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.
- Duolingo is the first educational app to win the coveted Apple App of the Year.
- The app remains completely free for users, yet Duolingo has raised a total of over $38M in capital to date.
- Over 20 million people are now using the app. There are more people are learning languages on Duolingo than in the U.S. Public Education System.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
However, when the moment of selection came, Porter volunteered as tribute.
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.
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.
Lastly, who could forget that little girl who validated Penny Discovery’s MVP:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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:
- Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – I usually post about weird stuff, especially why it’s okay for men to selfie.
- Have your projects follow me, too – keep me posted on your progress, and ask me how I can help your team.
- Ask me anything – if it’s Startup Weekend-related, email me here. If it’s anything else, email me here. I’m here to pay it forward, and as I’ve written before, I’m pretty hardcore about Startup Weekend.
- Keep going – stay in touch with your teams, talk to the others ones, reach out to our sister event in Raleigh – just promise me that you’ll keep going on this wild journey
- ORGANIZE – this will be the last time I organize an event for a while, for I have been plucked up by UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend and many other excellent programming. It’s time for me to “pass the beaker,” and it’s time for you to step up.
(Apply here: startupweekend.org/organizer/application/)
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.
Startup Weekend Austin
February 6th, 2015
Last weekend’s installment of Startup Weekend Austin (AKA: #atxSW15) has taught us all a number of valuable lessons. Attendees learned a great deal about the process of forming a team, brainstorming ideas, validating markets, building a business model canvas, and which coffee shops around town are indeed 24-hour.
From the organizing team’s perspective, we’re accustomed to observing, learning and supporting as the teams do their thing, so the fact that we all learned lots of new things shouldn’t be all that surprising. However, this weekend was a little bit different. To say that it was the highest caliber of Sunday night pitches we’ve ever seen only scratches the surface. Organizers, mentors and judges all learned that Austin’s entrepreneur and developer community is not to be taken lightly. The buzz around the Capital Factory all weekend revolved around the realization that these teams were all producing some of the best platforms, services and products that any of us had ever seen from such an event.
Here are some photos that highlight the intensity, collaboration, and great fun that we all shared in the 54 hours that were Startup Weekend Austin 2015:
J.D. Weinstein and Chris Gillan started things off by sharing their advice and experience with the group:
The weekend seemed to fly by as teams worked as quickly as possible, building websites, validating markets, doing customer interviews (some teams even took to the streets of downtown Austin to do so), and anything else required of their newly found startup. On Saturday afternoon, our fantastic team of coaches worked to mentor teams, who were eager to soak in any advice they could wring from folks with deep experience and entrepreneurial wisdom:
The organizers had a particularly enjoyable time, helping teams find resources, coordinating coach arrivals and conversations, but mostly hanging out at Capital Factory swapping stories:
Mostly, we had to remind folks how little time they had to do so much work. “No talk, all action,” as they say.
But all good things have to come to an end at some point, and Sunday evening arrived in a whir of PowerPoints, Google presentations, Prezis and various other slidedecks demonstrate to the judges that it represented the best of the best. Our panel of judges geared up for 18 presentations, the most any of us had ever heard of for a Startup Weekend:
Here are some photot highlights from the Sunday night presentations:
The top three teams all barely edged out the competition after a tough deliberation by our judges. The top three teams are as follows:
3rd Place — 21 Day!
2nd Place — Knock Knock!
And the first place team, Free Will!
There you have it. The weekend was a huge success and we all learned a great deal. Ultimately, we hope that every team learned about the outstanding community that exists in Austin that supports radical ideas that can change the world. We hope teams met a bunch of folks from the awesome community of individuals who make up the fabric of our great city who are more than willing to lend a hand, an ear or the ever-tantalizing email connection to “a good friend who will absolutely love what you are doing.” Most of all, we hope that teams learned about how to “Start up!” See you again real soon!
A special thank you to the folks at RetailMeNot, without whom Startup Weekend Austin would not have been possible. Also, thanks to Tito’s Handmade Vodka and TechMap for their generous donations. Thanks always to Capital Factory for hosting us at their awesome downtown space!
Can I be an entrepreneur and still keep my day job?
YES! But not for long.
I launched dE ROSAIRO, a contemporary womenswear clothing brand, in February 2014. Our brand is built around the concept of re-imagining the hoodie for the modern woman in a way that she can incorporate it in her contemporary wardrobe.
When I first began to research the ‘hoodie’ and test for market viability, I was employed in a full-time and demanding job that was anything but a 9-5.
My friends kept asking me: “When will you leave your day job and follow your passion?” For 10 months I continued to answer: “I’ll know when the time is right”.
