Interview with Startup Weekend Mentor: Lauren Valbert

We are proud to bring back and introduce to you one of our mentors, Lauren Valbert. 

Lauren helps businesses with customer development, business development, and marketing. Customer centrism is the philosophy behind the company’s focus: how do companies attract, retain, and motivate the customers that will make their business successful and profitable?

She works with companies to create customer profiles, which then are tested and validated, and which can then be used to build growth-oriented business and product development strategies. She has had her fair share of helping businesses bloom.

We had a chance to interview her for Startup Weekend.

How many Startup Weekends have you mentored at?

This is going to be my 5th startup weekend in total and 3rd in Amsterdam.

Which participant team made the biggest impression on you?

It has to be a team from Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2014 which tried and pivoted a lot over the weekend and ended up talking about their learning process and failure on Sunday night pitch.

We as human beings and as a society are focused on success and results only but what I liked about that team is that their experience focused on the learning process itself and the fact that exposing vulnerability can help other people learn.

What makes you come back to Startup Weekend Amsterdam every year?

I love the whole concept of startup weekend. I love the team of dedicated individuals behind Startup Weekend Amsterdam and the fact that it is ran voluntarily is a testament to the energy and the passion that the team brings. The structure itself is weird, chaotic and energized rather than something which is too structured and boring. So for me it is tiring but also very energizing and fun.

How can you help our participants as a mentor?

Helping all size of companies develop ideas is part of my daily work, especially with regards to their customers. My expertise is related to how an idea is related to a customer, on every level: from ideation to validation to successfully launching the product or service.

What I will bring is the customers perspective to what participants will be building. You may think your idea is great but I’m going to look at it from a customer’s point of view and help you develop it further.

What kind of ideas are you looking forward to see at this year’s event?

I’m looking forward to Social Entrepreneurship ideas, ideas which can impact our community and people. Ideas which can transform ways to share information which is offline as well as online to make people’s life better. I don’t think most of us need any more products, what we need to do is figure out better ways to communicate, connect, share and impact each other’s world.

What is the most important lesson you want to give to our participants?

The weekend is not about ending up with a successful idea, its about learning and allowing yourself to fail. I would say come in and be prepared to fail.

Why should people participate in Startup Weekend even if they don’t have an idea?

There are two kind of people at this event; people with great ideas and people who help them actually make those ideas happen. I myself am the latter type as I don’t have great ideas by myself but I’ve great skills supporting those people bring ideas to life. Supporting and bringing ideas to life is actually much more fun. It really stretches you creatively and i think those people are more important than the people with ideas. I see those people as a major asset to Startup Weekend.

Looking forward to our coming event? Buy your tickets soon.

Buy your Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2015 Ticket Now!

Build Better Edtech Products By Connecting Early And Often With Teachers

Effective EdTech tools come from effective engagement with teachers. Instead of throwing solutions into the over-crowded paths of teachers, reach out and connect.  Get ahead by gaining teacher feedback early and often.



Top Reasons To Engage With Teachers Early

Engaging with teachers early will ensure you have a valid product fit with your customers. It will also save you valuable time as you will be building a viable product that solves a real problem.

What You Can Gain From Early Engagement:

  • You need to know about your competition and what tools teachers are currently using.

  • Learn from the mistakes of others and find out what tools teachers have ditched and why.

  • You need to understand a typical daily routine of a classroom: Technology must be easily integrated.

  • You need to know the limitations and barriers teachers face when adopting new Technology into a classroom.

  • Teachers can help you to understand the politics of entering the school system.

  • What you think may be simple and easy to use, may be surprisingly unclear to your users.

  • Teachers can be the voice of parents and students.

“After speaking with teachers I realized there were so many things I had not thought of. The only way I could of found these things out was through talking to teachers.” Bret Kopf, Co-Founder, Remind

Top Reasons To Engage With Teachers Often

Education is constantly changing and you need to keep up to date with what is happening. Demands on teachers and students constantly change and new EdTech tools are being created rapidly to address these challenges. You need to keep in front of teachers. What you can gain from engaging often:

  • You need to know if your product is user friendly and easily adopted by the intended audience: teachers / students / parents.

  • You need to know if a better solution has been created- find out about new competition.

  • Save your time and efforts by finding out what features teachers use most from your product and which ones they don’t use.

  • Get ideas for new features through teacher requests.

  • Technology can run into problems and teachers don’t have time to waste- find out what hinders them from using your EdTech.

  • Find out if teachers are using your EdTech frequently and if not, why?

  • Test your hypothesis. Did your EdTech solve the problem?

  • Find out if you need to pivot. Are teachers using your EdTech to solve an entirely different problem that you intended?

  • Don’t solely rely on feedback from existing users who know your product.  Get out there and find fresh eyes.

What You Need To Ask Teachers

Ask before you build. Teachers spend their days encouraging and fostering inquisitive minds in their students. Make a teachers day and ask them questions.  Make sure your EdTech solves a problem.

  • What problem can I solve for you and your students?
  • What are your biggest pain points?
  • How often do you struggle with this problem?
  • What other solution / EdTech do you currently use to help solve this problem?
  • What are the problems with existing EdTech tools that address this problem?
  • If you could have any feature added to the current solution you use,  what would it be?
  • What is your biggest turn on / off with new EdTech tools?
  • Tell me about a good / bad experience you had with an EdTech tool?
  • What are your biggest challenges when adopting new technology?

3 EdTech Companies Who Successfully Engage With Teachers

Finally I want to share some great words of wisdom from 3 very successful EdTech companies who believe in the power of engaging with teachers early and often.

“We want to co-develop the right solution with our customers, teachers.” – Scott Freschet, Actively Learn.

“We have a dedicated support team who ensure regular personal contact with teachers for feedback.” – Stuart Reavley, Class Dojo

Remind states their mission on their website: “We listen before we build.”


These companies continue to build both their products and their users base through dedicated collaboration with teachers.

About the Author: Teacher Suzy is the Founder of TinkerEd, winner of Startup Weekend EDU. TinkerEd connects EdTech developers and teachers. Get feedback from teachers today at TinkerEd.