Startup Weekend GIRLS Set To Inspire Seattle’s Entrepreneurs-In-The-Making

Seattle, WA – March 3, 2015 – On May 15, 16, and 17, entrepreneurs and creative minds will be taking over Lake Washington Girls Middle School – Seattle’s first middle school for girls.  – for a Startup Weekend like no other: one specifically designed for fifth through tenth grade GIRLS. Organizers and volunteers of Startup Weekend GIRLS have been working to ensure that this event provides not only inspiration, but also the resources required for building and launching a viable, scalable company. There has never been a Startup Weekend designed specifically for girls; it feels only natural that it happens first here in Seattle, and at a school for girls that was a startup in its own right.

Startup Weekends are about learning through the act of creating. Participants don’t just listen to theory; they present their own ideas, build their own products, and put them to test while collaborating with like-minded, passionate individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and points of view. On top of that, Startup Weekenders receive invaluable one-on-one time with the movers and shakers within the community, as local tech and startup leaders take part in Startup Weekends as mentors/coaches and judges. Some of the people we have lined up for this year include Rebecca Lovell (Startup Liaison, City of Seattle), Monica Guzman (GeekWire), Casi Schwisow (Girls Who Code), T.A. McCann (RivalIQ), Stacey Kinked (Rivet & Cuff), Bryan Lhuillier (Shiftboard), and Zach Smith (Substantial).

Startup Weekend GIRLS Edition is specially designed for the next generation’s entrepreneurs-in-the-making, fifth through tenth  grade girls. Our team of highly innovative and connected mentors and judges will create an atmosphere of exercises and experiences that will teach girls how to come up with business ideas, conduct market research, prototype, work in teams, and “pitch” their ideas to a room full of people. Our goal is to give girls the confidence to innovate and create they will need to succeed in all aspects of life.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model – which will massaged a little bit to fit the needs of our aspiring entrepreneurs: participants pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote), and then it’s a frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback. Everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups.

If you’d like to get involved with Startup Weekend GIRLS, let us know here, or at lwgms.org/su-weekend-girls. If you are a girl in fifth through tenth grade and would like to attend, get your tickets soon…we only have 35-40 spots!

We hope to see you there!

For Additional Information Please Contact:
Contact: Shannon Blaisdell
Phone: (206) 709-3800
Email: swgirls@startupweekend.org
Twitter: @StartupWGirls
Website: Startup Weekend Girls
Tickets: Eventbrite

About Startup Weekend
Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014. The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

 








The 7 Most Surreal Moments of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh

Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh (#SWeduPGH / @SWeduPGH) came and went from February 20th to February 22nd. It was a sold-out emotional roller coaster for its 120+ participants, hailing from as far as Mississippi and ranging as young as nine years old.

I wrote previously that this event was a dream come true, and indeed it was. However, there were moments in this event that made me wonder…

Consider the following moments:

1. Duolingo’s Luis von Ahn basically walked down the street to come talk to us.

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Luis von Ahn shares his idea to generate infinite energy from the kinetic activities at gyms. It did not take off. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

I’ve heard Professor von Ahn speak in person and at his now famous TEDxCMU talk numerous times, and I never get tired of the bombs he drops:

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Prof. von Ahn also opened up about his struggles as an entrepreneurship – the nightmares of product, the perpetual campaign of “gamification,” and the immense complexity in providing a service for each language.

There’s nothing greater than when a local startup rock star maintains a sense of humility. Thank you, Prof. von Ahn!

2. That moment when Expii’s Po-Shen Loh made the entire crowd gasp in awe.

Po-Shen Loh dazzles the crowd with his brilliance and energy. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

I know it seems silly that I compared myself to Steve Jobs when he first saw Steve Wozniak’s PC and operating system for the first time, but I hope you all understand that feeling now.

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When Professor Loh showed us all “The Map” – that seemingly endless web of knowledge that continually expands as people actively contribute to Expii via “colossal collaboration” – the entire room was floored.

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Prof. Loh is just one of many in a community of game changers, and the best part: they’re more excited to meet YOU. Expii is currently live and ready for you to contribute.

3. A mother and son competed AGAINST each other (and, somehow, both won)

I did not discover this until well into the competition, but participants Wesley and her son Porter joined different teams: Project Playground and The Wrinkled Brain Project. Throughout, there was nothing but love and respect – sometimes a rare sight at an intense competition like Startup Weekend.

Mother-son bonding via intense weekend-long startup competition.
Mother-son bonding via intense weekend-long startup competition.

