Meet Your SWLV Judge – Geoff Sanders

Meet Geoff Sanders, Co-Founder and CEO of LaunchKey, a cybersecurity company specializing in next generation mobile authentication. A rare mix of engineering and creative talent, Geoff has more than a decade of professional experience as a full stack developer, designer, and product manager with expertise in creating end-to-end custom interactive applications.

Geoff and 2 co-founders pitched their concept for LaunchKey at Startup Weekend Las Vegas 2012 in response to the LinkedIn password breach that year. LaunchKey won 1st Place for Design and 1st Place Overall, but one of the biggest victories for his team was securing a $750,000 seed round of investment led by Vegas Tech Fund and nearly $4 million in venture capital over the next 4 years. In 2017, LaunchKey was acquired by Iovation, a global leader in online fraud detection and device-based authentication.

Currently, as Product Director of LaunchKey, Geoff leads the overall strategy, vision, and direction of the LaunchKey product at iovation. 

Meet Your SWLV Judge – Ciara Byrne

Meet Ciara Byrne, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Green Our Planet. Back for the second year in a row as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas judge, Ciara Byrne brings a wealth of operations and funding knowledge to this years’ panel.

In 2013 Ciara co-founded their non-profit organization, Green Our Planet, based in Las Vegas. Green Our Planet’s mission is to raise money for green projects and to educate the public about the most pressing environmental issues facing the planet today. The overall goal is to help conserve, protect, and improve the environment through funding green projects and through education, which includes STEAM, nutrition, and conservation education in k-12 schools.

Green Our Planet has raised more than $2 million to build 115 school gardens, and won the American Honda Foundation grant to pay teachers to adapt PreK-5 STEAM curricula, so it can be taught in their school gardens. Green Our Planet was also awarded the Public Health Hero of the Year by the Health District of Southern Nevada and Community Organization of the Year awarded by USGBC in 2014.

Ciara is also a Startup Weekend Success story! She attributes part of her organizations success to Startup Weekend Las Vegas 2012, where she originally pitched her idea for Green Our Planet.

Startup Weekend Education: Why Participate?

Startup Weekend Education is an fun innovative, community-building event that brings together innovators & doers of all backgrounds including educators, parents, students, designers, software developers, marketers, and other enthusiasts to start companies (or launch ideas)  that solve real problems in education in just 54 hours. The participants that attend have 60 seconds to make a pitch (optional), the pitches are whittled down to the top ideas, and then teams form around the ideas to come out with several developed companies or projects. Finally, the weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors.

Here are the top eleven, starting with EDUCATION specifically:

Education in the U.S. (and many places in the world) may be one of the human rights issues of our time. Kids deserve access to an excellent education. Education as an entrepreneurial space has recently gained much traction and interest, including interest and backing from the venture and incubator community, but there’s still much work to be done with not enough bright spots of success. We believe that if we bring you — our educators, students, designers, developers, business people – together and help facilitate your collaboration in new and innovative ways, we can help contribute to the growing movement to close the achievement gap.

Education/professional development:
Startup Weekend Educations are all about learning through the act of creating. Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.

Build your network:
This isn’t just a happy-hour. Startup Weekend Education attracts your community’s best makers and do-ers. By spending a weekend working to build scalable products that solve real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships and possibly walk away with a job or a even an investor.

Co-founder dating:
We all know it’s not just about the idea – it’s about the team. Startup Weekend Education is hands down the best way to to find someone you can actually launch a startup with.

Learn a new skill:
Step outside of your comfort zone. With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are prefect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just try something different.

Actually launch a business:
Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months. There are so many companies that have come out of Startup Weekend Education and are still thriving today.

Get face time with thought leaders:
Local education, tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekend Educations as mentors and judges. Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.

We cover what you need for the weekend (and it can pay off for long after):
Your ticket covers seven meals, snacks, access to exclusive resources, possible swag, all the coffee you can drink, and more.

Join a global community:
Join over 193,000 Startup Weekend alumni, all on a mission to change the world.

Who you’ll meet at Startup Weekend EDU
Startup Weekend EDU’s mix is roughly 25% educator/education space, 25% developers and coders, 25% designers, and 25% business/marketing. Everyone wants to make a difference in the lives of learners. Some participants attend an event to network, more to learn a new skill, others attend to develop/build a product, and some attend to learn how to create a new venture. Many attendees plan on continuing to work on their product after the weekend.