I spent the first six months studying the fashion industry extensively: going to night classes; walking tradeshows around the country; and reading a new, relevant book every two weeks. My days quickly turned into 18-hour work days between my full time job, and my new venture. The weekends became my favorite days of the week: two full days once a week that I could dedicate to my entrepreneurial efforts. I hired interns after 3 months, and at the 6-month mark I hired contractors to work on dE ROSAIRO during the day, all while I continued to work full time.
Sustaining my day job provided me with an increased runway for funding my business. This allowed me the flexibility in my budget to launch a business without asking for a loan, or borrowing from friends and family.
My transition into ‘full time entrepreneur’ was slow coming and this helped me prepare for the tight deadlines of the Fashion industry. When you work in a seasonal market, things don’t happen by chance. You have rigid deadlines to hit which means planning for seasonal collections and supply chain management, and if you miss the window, you have to wait for the next one. This pre-planning, and tight schedule helped me know exactly when to leave my Fortune 500 career behind. I did so only after acquiring a full set of samples for my first collection, a sales showroom locked in, a website under development, and a launch date (+marketing materials) for dE ROSAIRO.
My concept was not just a concept anymore, it had slowly morphed into a business, and it required my full dedication and focus.
While it’s possible to still keep a day job as an entrepreneur, there does come a time when you can no longer do two things well. It’s premature to quit your job when you’re still in ‘idea phase’, so until you’ve tested market viability and the competitor landscape, keep that money flowing in and work on your idea at night and on the weekends.
When you’ve sewn your first seeds and your concept has matured into a business that is operational, take the leap! Dedicate yourself completely to your new entrepreneurial journey and grow by celebrating the small wins and lessons you learn along the way – both are part of the ride.
Entrepreneurial musings suggest that if you’re serious about your business, you need to remove all obstacles and give yourself completely to the journey. The truth is, we can all do a pretty decent job multi-tasking, but when we excel, we excel because we focus.
Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh (SWeduPGH) is the perfect storm of education and entrepreneurship in the Pittsburgh community. We have only begun our planning of the event, and already we have some very big announcements:
A Platinum Sponsor
We already secured our first platinum sponsor: Problem Solutions! SWPGH#6 attendee Walt Grata reached out to us immediately after the event and put me in touch with company president Mike Hruska, co-author of the soon to be released “Ed Tech Software Developer’s Guide.” Suffice to say, we are very happy to have their support!
A School for an Event Location
Our event will be held at the Environmental Charter Upper School (ECS)! Located just outside of Frick Park, ECS’s relatively central location, parking accessibility, and consolidated layout works extremely well for the needs of a Startup Weekend event. Plus, where better (or more obvious) to conduct an education-themed event than at a school?
A Top-Tier Facilitator
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge will be our event facilitator! For the uninitiated, every Startup Weekend event requires an out-of-town facilitator to help the organization team execute the event. We really lucked out by tapping the Director of Education Entepreneurs for UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend! Mandela is a Pittsburgh native to boot!
An Amazing Organizing Team
We have truly assembled a “Dream Team” for SWeduPGH. Hand-picked for their experience, passion, and reputation in the educational and startup communities, we’re going to knock this event out of the park:
Courtney Francis (@cfrancisrun), Co-Organizer and Marketing Lead
Shimira Williams (@tekstart), Co-Organizer and Operations Lead
Christian Moreno (@cmoreno_13), Sponsorship Coordinator
Cat Tsavalas (@cattsavalas), Social Media Coordinator
As we head into 2015, we hope that you will be a part of this exciting event we’re putting on for the Pittsburgh educational community. We’re actively looking for mentors, judges, a keynote speaker, and game-day volunteers. Tickets are already available here, and for more information, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In promotion of the first Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, this blog post is the first of a series by and for the education technology community in Pittsburgh. All inquiries can be directed to email@example.com.
Y fue todo un éxito =)
El pasado 21, 22 y 23 de noviembre se realizó la primera edición de Startup Weekend Tacna, Perú. Sin dudas fue unas de las mejores experiencias que he vivido como global facilitator.
Los chicos de Tacna han demostrado que pueden hacer frante a la experiencia de 54 horas de no talk,all action y que la calidad es siempre mejor que la cantidad. En solo un fin de semana, los participantes han llevado una simple idea a un MVP (producto mínimo viable), han pivotado, validado, han estado bajo la presión de los mentores y finalmente se han presentado antes el flamante jurado.
¿La mejor parte de este Startup Weekend?
Fue un evento super internacional, contamos con representantes de Perú, Bolivia, Ucrania, Chile y Argentina. Daniel Alarcón Díaz, uno de los mentores, realizó un video que muestra en 7 minutos lo que se vivió en SW Tacna:
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¡Y aún hay más!