Although Mom ended up placing first in the competition, Porter was the real star of the event. This Startup Weekend featured the first “Reaping” ever – a sacrifice of one participant to entertain the other participants and maintain social order.

Something like this. Actually, almost exactly like this.
Something like this. Actually, almost exactly like this.

In this case, one would be selected to showcase Startup Weekend Pittsburgh’s own MegaBits – an MMOPRG monster-fighting mobile app played in the real world released a month ago at the iTunes store.

However, when the moment of selection came, Porter volunteered as tribute. 

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Porter’s heroism was fortunately mentored by MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

He managed to vanquish a Koldiak with a Grimlug’s flurry of tornadoes and saved the day. (I don’t know what these words mean.)

Well done, Porter, and Wesley – way to be an awesome parent. Speaking of which:

4. We’re convinced Pittsburgh would crush a Startup Weekend Youth.

As a judging and coaching dynamic duo, Entrepreneuring Youth‘s proud alums Jesse and Joziah Council were the most poised (and well-dressed) gentlemen at the event.

By far the best dressed at Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, or pretty much at any event.
Far too much style for a Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, or pretty much at any event. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Our Youth Choice Panel not only counted their votes faster than the main judges did (that was my bad), they also entertained the audience with their enthusiasm.

Today's students, tomorrow's leaders. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
Today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Lastly, who could forget that little girl who validated Penny Discovery’s MVP:

Children always make the best customers for validation. Always. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
Children always make the best customers for validation. Always. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

The youth have spoken – they want more entrepreneurship!

5. Startup Weekends are not traditionally done in sub-freezing temperatures. (We Pittsburgh folk don’t care.)

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A Startup Weekend Pittsburgh hazing ritual for new volunteers. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

One of our platinum sponsors, Problem Solutions, dared our organizing team to borrow the Environmental Charter School‘s sleds and tear up some powder out in Frick Park.

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Walt Grata of Problem Solutions feels cold in his manly beard. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
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Fortunately, nobody was hurt in this insane endeavour. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Some of the team made a snowman out in front. We decided to name it “Gusky” after Norton Gusky, a huge advocate in the Pittsburgh education community and the first person to buy a ticket at our event. Unfortunately, he fell ill and couldn’t attend, so we hope that this snowman was a fitting tribute.

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Our team posting with Gusky the Snowman. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

6. Nobody else than Mandela Schumacher-Hodge could have facilitated SWeduPGH. Nobody.

Not only did we get the Global Director of Education Entrepreneurs, but we also got a woman who grew up in Pittsburgh’s East End and whose local legendary father Leroy Hodge fought relentlessly for the kind of future we hoped to represent at our event.

mandela-mic
Mandela laying down the rules of SWeduPGH. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

One of our judges, The Fred Rogers Center‘s President Bill Isler approached her after the winners were announced. Apparently, Mandela’s mom and Bill were previously commissioners of the Pittsburgh Dynamo Soccer League, where Mandela cultivated her enduring passion for the sport.

A reunion that transcends generation. Photo courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.
A reunion that transcends generation. Photo courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.

If you can name someone else who should have been with us that weekend… you don’t really exist, for you are a logical paradox. Welcome back home, Mandela!

7. The epic dance party you all missed (probably because you built a company in 54 hours)

No words necessary. Just a video of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh veteran Steve McCarthy showing off his salsa skills with facilitator Mandela:

mandela-dancing-youtube-img
(In case you can’t see it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7J60ElaTOM)

Convinced yet that there might be a higher power involved? Perhaps, but I’m more inclined to think it begins with this validated fact:

Education is a big deal in Pittsburgh, and entrepreneurship is a great way to stimulate its progress. 

It was too easy to recruit the right organizers and volunteers – I already knew the most passionate, committed, trustworthy, and hardworking people in town.

organizing-team-better-pose
We’re having no fun. No fun at all. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

We really didn’t have any trouble finding the right judges – we knew we wanted a teenage entrepreneur, three prominent women in educational technology, and a veteran in Pittsburgh school policy and philanthropy. Mission accomplished.

judging-panel
Judges Joziah Council, Aileen Owens, Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Stephanie Butler, and Bill Isler having a great time. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

The greatest challenge with any Startup Weekend is outreach – despite our hard work, we never know until the last minute if people will come out to participate.

Not bad for a first time.
Not bad for a first time. So, when’s the next Startup Weekend in Pittsburgh, anyway?

So, on behalf of everyone, I thank you for experiencing what I had experienced just a few years ago – this event is and always will be for you.