If you’re ready to take your next step…
It’s time to register now for our latest Techstars Startup Weekend Education San Francisco event on October 19-21.


This article was revised from a previous article published in 2011 on the SF SWEDU blog.


Startup Weekend EDU “Cheat Code” From Our Friends At EdSurge

(This article was republished from a previous post from 2012 on the SWEDU SF blog that is STILL relevant)

Here’s a great guest blog post by our friends at EdSurge. Heed their shared wisdom, as they’ve been a part of every Startup Weekend EDU… and countless other great education and educational technology initiatives!

Good for you for taking the entrepreneurial plunge! Startup Weekend-­‐EDU promises to be an exhilarating, mind-­‐expanding, and yes, exhausting experience. Expect to learn about lean startups, about project management, and about working with teammates (most of whom may be strangers). The journey really counts here. And of course, you’ll get to network with others interested in edtech entrepreneurship.

So to help you make the most of it, EdSurge, your handy-­‐dandy source for what’s happening in edtech, has pulled together the wisdom of some smart folks and compiled this Cheat Code for you. Many thanks to our experts, including:

  • Justin Su, an entrepreneur with Goalbook and consultant with Stellar K12
  • Frank Catalano, author, consultant with Intrinsic Strategy, and veteran 
analyst of digital education and consumer technologies
  • Audrey Watters, technology journalist, blogger for HackEducation
  • Betsy Corcoran, Co-Founder of EdSurge


Top Ten Tips for Triumphing at Startup Weekend EDU

  1. Bring: several ideas, an open mind, flexibility and an extra toothbrush.
  2. Plan to pitch an idea: This isn’t a spectator sport.
  3. Be willing to morph: if your idea isn’t lighting up people, jump to a team 
that sounds more promising.
  4. Do some homework before you come about the “EDU” part. Expect to 
validate your market.
  5. Learn from the educators.
  6. Use the mentors -­-­ but wisely.
  7. Get to know the judges.
  8. Practice your pitch. Practice your pitch. Practice….
  9. Network: Bring business cards and contact info.
  10. Have fun!

Top Ten Tips for Triumphing at StartupWeekendEDU (extended play version)

1. Bring: several ideas, an open mind, flexibility and an extra toothbrush.

Startup Weekend EDU is a DIY ideafest. Bring raw but interesting ideas. It can be an idea that you’ve tried out on some friends. What you should leave at home: an ironclad determination to find “code monkeys” who will build your vision. You’re in learning mode here: expect to end the weekend with some radically different ideas than the ones you brought with you. And yes, although you are likely to get home to sleep, you’ll be spending a lot of time in a relatively small room-­‐-­‐so mind your hygiene!

2. Plan to pitch an idea: This isn’t a spectator sport.

Pitching is part of the learning experience: You will learn a lot about your idea and yourself if you are brave enough to stand up and pitch an idea. Ideas love company, so arrive with several. Even if an entrepreneurial enterprise isn’t fully thought out, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pitching. Sometimes, simply hearing others pitch may change or crystallize one worthwhile concept out of two or three in your head.

3. Be willing to morph: if your idea isn’t lighting up people, jump to a team that is sounds more promising.

Past Startup Weekend EDUs suggest that between two to three times as many ideas get pitched as wind up with teams. Listen carefully to the rest of the pitches. Who would you enjoy getting to know this weekend? Who has an idea that clicks with what you know about education? Successful entrepreneurs share one particular trait: they are enormously persistent, with a fail-­‐and-­‐try-­‐again mentality. If your pitch doesn’t win fans, you’ll likely get inspired to rework and improve the idea, or think up a different idea that’s way better. Or you may end up working with such an awesome team during the weekend that you join them. Either way, as long as you’re fully engaged, you will learn-­‐-­‐and that is why you’re here.