Los participantes salieron tan motivados que ya se está hablando de Startup Weekend Titicaca y Startup Weekend Arica (Chile). ¡UpLatam Sigue creciendo!
Ya me voy despidiendo, pero antes quiero agradecer y felicitar al equipo de Startup Weekend Tacna: Joel Guillén Laveriano, Wilson Pilcomamani Arias, Herson Urbina Cayo y Miguel Vargas Ramos por haberme invitado a ser parte de (como ya lo dije antes) una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida.
Startup Weekend Zurich – December 5th, 2014
Do some research into startup tools and best practices to get ready to rock the weekend – start with our database of resources at startupweekend.org/resources. Make sure you get lots of rest prior to the event, and finally – tell your friends & join the Startup Weekend Zurich Facebook page. If you plan on pitching an idea:
- Do as much research/preparation around your idea as you feel is necessary to give a persuasive pitch and attract a team.
- Boil the idea down to the basics: with 60 seconds, you only really have time for a hook, so pull out the most attractive key points of the idea and forget the rest.
- Join the Dec 1st pre-event (registration needed) to learn all the secrets of an efficient pitch and… practice, practice and practice again your pitch using a timer
Attached a short video giving a flavour of the Startup weekend experience
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This post was originally published on Boise State’s Challenge Blog.
I am an entrepreneur, much like I am an urban beardsman. It’s a term that makes it easy to quickly explain who I am and what drives me. It’s a hell of a drug – oh what a drug.
See, living the life of an entrepreneur is nothing like your standard 9 to 5 job. With many of those jobs, you can show up, do an excellent job, then head home. You can turn off work and focus on your life, your family, and your friends. But with entrepreneurship, it never turns off. There is an consistent bug in your head to work, to build, to improve. It’s always there. Always.
I wasn’t always like this. When I was younger I had that 9 to 5 job and it paid well, but it was challenging for me. It wasn’t challenging in the tradition sense in that the tasks were difficult. It was challenging in the sense that I saw opportunities to improve processes, systems, or operations; yet I had no control to affect the business. The thing that drives me to be an entrepreneur is that sense of control.
As an entrepreneur, I have no one to blame but myself for the success or the failure of the business. The entire burden sits on my shoulders. It’s a burden that is easier to take when you are only supporting yourself, but as more people depend on you that burden gets heavier.
I have a wife and daughter; I have two founders; I have two full time team members; and I have close knit business partners that depend on our success, much as we depend on their operations. Man this drug is heavy. Maybe that’s why I can’t turn it off, that burden of support. It’s more than that though; it’s this vision of building something larger that me.
When you are an entrepreneur, part of you is connected to the very business you are creating. It’s similar to raising a child. You’ll see the business grow up, you’ll see how the personality matches yours, and you’ll be proud. The feeling of others recognizing your business is similar to the joy of your child becoming accomplished.
But with owning a business, the success rates aren’t nearly as high as they are with children. There are failures, and oh the failures. I’ve got an entire portfolio of failed businesses and projects – Wakomo, Stellar Group, Startup Spokane, Tarrango, SOLE, and Sovrnty all make the list. Good to great ideas without the success of my current business, Beardbrand. What makes Beardbrand different?
First off, Beardbrand makes the best damn beard oil on the face of the planet. Granted I’m a little biased, but it’s still true. What does Beardbrand have that all my other projects didn’t? A killer founding team and a deep passion for what we are building. It took me 10 years to figure out those two requirements.
In the past I would try to convert friends and co-workers into entrepreneurs. Sell them on the idea of freedom, control, and financial security. People would always respond that it’d be great to be an entrepreneur, but they were ultimately wantrapreneurs. People who say they want to create a business, but don’t do any the steps to start it. If you find yourself selling others on the idea of going into business, stop right now and change your strategy.
What worked for me was surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs. The best thing to happen to me was Startup Weekend. It’s a weekend long event where you try to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and compete against other teams. It was at Startup Weekend that I first worked hands on with my co-founders Jeremy McGee and Lindsey Reinders.
Both of them were entrepreneurs already and had their own businesses. When you start your business you’ll have a lot of failures, down days, and challenges. That burden I spoke about earlier is nearly impossible to handle by yourself, but when you have two partners you can share that load. When you are having a bad day, they can pick you up and vice versa.
When you are passionate about what you are building, those bad days are a lot easier to handle. I love the bearded lifestyle and I love what we are building. I’ve always considered myself a beardsman – whether or not I had a beard. I hated how beardsmen were perceived as lazy, unclean, rough, or outdoorsy. I didn’t feel like I fit the mold as the typical beardsman – I viewed myself as someone who considered himself as professional, stylish, and career driven.
