Announcing the Barclays Techstars NYC Class of 2016

We are thrilled to introduce the ten tremendous companies that are joining Techstars for the 2nd annual Barclays Accelerator in New York! Today kicks off the start of a 13-week intense program, capped by a Demo Day in September.

To help guide the companies through the unique FinTech landscape, we’re fortunate to have many of our 2015 alumni on the ground, as well as 100+ incredible mentors from all facets of technology and financial services.

Please join me in welcoming the 2016 Barclays Techstars companies:

Logo acuteIQ

acuteIQ  acuteIQ uses artificial intelligence to power customer acquisition throughout the sales cycle leading to a 4x improvement in performance.


Alpha Exchange – Alpha Exchange transforms the way institutional participants interact, share knowledge and discover investment insight by creating the first open network for the capital markets community.

HORIZONTAL transparent

Bloomfield – Bloomfield’s platform for commercial real estate transactions allows brokers to efficiently market deals to lenders and negotiate the best financing package.


Chroma – Chroma is the only platform that enables non-accredited investors to put their money into the local economy using a managed Virtual Private Fund.


Create – Create builds smart 3D maps enriched with millions of data points on the urban environment for investors, brokers, and service providers.


Ernit – Ernit created the world’s first smart piggy to allow modern parents to teach children how to give, save and spend money wisely.


Morty – Morty empowers home-buyers to find the right mortgage with a modern, online, and fully-digital experience.


Painless1099 – Painless1099 simplifies tax season for independent contractors through a smart bank account that eliminates the guesswork from tax savings.


PierceMatrix – PierceMatrix improves company security by identifying and orchestrating the removal of hackers from the network leveraging artificial intelligence to power recommendations.


Windrush – Windrush makes it possible for non-technical employees to bring data to life as fully-responsive, well designed, interactive online documents.

How to Navigate the Minefield of Motherhood and Career

Are you a female founder juggling a startup and kids or thinking of having a baby soon?

Allyson Downey, co-founder of weeSpring (NYC ‘13), knows how tough it is to navigate pregnancy, parenthood and profession. She took her own experience, plus the wisdom she gathered interviewing 75 women who have “successfully traversed the minefield that is having a baby while having a career,” and put it all together in a hands-on guide called, Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood.

“For many women in their 20’s and 30’s, the greatest professional hurdle they’ll need to overcome has little to do with their work life. The most focused, confident, and ambitious women can find themselves derailed by a tiny little thing: a new baby. Here’s the Plan offers an inspiring roadmap for working mothers steering their careers through the parenting years.”

Learn more about Allyson in the Founder Spotlight below and check out the book!


Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week


1. For Women Entrepreneurs Raising Money, It’s Good to Be in New York or Los Angeles

By Kimberly Weisul

Digest: Women Entrepreneurship
Curators: Babs Lee & Lilibeth Gangas

The funding environment for women is not so great in Silicon Valley, but great in New York and Los Angeles. Read More

More from this reading list:


2. Text messaging helps people to remember their medication. So why don’t we do it?

By Aaron Carroll

Digest: Health
Curator: R. Scott Munro

File this under easy interventions to improve adherence that we annoyingly don’t employ across the country… Read More

More from this reading list:


3. Uber wants to be your express delivery service for everything

By Andrew J . Hawkins

Digest: Mobile
Curator: Edith Yeung

The rise of delivery as a service. I believe Lyft and other ride sharing apps will follow suit. Read More

More from this reading list:


4. Hyperloop: MIT students win contest to design Elon Musk’s 700mph travel pods

By The Guardian

Digest: Mobility & Transportation
Curator: Timo Hoffmann

News regarding the Hyperloop. Well worth including here… there’s a bunch of news articles all about the Hyperloop competition. Read More

More from this reading list:


5. The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made

By Jason Warner

Digest: Leadership & Resiliency
Curator: Sarah Jane Coffey

Two personal accounts of the incredible cost of not letting a bad hire go quickly enough from Jason Warner of Heroku. Read More

More from this reading list:


Sign up for these or other Startup Digest reading lists, here.

Coming Full Circle with Startup Weekend Portland: Global Startup Battle Edition

On November 13, I will be facilitating for the fifth time this year for Portland Startup Weekend, joining dozens in the greatest startup competition on earth: Global Startup Battle.

Each of my previous facilitations have been special in their own right:

My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.
My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.

This next event may surpass them all – Portland is and always will be my hometown. I was born in Oregon City and went to school in the Beaverton School District, graduating from Southridge High School. (I’d rather not say when because, well, I’m old.)

Leading up to the event, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “home”, especially as I’ve recently claimed a new one after moving to Seattle.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

(Among many of my new responsibilities is crushing lip sync contests during Seattle Startup Week.)

Pittsburgh: Where I Found Myself (and just a few months before 30 – whoo!)

Before moving in August, I lived in Pittsburgh for three amazing years. I had just married my brilliant (and crazy-tolerant) wife, and other than striving to be the best husband possible, I had no idea what to do with my life … until I discovered Startup Weekend.

From that intense, eye-opening 54-hour experience, I launched my own ed-tech community, which was admitted into an incubator, received seed investment, and even found customers. I continued to volunteer and organize for SWPGH six times, launching its first education edition in February of this year.

A blizzard was going down outside. We don’t care in Pittsburgh.