4. Do some homework before you come about the “EDU” part. Expect to validate your market.

The biggest single failing of edtech entrepreneur wanna-­‐bes is naïveté about the edtech market. “Education” is not a single market even if it’s all lumped into one Startup Weekend. There are big differences between customers and buying behavior across K-­‐12, higher education, continuing education and lifelong learning. 
So do a little homework (flip through past copies of EdSurge) or come with allies. Bring an educator, instructor of professor along for the weekend. Let people know you’re attending a SWEDU and find out if you can call, tweet or contact them on Saturday for input. Customer validation is golden: if you can reach a group of educators or students on a Saturday, you will be a very valuable player on any team and make many friends. 
Once your team gets rolling, be ready to validate the idea. If you can’t demonstrate value to customers, the judges will tear you apart. Such validation will improve your idea, too: Justin recalls how a mentor once directed his team to prove its business model could really hold up. “We cold-­‐called and interviewed a dozen potential ‘customers’ and half of them told us straight up they wouldn’t pay. We ended up retooling our business model and our pitch was much stronger in the end (and the judges commented on how they liked our market validation).”

5. Learn from the educators.

You remember being a student? Guess what: that doesn’t count as “on the ground” experience in the classroom. Customers also have to be willing to pay for products. Use StartupWeekend as an opportunity to meet school leaders and teachers and learn from them. In many cases, they are likely to be your customers and users. And the difference between your perspective and their’s might surprise you. Remember, they are breathing their school and interacting with the “digital natives” every day.

6. Use the mentors -­-­ but wisely.

The mentors can be amazingly helpful. They can also be distracting. Use them thoughtfully. Read all of their bios beforehand and understand their expertise. Proactively reach out to them when you want help in their areas. Mentors will often offer advice on every aspect of your idea: after talking with five or six, you might feel more at sea than when you started. Think of their advice as data points. Remember that when it comes to the actual core problem you’re trying to solve, you and your team probably know more about it than anyone else in the room.

7. Get to know the judges.

The judges will probably be hanging around for part of the weekend prior to the pitch competition-­‐– so talk to them! Get their thoughts on what you’re working on.

This isn’t about gaming the system-­‐-­‐it’s about getting very relevant feedback. If the judges are making themselves available and are willing to give advice, you should definitely reach out to them.

8. Practice your pitch. Practice your pitch. Practice….

The pitch matters. The last thing you want is to spend 54 hours doing everything right, fleshing out an awesome idea and building a sweet prototype only to deliver a mediocre pitch that doesn’t get anyone excited. Start working on the PowerPoint early. Keep refining it through the weekend. Practice delivering your pitch to anyone who’ll listen. The little things matter: pace of speech (don’t go too fast), eye contact, confidence, enthusiasm. Get constructive feedback and keep practicing. If you’re really brave, video yourself. Watching yourself will feel intensely awkward and embarrassing but nothing will drive the points home harder. Also plan for what might go wrong: do you have something to say if your slides have to be rebooted?

There are infinite ways to deliver an effective pitch. Be yourself. Everyone has his or her own style. Go with your strengths and your own personal style. Authenticity counts. Likeability does, too: Who wants to give money to jerk?

Devote one slide to your team: If you can convince the audience that you and your team are the best ones to tackle the problem and you’re worth listening to, then they will be that much more attentive to everything else you say. So start there – convince everyone in the audience that you are the shiznit and grab our attention!

9. Network: Bring business cards and contact info.

The people you meet during Startup Weekend EDU will become a lifelong resource for you. These are future co-­‐founders, employees, employers, mentors, advisors, partners, investors or friends. Carry business cards; share your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. You won’t want to forget-­‐-­‐or be forgotten-­‐-­‐by these people.

10. Have fun!

OK, even though this sounds a bit rah-­‐rah it’s true: enthusiasm will help carry the day. You’ve come to this event to find your passion and figure out what to do about it. Be passionate. As long as you’re enjoying the ride, you’re probably doing the right thing. Besides, these events are as addicting as potato chips: you’ll be back for more!



Are you ready to do this? It’s time to register now for our latest Techstars Startup Weekend Education San Francisco event on October 19-21.

Startup Weekend Muncie team overview

Startup Weekend Muncie participants
Startup Weekend Muncie participants


Here are the demo teams and what they are building this weekend at Startup Weekend Muncie 10/06/2018. Interested in watching the pitches? Join us Sunday, October 7, 2018 at the Ball State University Applied Technology Building. Pitches begin at 5:00pm.

Betterflye: Betterflye is the web and mobile platform that aggregates different community, personal, and environmental challenges. The user engages with these challenges to accelerate the ripple effect they make with friends, family, and community organizations through volunteering, donations, and other forms of social activism.

Aqualarm: Aqualarm is a device that encourages users to begin their day hydrated. The device tracks water consumption and requires users to drink a certain amount first thing upon waking up.