I also ask that you do the following:

(Apply here: startupweekend.org/organizer/application/)

epic-rock-paper-scissors
Networking: gamified. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

After all, you’re now part of a big family, and we’re excited to have you.

Pretty surreal, isn’t it? 

Lee Ngo is the Regional Manager of the US East Coast for UP Global and the lead organizer of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh. Many of the photos in this post were provided generously by Ben Matzke Photos, all rights reserved.








Touch-Based Virtual Reality For The Blind Developed At Startup Weekend Education Hyderabad

Original post can be found on Imgur. Written by user SathvikP.

We built a wearable device that can help people sense a virtual object (like a square, a map of the world, a cube or an entire solar system), through a small vibrating motor on their hand by moving their hand around in the air. This would be particularly helpful for the blind and the visually impaired as it can help them better visualize shapes, learn geography and access images like they never could before. And I’m very proud to tell you that our team at Color Me Black won Startup Weekend Education Hyderabad!

Congratulations to the rest of the team! And many thanks to all our avid supporters and friends. Also a very special thanks to Faisal from Dialogue In the Dark – India for sparing his valuable time. He helped us fine tune the idea to better help students and showed us how technology has been helping the visually impaired. Stay tuned, you’ll be hearing more about this soon! #MakeInIndia #Wearables #InternetOfThings #VirtualReality #Haptics

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The prototype is a glove that people can wear. When they move their hand around, an arduino onboard detects the movement and turns on a small vibrator-motor on the glove. If we have the computer simulate the shape of a square, the glove-wearer would feel a vibration on their hand as they move it along it’s imagined boundaries, allowing them to get a sense of it’s shape.

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Blind students and blind people in general have a tough time visualizing, understanding and using images. With the help of this smart-glove, we can give them a sense of what things in the image might be shaped like, enabling them to better use that information.

Learn more about our startup, Colour Me Black and how we will continue to innovate for the blind!








What You Need to Know: Saturday at SWeduPGH

SWeduPGH

The teams have formed and the heart of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh is officially underway! If you’re looking for a little more information on the game plan for Saturday and some tips and insights, this post is for you.

As always, if you need anything, find an organizer or volunteer, or tweet at us: https://twitter.com/swedupgh. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SWeduPGH! And don’t be shy! We’ve all done this before and know what you’re going through.

If you’re getting your team established on social media, be sure to let us know and we’ll spread the word. Also request any team needs on Twitter and we will blast it out through social.

We also sent out codes for Amazon Web Services and your free .co domain, so be sure to check your emails.

Here are the teams so far. We know your name and idea will fluctuate throughout the weekend so let us know of updates!

  1. emrj: online platform to connect students with companies for job shadows
  2. The Wrinkled Brain Project: connect students with scientists to encourage deep thinking in science labs
  3. Imaginate: interactive storytelling to encourage kids to read
  4. Every Penny Counts: kids get rewarded with pennies for answering questions during class
  5. Field Trip: making botany more real-world interactive through teacher-directed initiatives
  6. Root Ed: connecting college mentors with high school students
  7. ClassR: collaboration platform for students in the same class working on projects together
  8. Lunchtime: summer lunches for kids through a non-profit food truck
  9. Pittsburgh Thriving Index: a dynamic real-time dashboard with multidimensional data that reframes education with access points for all
  10. E-lectern: build a better interface for online teaching
  11. The Project Playground: app to give teachers insights on student projects, straight from the kids
  12. Code Trail: helping young kids learn to code through gamification

For Saturday:

ECS will open at 9am! Come grab breakfast in the cafeteria thanks to Square Cafe then get to work.

Hopefully you had a successful brain dump Friday evening so you can hit the ground running on Saturday. Be sure to do lots of research, keep the MVP model in mind and take advantage of the amazing mentors coming in who have volunteered their time. This is when you want to really consider your market and get validation.

Assign roles and tasks to help get everything done. Be agile– know it will be a rollercoaster but that’s ok. And most importantly, have fun!

Mentors will be in from 10am-5pm. For special requests, email: pittsburghedu@startupweekend.org.

Tips: prioritize what your team needs guidance on and spend as much time with those mentors.

  1. List out questions: Time is limited with mentors so make sure you use it wisely.
  2. Be humble and open-minded: Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  3. Be upfront and direct: If you need to pass on a mentor to digest and implement information, let them know.

