stellar resume and awesome references, but where to begin? You could take the typical route of college grads and pound the pavement in pursuit of a corporate gig. But maybe you’re looking for a little more excitement and a little less routine, a company that veers off the beaten path and forges its own trail. If you want to be a part of something from the ground up, a startup could be just the place to launch your career.

What exactly will it mean to work at a new uncharted business? Before you fire off your resume, you should know a little bit about what you’re getting into. Here’s a list of five things you can expect—and look forward to—if you work at a startup:

1) Be Ready to Wear Many Hats

When your team is small, as it inevitably will be in the beginning, you’ll likely be assigned tasks not directly in your line of duty. One moment you might be doing competitor research, the next you might be negotiating vendor agreements and the next you could be ordering toilet paper for the office. In your daily grind, you’ll undoubtedly get to dig into projects that would be out of reach in a typical entry-level position.

2) Change Is the Only Constant

In the world of startups, change is the only constant—so you’d better be flexible. The company could decide to pivot in a new direction. Or employee growth could make you go from the sole business development associate to the head of sales in a matter of weeks. It might be as simple as changing priorities from mid-morning to the afternoon. If it pains you to switch gears all day long, or you’re on the retentive side when it comes to your to-do list, then steer clear. But if you’re game for variety, you’ve got the startup mentality.

3) 100% Mindshare

You won’t be punching a clock the same way you would at an established company. Startups have a smaller window to get results, which may mean logging extra hours to ramp up the business. Your contributions won’t be confined to the office—if you even have one— and your schedule will probably include late-night brainstorming sessions over pizza. More than your hours, your passion and productivity will be key. You should expect to have 100% mindshare, which may involve eating, breathing and sleeping with the wellbeing of the company on your mind.

4) The Payoff

You shouldn’t join a startup solely on the off chance it could be the next big social network. Join one because you want to roll up your sleeves and be involved in the thrilling nitty-gritty of growing a business. You can make an average entry-level salary ($35K-$45K) and have the opportunity to earn a small equity share in the business. Not all startups will enjoy outrageous success, but those that excel tend to generously reward the individuals who have invested their time and talents to grow the business. Financial compensation aside, you are getting the chance to be involved in something awesome, so enjoy the journey.

5) Unlimited Potential

Career trajectory at a startup isn’t linear. There may be no distinct corporate ladder to climb, but there’s the potential for a big upside if you’re smart, motivated and committed. You could start in customer service and be promoted to managing the entire 20 person customer service team in 3 months. Once you prove yourself, you’ll rise in the organization and gain valuable skills and experience. If the company takes off, you’ll be invited along for the ride.

Sound exciting and worth a gander? Go for it—make the bold move and explore opportunities with a startup today. If you don’t know where to begin, start your search with Lynxsy.

Guest Post by lynxsy_logo

Addition to the First Place Prize Package at SWEDU Rochester

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.43.33 PMFirst place prize winners will have an interview in Tech & Learning Magazine with Kevin Hogan, Content Director & Editor.
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Kevin Hogan ihogans the Content Director for the Technology & Learning Media Group, which includes the magazine, websites, and events associated with the Technology & Learning brand. Previously he worked for Scholastic Administrator, where he was Executive Editor since September 2004. Prior to Scholastic, Hogan was Senior Editor of MIT Technology Review and Editor of the magazine’s website. He was also formerly a Features editor for Business2.0 magazine. Hogan has been reporting and writing about the intersection of business and technology since 1993.

1st Place Prizes Announced for SWEDU Rochester

Are you thinking of joining SWEDU Rochester? It’s not too late, and check out the 1st place prizes!

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 9.01.01 AM1.  Five (5) tickets for the winning team for the ISTE Annual Conference in Philadelphia, June 28 – July 1, 2015 (valued at $2,250). Registration includes:

  • Four full days brimming with rich, inspirational and highly relevant professional learning opportunities.
  • Three powerful keynote addresses from leaders and experts in the field of ed tech.
  • The opportunity to choose from hundreds of sessions in a variety of formats, including lecture, BYOD and hands-on learning environments.
  • Access to a massive expo hall featuring the latest ed tech products and services from more than 500 companies and 1,400 industry reps.
  • Unlimited networking opportunities with the nearly 18,000 educators, education leaders and corporate representatives from around the world.
  • One-year standard membership to ISTE (when paying the non-member rate).

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 5.30.21 PM2.  A $250 credit at AskEducators offers on-demand market research services for those seeking timely and objective insight from K-12 educators. As a startup you need timely access to non-biased (objective) feedback from your market. The faster you can gather such feedback the faster you can iterate and the more likely you are to deliver a winning product or service. Unlike long form surveys, AskEducators treats every question as an independent survey. AskEducators guarantees a select number of unique responses for every question, but does not guarantee multiple questions, if submitted at the same time, will be completed by the same set of unique respondents. AskEducators guarantees all responses will be received by the researcher within 24 hours.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 5.32.02 PM3.  A personal consultation with Michael Riedlinger, the Director of the Rochester BioVentural Center and High Tech Rochester (HTR) Technology Commercialization Manager. Prior to his roles at HTR, he served as president and founder of Technology Sales and Licensing Services. Michael is also a co-founder of Diffinity Genomics, Inc., a developer of platform technologies related to purification and detection of nucleic acid and NaturalNano, a nanomaterials company. Michael serves as a board member of Diffinity Genomics and the Cornell Center for Material Research Industrial Advisory Board.

As Director of the Rochester BioVenture Center, Michael manages a 40,000-square-foot, multi-tenant, BSL-2 wet-lab business incubator and provides tenants with services to facilitate growth of their businesses. In the role of Technology Commercialization Manager, he provides business development, grant sourcing support, new product development and partnership facilitation assistance to technology companies in the Upstate New York region. Additionally, he runs several programs for entrepreneurs and inventors in the Rochester region, including the PreSeed Workshop, TEC Forum and BioVenture Center roundtables.

Michael has a B.F.A. from Rochester Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. from the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business, University of Rochester. He has also completed training for the National Science Foundation I-Corps program at Stanford University (valued at priceless!).