LEAP: LEAP works to bridge the gap between students and extracurricular and after school programs. Many lower income students don’t have the necessary transportation to participate in such activities. LEAP leverages their nonprofit status to provide transportation and get students involved.

Button Buddy: Designed to prevent, track, and report sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, Button Buddy uses your smart device to record sexual assault the moment it is activated. Along with recording, it notifies predetermined contacts that you may be in danger.

Artify: Artify is a nonprofit organization with the mission of beautifying areas where businesses and home have been vacated through painted murals.

Hotel Talent: Sometimes getting in front of those first few hundred social media followers can be the hardest part. Hotel Talent helps individuals with unique talents get in front of the right people and start to build their following.

PopShops: Both a physical location and a data play, PopShops curates month-long pop-up shops, but also tracks and sells consumer data to let potential brick and mortar stores gain a better understanding of their demographic and local preferences.


SWEDUSEA: Kickstart your ideas with these resources

Have an idea, need inspiration, or simply want to get a headstart? Check out these tools for educational entrepreneurs.

Lean Canvas

As an entrepreneur one of the most important tasks you can perform is getting your idea(s) out from your head into a tangible format so that you can communicate that with others. The Lean Canvas quickly formulates possible business models, product launches, campaigns and variations of, so you can communicate this with your stakeholders. Check out this template to start thinking about your business model, which you’ll be judged on.

Tools for Educational Entrepreneurs

A starting place where one might find ideas, identify trends, or discover statistics to help assess the viability of an education business idea. Brought to you by the Seattle Public Library!

A SWEDU Story: Domonique Meeks – Bringing Education to Underrepresented Communities

Taking his passion for providing educational opportunities for underserved communities, Domonique Meeks joined SWEDU to find ways to provide technology education opportunities for black and brown students.

In 2016, his team won first place for Idle Seattle, a platform connecting students in Southeast and Southwest after-school programs with existing STEM programs.

Hear his story.

A SWEDUSEA Story: Vinny Pasceri – Finding Your Why and Enabling Your Team

Vinny Pasceri and his team won the 2014 SWEDU Seattle event with Lighthouse, a solution to keep kids safe.

Vinny has participated in SWEDU multiple years (his second project in 2017, Tell Me About a Time, won 2nd place) and shares his experience of the personal story that triggered Lighthouse, discovering the power of defining your WHY and empowering your team.

Hear his story.


What a night!

40+ budding entrepreneurs showed up last tonight at the brand new Engineering Facility of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a 54-hour whirlwind of entrepreneurship, innovation, and learning.

The President of the University of Alaska, Dr. Jim Johnsen, kicked off the night: “If not you, who? If not now, when? If not this, what? Build the future of Alaska!”

After a crazy game of “Half Baked” (half-baked startup ideas ranging from chocolate 3D printers to pickled ice-cream delivery subscriptions…), we went on to the real pitch-fire.

24 diverse ideas were pitched (1min, not more!). Voting was tough but we came down to 8 top teams after a couple of crazy voting rounds and team mergers.

Get the scoop about the top teams selected at Startup Weekend Fairbanks:

Top teams selected at Startup Weekend Fairbanks

Looking forward to seeing you for Day 2 of Techstars Startup Weekend Fairbanks!

– Marion

What are the judges looking for at Startup Weekend?

Did you know that Startup Weekend Las Vegas is not only ran by volunteers, but the mentors, coaches and judges are volunteers as well? We will dive into each one of these groups as we progress closer to the event, but let’s start with a little bit about what the judges look for and how they play an important role in Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend typically has 3-5 judges who will evaluate your final presentation on Sunday evening. Many of the participants will be pitching an idea for the first time, so judges play an integral role in providing valuable feedback to teams. There are three things that judges will keep in mind during your pitch, and so should you as you build out your business or prototype:

Customer Validation
Did your team build something that people actually want? How well do you understand your customer and your customer’s needs? Did your team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers?

Execution and Design
Has your team established a minimum viable product (MVP) for the weekend, such as software or hardware, etc.? Did you build the minimum set of features needed to start collecting data? Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Were you able to demo something functional?

Business Model Validation
How does your team plan on making this a successful business? Have you thought about (either solved or identified problems) competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, your revenue model, etc.? How will you acquire your first 100 customers?

Startup Weekend Las Vegas 2017