Education Mentors:
Nina Marie Barbuto– Assemble
Colleen Hannagan– Assistant Principal, North Allegheny School District

Tech Mentors:
Joe Esposito– Development Consultant and Startup Digest PGH
Nikolaus Hruska– VP of Problem Solutions
Sabrina Haskell– Senior Game Designer of Schell Games

Business Mentors:
Adam Kelson– Partner, Saul Ewing LLP
Jesse Council (Youth Mentor)– CEO & Co-Founder, Shy-Way Essentials; National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalist
Nikki Navta– CEO, Zulama
Nicole Muise-Kielkucki– Manager of Social Enterprise Initiatives, Idea Foundry
Dan Seitam– Partner & CxO, C-leveled

After lunch from Mad Mex, we’ll be doing a status report where you’ll update us on your progress and any needs you have. Remember, Startup Weekend is about community and collaboration. Teams helping each other out is highly encouraged!

Mentors will be here until 5 pm, and Saturday evening is when you’ll have to start considering how your pitch will go. Volunteers are here to help if this is new to you! We’ll also be sending around the judging criteria in an email to help guide you.

Win 10 is catering dinner and we’ll have an ice cream social from Dream Cream later in the evening. Things can get intense on Saturday but don’t forget to take an occasional break to clear your head and enjoy all the event has to offer.








One Women's Experience Building A Startup At Startup Weekend Education

This article is written by Sarah Strehler, an experienced kindergarten teacher and aspiring writer, and recently launched her first edublog Miss Sarah’s Scribbles

In the fall of 2014, I had the opportunity to leave my Toronto kindergarten classroom behind and re-locate my life to sunny San Francisco. With very little certainty about what awaited me on the Sunshine Coast, I took the biggest risk of my life and embarked on a 2200-mile move to a new coast and a new country.

To help ensure that my big move didn’t just turn into one big vacation, I endeavored to immerse myself in as much professional development as possible. EdTech was a relatively new concept to me, as was the intense entrepreneurial culture of the Bay Area. Before my furniture had even arrived, I was volunteering with children regularly, had launched my first edu-blog, and was attending weekly EdTech meetups.

As I learned about local EdTech startups and met with some of their founders, I was inspired by the passion that drove these people to think beyond the confines of the “this is the way we have always done it” mentality that so often holds back education reform. Being surrounded by so much ambition, experience and success made me feel like a small fish in a very big pond – a feeling that I was un-accustomed to experiencing.

I considered that I needed to get involved with something where I could explore the depths of my own experience and knowledge to help me gain back the confidence that I had felt slipping away in the months following my transition to this new city and culture. When I stumbled across an advertisement for Startup Weekend Education San Francisco, I was hopeful that it would be the new opportunity that I was looking for.

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On the first night of the weekend, I barely had time to sign in and loot the swag counter before I was bombarded with people pitching me their ideas and shoving their business cards into my hands. The intensity was overwhelming, and I spent the next 25 minutes wondering whether I had made a huge mistake signing up for this event. Did I really have what it would take to crack into this entrepreneurial culture? But after listening intently to the pitches, I promptly found a startup team that was incredibly excited to have me on their team. With my spirit slightly lifted, I drifted off late that night dreaming about all of the work that lay ahead of us.

To say that the weekend was exhausting, demanding, and pushed my brain and body in ways I have never experienced is an understatement. My lack of experience in business and technology did not last long, as I was forced to learn foreign concepts by the minute. I held no reservations about asking questions and soaking in as much knowledge from my teammates as possible – after all, this was why I was here. I also quickly realized that everybody had an important role on the team, including me. Only I acknowledged my notions about my lack of entrepreneurial know-how, and my team came to depend on me for my educational expertise just as much as I was depending on them. Our respectful ebb and flow continued, producing new ideas and helping us to re-investigate previous ones. By the end of day two, all of our “to-dos” had been crossed off the white board, and we left the workspace with a cautiously optimistic attitude about how well we had worked together and how far along in the project we were.

unnamed-3Our Startup Weekend Education team at work. 

The wind was knocked out of our billowing sails on the final day of the weekend, when a brutally honest coaching session deflated our egos into stunned silence. Not only was our general business plan given some harsh feedback, but my personal ability to deliver our final pitch was also questioned during the coaching session. Once we had left the coaches, I explained to my group – admittedly through teary eyes – that I didn’t feel prepared to give our final pitch. It had not been my idea for me to pitch, but somehow over the course of the weekend my team had evolved to have this faith in me that I did not have in myself. The support my team offered me was akin to the support I have felt from friends that I have known for half of my life. Hugs, snacks, fresh air, words of encouragement, and an incredibly productive breakout session between myself and one of the founders helped put me back on track – I would be delivering our final pitch to the judges.