It was at this ah-ha moment where I came up with the term “urban beardsman” and started to unite the community of like minded individuals. Through the rapid growth of Beardbrand, it was clear I was not alone. We were the first to speak about the bearded lifestyle and what it meant to be an urban beardsman. Our mission is to change the way society views beardsmen.
My passion for the mission helped me deal with all the negatives of being an entrepreneurship. The burdens listed above, the lack of pay, and the paranoia that comes with being an owner. I didn’t pay myself a dime for the first 11 months of the business, after that my pay was modest. If I stuck around in that 9 to 5 job, I would have been making 4x as what I was making at Beardbrand.
For me it’s not about the money. It’s about being able to do things my way and to have the freedom to define my life. The only one I consider my boss are my customers, and I love interacting with them. We have some of the best customers anyone can wish for – they are laid back, cool as balls, and have incredible stories to tell. They are the type of people I would go to the front lines for. Awesomeness to the highest level.
I want to be clear that starting a business is great, but it can also be dark and hideous. There is a success bias in that you only hear from the entrepreneurs who have succeeded but you rarely hear about the owners who have lost their homes, had their marriages destroyed, and had friendships dissipated. Chances are if you start only one business, you will be one of those failures.
The awesome thing about life is that there are options for everything. There are opportunities out there where you can be an entrepreneur but not have the risks that a business owner has. There are companies who are looking for individuals with that entrepreneurial drive. Owning a business doesn’t mean you are an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you must own a business.
My brother is an entrepreneur and he works for one of the largest computer companies in the world. He is part of a new division within that company and is helping to lead that division. The beauty of his role is that he can support his wife and three children and enjoy the perks of building a business. They are are many different paths in life, and only you will know what is right for you and which you should take.
I encourage everyone to build a bit of entrepreneurship into their lives, even if it’s not currently in your blood. Think outside the norm, and be more creative. Don’t blindly do as you are told. You will become a more valuable individual to society and ultimately make the world a better place. But don’t think that being a business owner is all roses and golden cookies – be sure to appropriately value the risks before you start.
The biggest startup battle in the world is currently taking place, so what better time to brush up on the things you need to present to judges, if you want a fighting chance at taking home the big prize. Assuming that your product demo went well and your user interface and experience was compelling, here are ten questions that you can expect to hear from the judges at your startup competition.
What proof is there that this is a real problem?
What proof is there that this is the right solution?
What is your defensibility? (i.e. Why won’t an existing company do this? Why can you do it better and/or faster?)
How will you get your first 100 customers?
How big is the market? (i.e. How many people can potentially use this solution?)
How often does your product show up in your user’s day or week?
What will be your phases of product and business development?
How will you monetize and scale?
Why is now the right time to solve this problem?
- Why is your team the one who can pull this off?
Anything missing from this list? Add it in the comments section below.
Startup Weekend Dublin attracts a very high calibre of coaches and mentors with expertise and background in design, business, and technology. We reached out to 10 of them for tips and here’s what they said.
10. Don’t ask prospective customers if they will use your product. They almost always say Yes. Instead, ask about their experience, find the pain points and see if what you offer is really a solution – Louise Caldwell
9. Co-Creation is very important when it comes to execution – David Tighe
8. Never be afraid to ask – Lisa Domican
7. Always remember to know nothing – Conor Nolan
6. Tell a story, goddammit – Ed Fidgeon Kavanagh
5. Have a killer tagline – Chico Charlesworth
4. Kill every bias and expectations; and when it comes to coding, less is more – Adrian Mihai
3. People are lazy and will keep doing the same thing, so build software that’d help them do things efficiently – Ian Lucey
2. Forget about the tech today and just focus on the consumer’s needs – Alex Beregszaszi
1. Focus on one thing and keep it simple – Paul Watson & Serena Fistch
All Photos credits to Compfight CC
The November edition of Startup Weekend kicked off in Dublin on a very high note. It was interesting to see a good number of entrepreneurs – designers, developers, and business people gathered for an amazing weekend.
It sure didn’t take long before the ideas started flowing. The ‘Half Baked‘ activity just went to show how creative people could be on the fly with ideas like Green Samurias, Unicorn Shampoo, and Baby Microphone – solutions to real life problems with interesting business models too.
It was great to see people pitching startup ideas and forming teams across different areas including health, mobile, communication, social media, enterprise, productivity, education, travel and more during the night. You can check out some of the favourites ideas here.
Perhaps the most important word for the evening was from event judge and Googler, Anatolyl when he said:
— StartupWeekendDublin (@SWDub) November 21, 2014
Day 1 of Startup Weekend – #SWDub ended with 15 teams looking to build products and solutions, validate, and pitch to a panel of judges at the end of the weekend.
Follow their progress on Twitter and Vine – @SWDub and tweet us your experience using the hashtag #SWDub.