At pitch time, I found my inner teacher, who can manage to inspire the toughest room of uninterested students, and delivered a solid presentation. People laughed, nodded their heads in understanding, and I was met with many pats on the back afterwards. In that moment, I felt as though I had achieved so much more than I knew I was capable of: I learned about business models, validating a product, and market research; I supplied a great deal of content and research for our product; and I had confidently explained to a room full of esteemed judges and colleagues why our startup was important.

In the aftermath of Startup Weekend Education, I have continued to reflect on my experiences. In a 50 hour span, I felt my confidence crumble and soar, I taught others and became the student, I made connections with strangers that often take years to form, I began re-thinking my impact on education outside of the classroom, and I pushed myself into new and uncomfortable situations, only to come out a better teacher, professional, and person in the end. Thanks to the guidance and support I received from taking part in this event, I was able to experience first-hand the very philosophy that has become such an integral part of my professional, and personal, life – a dedication to lifelong learning.

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Breadth and Depth in Startup Metrics

This post is written by Elliott Hauser – CEO of Trinket, an in-browser coding environment for teachers and students. Before Trinket, Elliot taught programming at UNC Chapel Hill.  

tl;dr: Breadth = % of users using, while Depth = key usage per user

Geoff Ralston recently wrote a post on his brilliant (b * d) / c formula for prioritizing product development features. You should definitely read his post if you haven’t. I call it Ralston’s Unified Theorem of Product Development.

Basically, the formula takes how many users will benefit from a feature (breadth, aka b) multiplied by how much it will improve their experience (depth, aka d) divided by how long it will take to build (cost, aka c). This formula is awesome and Geoff has used it in more than once in the Imagine K12 office hours our team at Trinket has had with him.

As he notes in his post, though, the key to success with this formula is picking the right metric to use with it. Are there any more specific guidelines we can use to pick these metrics? I think so.

Metrics are People too

Eric Ries’ famous line “metrics are people too” reminds us that product metrics should always relate back to users’ experience. There are two main ways to do this:

  • look at the ratio of users that do something, such as a conversion or utilization rate (i.e. users using / total users)
  • look at the degree of usage, usually though events per user or time on site per user

The former is perfectly suited to breadth measurement, while the latter is perfect to depth. Geoff is right that there’s a lot of going by your gut in early stage startups. But Ries forces us to make our assumptions and hypotheses explicit so that we can verify their truth. If you combine Ries’ explicit hypotheses with Geoff’s formula you have a perfect setup for validating your hunches while moving quickly and trusting your gut.

Breadth Measurement by Usage Rates

Anyone who’s built a product from scratch has run into a situation where they’ve built a feature or set of features expecting it to take off with a majority of users, only to find out it was in fact used by very few.

At Trinket this was the case with our HTML trinket. My hypothesis was that HTML was used in much more widely in classes around the world than Python is, so the new feature would soon dwarf our Python usage. Hypothesis: after a few weeks, the utilization rate of the HTML trinket would be greater than the Python trinket.

Well, I was very wrong about this. Python continues to be our most popular language and is outgrowing all other trinket types. The utilization rates told this tale easily and we haven’t seen any difference in depth of usage, which means that improvements to our Python trinket should outrank work on HTML. THis focus has helped us deliver new features most of our users will use.

A nice feature of breadth measurement, by the way, is the ease of setup. You don’t need a full-on split test to gauge usage as long as the feature is presented side by side with an alternative, as is the case in our New Trinket dialog.

With the clarity of this new data, I realized that one of the problems we solve, quick and easy setup, was not experienced strongly by HTML teachers. So they were not searching for a solution as actively as Python teachers. Using Geoff’s formula, we realized that the breadth of the feature was not as great as we had predicted, so we decided to focus on improving our support for Python.

Measuring Depth with Events or Time

Depth is how much a feature matters to users. We can measure it by, roughly, usage per user. In most cases this boils down to how often they use it and by how the presence of the feature affects their time on site.

Measuring depth of engagement is more difficult than breadth because it most often requires a split test setup (aka A/B test). If you’re not set up to do split tests via feature flags, custom flows, or a service like Optimizely you should drop everything and get set up to do so. Without the ability to split test it’s almost impossible to produce the validated learning that startups live and die by.

Google Analytics events are a surprisingly robust and easy tool for this kind of measurement. At trinket we use them to understand how many times users run code, edit code, and interact with the code’s output (i.e. play with games). Each new feature ships with its own analytics event so we can track how many times users are using it.

Some features are important to users but happen rarely, like accepting comments from other users on a blog post (one of the many reasons I love Medium). In these cases, the real value to the user may need to be measured by how the presence of the feature affects the users’ time on site or number of sessions overall. To do this reliably, a split test is likely needed.

Picking one metric for (b * d) / c

So far we’ve talked about characteristics of metrics you should use for b and d. Geoff’s formula is designed to optimize one particular metric over time. So which one metric should you pick?

is just a measure of how many people use a feature, and doesn’t have units attached to it. That means that d is your key metric. Your choice of interactions, signups, sessions per user or time on site per user will be the key determinant of how the formula ‘grades’ your product development options. Your product will go through phases when different metrics assume different levels of importance. Just make sure to pick a metric consciously and stick with it long enough to move the needle. Shifting your target metric will shift your priorities entirely.

Hope this has been helpful! Tweet at me with suggestions or comments!








Why The School of Games?

This article was written by Arjita Sethi – educator, social entrepreneur & the Founder of The School of Games.

This is the story of change, the story of revolution and the story of ‘The School of Games.Org’. This has been a journey of pivoting, applying lean startup methodology and being told over and over again that your baby is very ugly. However, in the whole process the only thing that remained same was our passion to create a disruptive innovation which would make quality education accessible to one and all and thus create equal opportunities. We have in the course of our journey met numerous mentors and team members who helped at every step, they believed in ‘The School of Games’ and the vision of giving quality education to every child in the world.

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It all started on June 14th 2014, when we decided to help out poor kids in India to learn English through an online platform of games. English, a language of elites in India is the key in anyone’s success. Thus, we decided to convert the entire curriculum of English subject of high school into a game and give it free of cost to all bottom of the pyramid students in India. Games create an engaging environment which is both stimulating and fundamental for learning. This has been tried by many organizations before but never for a bottom of the pyramid. I started working on building the lesson plans that very day. After 15 days of careful planning, I began recording my lessons to be put on our online platform. This platform would be called ‘The school of English.Org’ , named after my parent’s school in India. After a month of recording the lesson plans here in San Francisco I planned to travel to India to test if these lessons were giving out the necessary outcomes.

This was our method of lean startup. We had nothing except a white board, few markers, a go-pro and a passion to make education fun and available to everyone. Within 15 days of landing in India and trying human centric design, I realized that I had validated my idea and my early adopters were more than looking forward to the MVP of ‘The School of English.Org’. I went out and tested my prototype on 50 children at ‘The School of English’ in New Delhi. I recorded their interviews to understand how they felt with this methodology of teaching. The children learnt quickly. They said that the best part was that they did not need to go to a good school since a good school came to them. However, I realized that the key takeaway from this pilot testing was that these children did not just have problems with English, but every other subject. This made me realize that just teaching them English would not solve the problem. In fact, many of these kids werelacking in basic literacy.

This was the time of our first pivot. The school of English had to be transformed into The School of Games which meant that we had to bring the entire school in the form of a game to these kids. Because now it was not just the question of teaching English language, rather providing a platform which ensured the holistic learning of every child in a fun way. As we began working on this, other insights were brought to our notice. Firstly, that many of these children dropped out in primary or middle school because either they had to be helping in the household chores or they failed after 9th grade.

We realized that if we had to make a greater impact in the lives of these children, we had to catch them young. Thus the idea of initiating the early childhood education came into being. And this could well be called our second pivot from teaching high school students to kindergarten children.

Now that we had The School Of Games and I had validated theory of change, I came back to San Francisco after 2 months and began my work with the new tested hypotheses.

As we were in the nascent stages of building this, I was also pursuing my master’s of social entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School. This was the time when I was given the opportunity of studying social innovation, which was being taught by prof- Mike Grandinetti. Prof. Mike was the first of my teachers with whom I discussed my idea. He listened to my idea very intently and made me think that although I had the quality content, however the children at the bottom of the pyramid would have no device to see it on. This went on to become my third pivot, especially in the cost structure of my business model. Till now, I was relying The School of Games to be a freemium model and thus the cost structure was much simpler. But now I had to work out the cost for a device too.

This was the time when I read numerous articles on how the US is facing the acute problem of word gap amongst the low-income families. Subsequently, I discovered that not only a developing country like India but also US was suffering when it came to giving quality education. This brought in another change in my business model with The School of Games becoming a global product for any child in the world and starting our pilot here in San Francisco itself. I still can’t thank Prof. Mike enough for his insights and relentless support even today. Moreover, the role of Hult in giving us this exposure of building a startup from the scratch is very enriching.

Around this time came the opportunity of registering for the startup weekend of Hult prize in October 2014. I was thrilled to know about this opportunity. We presented our idea and won the startup weekend. This was a great boost for us to realize that we were after all doing something right. We are utterly grateful to Prof. Patrick Guerra, who was one of the judges to give us highly insightful feedback. He brought out the lack of technology and Internet availability in many rural areas. Consequently, we created our first MVP for early childhood education and began looking for schools to try in out in, especially rural schools. Finally I spoke to my school friend Varshawho is a Gandhian Fellow in India and was teaching in a rural school in Rajasthan in India. My concern about lack of internet were put to rest when she told me that she used 3G to run the MVP in the remote rural school of Rajasthan. This was another milestone for TSOG as the feedback of these children was priceless and our learnings were numerous.

We represented TSOG in the internal competition of Hult prize. Although we were not lucky this time to win but we did receive constructive feedback from none other than David Stephens of Grameen Foundation. Moreover, we added an amazing team member, Yany Wu Feng to the family of TSOG. Further, we had the chance to connect with Mike Zyda, whose experience in the field of games and his faith in us has kept us motivated and his advice has been remarkably helpful.

Today, The School of Games currently in the prototype stage is a personalized school for every child around the world especially children at the bottom of the pyramid who don’t receive quality education. Behind the scenes The School of Games is an ecosystem of educators, animators, game designers who build games based on curated curriculum to achieve learning outcomes. The School of Games leverages key insights to provide personalized learning experience by adapting to each child’s learning ability.

This is a call for everyone to just give us an hour a week and help a child get quality education. Lastly, being a non profit we are looking for impact investors and philanthropists to invest in our mission so that together we can bring a school to every child.

Because education needs to be shared not sold!








Consider Startup Weekend an investment in yourself

Startup Weekends are some of my favorite events for entrepreneurial communities. I have been to several throughout Iowa – sometimes in my day job as a journalist, some as a community volunteer, and one (so far!) as a participant. Every time, the energy is amazing.

Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.
Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

I frequently recommend the experience to others, so I know there can be an element of hesitation. You get 52 precious weekends in a year – why would you want to spend a whole 54 hours with strangers, working hard on a totally unpredictable project?

It’s true that attending Startup Weekend is an investment – to some extent, with money, but to a greater extent, with your time.

But, at the end of the day, it’s an investment you’re making in yourself. It’s a decision to spend time on learning and growing.

It’s a chance to make new friends and expand your network. It’s a chance to stretch yourself professionally or be introduced to a new skill. It’s a chance to introduce that idea that’s been living in the corners of your mind to the rest of the world. It’s a chance to break out of your normal routine and refresh your thinking.

What do you want out of it?

With the mindset that Startup Weekend is an investment in yourself – I’d recommend taking a few moments to think about your hopes and goals for the weekend before attending. You’re putting in the time, what do you hope to get in return?

I went into my weekend as a participant hoping to meet new people, learn something new and be part of a team that built something functional and useful. I was overwhelmed with how great I felt about all of these things by Sunday night.

There are always a few people who don’t come back after Friday night. From what I’ve seen, these tend to be people who only want to work on their idea, so if it doesn’t get picked they have no interest in joining another team. (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this option.)

Other people might come to Startup Weekend determined to be on the winning team. Or to really start a business (if you can do that with people you just met – more power to you).

Some people just want to build something awesome before returning to their day job on Monday.

All of these goals are perfectly legitimate. They could all also drastically change how a participant feels and acts. Keep your expectations in mind throughout the weekend to shape the experience you want to have.

Read more via We Create Here: Reflections on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








What time is it? SXSWEdu Time!

Last year, SXSWEdu was a blast, (if you need any reminding, check out our photo album). We’re certain that this year will be even better! From March 9-12th, we’ll be in Austin, TX participating in five SXSWEdu events.

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1. LAUNCHedu Competition

Early-stage startups seeking feedback, investment, strategic partnerships and exposure were invited to apply online to have their company considered for the competition. The promising startups that are selected as finalists in the competition will present their early stage business concepts before a judging panel of industry experts, early adopters and educators, as well as a live audience at SXSWedu. More details.

2. Workshop: Understanding and Empathizing With Education Users

How well do you think you know your user? Whether you’re a teacher trying to understand the needs of students in your classroom or an entrepreneur trying to understand the needs of teachers and students who use your product, empathy and understanding is the secret weapon of successful entrepreneurs. In this workshop, you will discover and practice techniques for understanding your user’s needs. More details.

3. Panel: Redesigning School As We Know It

Why does school mean four walls, one teacher and 20 students? Ever had an idea for how to reinvent a school from the ground up? This panel will discuss how to design schools of the future that create opportunities for students and teachers to thrive. What are the frameworks for thinking about what is needed in a new school model? If you’re interested in designing personalized learning and competency-based education, then this panel is for you. Meet the panelists and find out where this event will be hosted

4. Edtech Community Builders Meetup powered by Edtech Austin

Leading edtech events, programs or organizations in your community? Looking to take the edtech scene in your city to the next level? Edtech community builders from around the world are gathering at SXSWedu to swap stories and share tactics. More details.

5. Happy Hour in partnership with EdsurgeHireEdu4.0 Schools, and New Schools Venture Fund

Free entry and free drink tickets, but you must RSVP here.

 

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A few of our Education Entrepreneurs Community Leaders are also hosting events:

Gaming the System: Teachers Hacking the Classroom, featuring Community Leader Courtney Francis

A growing number of teachers are creating games of all shapes and sizes for their own classrooms. They’re defying conventions in creative ways that inspire and engage students (and teachers!) to learn through game play. Let’s talk about what that’s like, and lead the way for other innovative teachers. We’ll share remarkable work, discuss the creation process and inspire one another to think like game designers. Learn how to create, adapt, remix, mash up and integrate games in classrooms. More details.

Building an EdTech Bill of Rights, featuring Community Leader Katrina Stevens

In this 2-hour, hands-on interactive session, we’ll use a design process to collectively create an “Edtech Bill of Rights” that suggests the responsibilities of different members of the EdTech ecosystem and fosters authentic partnerships. Goal is to facilitate dialogue among teachers, EdTech leaders, researchers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders, with a focus on educator voices, for the purpose of working together across the ecosystem on innovative ideas that will improve student learning. More details.

 

For more information about Education Entrepreneurs, visit our website.








4.0 Schools is a New National Partner of Education Entrepreneurs

Today, we are excited to announce that 4.0 Schools and Education Entrepreneurs have formed a national partnership that covers two of our key program offerings: Startup Weekend Education and Workshops. As a leading incubator for pre-seed education entrepreneurs, 4.0 Schools will play a more active role at our events throughout the United States, ensuring our early stage entrepreneurs have a great next step to pursue, and that event Organizers feel supported in putting on a great event.

15073478605_180c803631_z.jpgSince 2010, 4.0 Schools has launched 43 education ventures, 34 of which are still serving students, teachers, parents today. 4.0 Schools ventures have raised over $5M and earned more than $2.5M in revenue, and include such notable companies as Overgrad, Formative, Community Guilds, and Branching Minds. Also, several Education Entrepreneurs alumni have already taken advantage of 4.0 Schools programming, including Fantasy Geopolitics, Classtracks, Vidcode, and ImagiLabs.

With this new partnership, 4.0 Schools is excited to give Education Entrepreneurs participants the opportunity to bring their early stage ventures to 4.0 Schools for coaching and battle-testing their ideas with users via their two programs, Essentials and the Launch program.

  • Essentials is a multi-day experience designed to help support 4.0 Schools community members move their ideas forward. Participants will practice the skills of empathy, unbundling, and prototyping, as they work to concisely define their customer or user, the problem they’re working to solve, and the solution they’re testing.  Essentials alums walk out the door with a clear plan to test their idea.
  • The Launch program supports entrepreneurs to bring new ventures – products, services, or school models – to life in under 90 days. If you’re a bold, gritty individual hungry to solve a tough problem, the Launch program will push you to test and iterate your envisioned solution until it is really meeting the needs of your end users. 4.0 provides an extensive test-bed in NOLA, where companies can iterate based on real user feedback and secure their first customers. During the Launch program, entrepreneurs will have access to coaching, connections, and equity-free capital up to 5k.

538285_522506841103490_1564815171_n.jpg4.0 Schools is focused on more than just developing entrepreneurs. They’re committed to building communities of educators, entrepreneurs, and anyone looking to build the future of school. This new partnership will also more strategically connect our volunteer event Organizers and national Community Leaders with 4.0 Schools’ network and resources, to ensure the greatest impact possible can be made towards community building efforts focused on education innovation.

You can learn more about 4.0 Schools here.