Above all, I made friends who simply “got it” – people who came from the Startup Weekend world as well, and knew how to “give back” in the Brad Feld sense. When we weren’t organizing in the Pittsburgh community, we’d go on an Eat ‘n Park run or watching Silicon Valley on HBO On-Demand. It was grand.

Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?
Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?

I truly considered Pittsburgh my home until two opportunities opened up for me and lured me back to the West Coast: briefly serving as east coast regional manager for UP Global before its acquisition by Techstars, and now joining the mission to transform education, technology, and entrepreneurship with Galvanize.

We're really into "the pineapple way" at Galvanize.
We’re really into “the pineapple way” at Galvanize.

Seattle: How I Quickly Thawed the “Seattle Freeze”

The move from Pittsburgh was … precipitous. I didn’t have the best chance to express my love and gratitude to everyone that did so much for me in Pittsburgh over the years (though I tried to cover as many bases again here). When I moved to Seattle, I was warned of the “Seattle Freeze” and heard it would take time for me to make friends.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

That has not been the case … because of Startup Weekend. The first people I contacted were my former co-workers, who then introduced me to the local Seattle community leaders. Instantly, I felt like I found my family here, connected by a shared passion and experience to build community through entrepreneurship.

Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.
Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.

Recently, I was invited out to the Techstars Community Leader Retreat to get to know Portland’s Dina Moy and dozens of other organizers from the US and Canada. I came away with the trip with two impressions:

  1. I am completely down with the Techstars vision and rationale for why it acquired UP Global. Techstars may be the largest for-profit accelerator in the world, but it was originally founded on the mission to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship to the world.
    Supporting initiatives like Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and Startup Week won’t really be profitable in the short run (why mess with a good thing), but in the grand design, these programs will cultivate both better startups worthy of support and stronger, focused communities that can support them.
    That’s the vision that Techstars and UP Global shared, and that’s why I’m willing to stay on as a community leader and global facilitator. The terms of engagement do not really change from a non-profit status (in fact, they never actually did when you discover the legal difference between donation and sponsorship). Why should our support of the community change because of it?
  2. We may come from different cities, but we’re all Startup Weekend nation. Every community leader had a story to share, and the rest of us listened. Whether it was a startup story or a Startup Weekend anecdote, we “got” each other. (The altitude may have been a factor.)

If You Can’t Find Your Community, Create It (and Startup Weekend can help)

Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.
Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.

I look back on the last three years of being a Startup Weekender and can’t believe how far I’ve come from my previous status as a graduate school drop out. I didn’t make a lot of money, win any major awards, or acquire any common materialistic milestones like a new car or house.

I did, without question, make a lot of friends, and unlike the ones I made before, these friends stay in touch and support me however they can without asking anything in return, and vice versa. I also traveled a lot to places I never thought I’d ever go to until I was “summoned” by people I never met before.

I have a problem with respecting other people's private space.
I have a problem with respecting other people’s private space.

Every time I go facilitate, I ask to crash on a couch or even on the floor just for the opportunity to bond with another community leader. Anytime a community leader asks to visit me, I prepare a spare room for them, no strings attached.

I’ve found my family, and we’re actually not that difficult to find.

Just look for the ones that “get it.”


Lee Ngo is a Seattle-based community leader and global facilitator for Techstars formerly based in Pittsburgh. He currently works as an evangelist for Galvanize.

11 Brilliant Best Practices at Startup Weekend Education NYC

As a first-time facilitator for the 4th installment of Startup Weekend Education New York City (@SWNYCEDU, #NYCEDU), I was both literally and figuratively taken to school.

Led by the incomparable Deborah Chang, the well-synced and ragtag organizational team of David Fu, Benjamin Newton, Laura Patterson, and Ingrid Spielman (with community leader Andrew Young as advisor) delivered a sold-out, knock-out event on May 27th.

Let the games begin. (You can't read that without hearing the Bane voice.)
Let the games begin. (You can’t read that without hearing the Bane voice.)

In between real-talk mentoring and the occasional selfie, I took many mental notes about some best practices I saw at SWNYCEDU that I think should be replicated across all SWEDU events, if not Startup Weekend itself.

For your consideration:

1. Hold the event at a school, but in an open area

It’s a common understand that a SWEDU event (or Startup Weekend in general) should take place in a school – plenty of whiteboards, space, breakout rooms, and common areas. If teams are all in classrooms, however, they won’t interact with each other as much, which inhibits the core purpose of building community.

Wide open spaces. (Dixie Chicks serious.)
Wide open spaces. (Dixie Chicks serious.)

SWNYCEDU put most of the teams out in a common area, giving each station a huge whiteboards, sufficient tables, and open spaces to roam and float to other teams. The result: a willingness to share and collaborate that supersedes the spirit of competition.

2. Give out lanyards with ALL of the FAQ information you’ll need

“What’s the wifi password, again?”
“What’s the Twitter hashtag for this event?”
“How do I know you’re actually supposed to be here?”

I'm so excited to be wearing a lanyard that I'm practically crooning.
I’m so excited to be wearing a lanyard that I’m practically crooning.

Not a problem when it’s hanging around your neck at all times. Key information is great to have, and it’s also a reusable, standardized way to maintain formality and security at the event.

3. Use a text-messaging app to send out alerts

More compelling than email or social media, texting gets people’s attention faster and adds another method of outreach to a crowd of focused, stressed-out participants.

Alternatively, we could have Ben do this to all 100+ participants. Fun to watch, but not efficient.
Alternatively, we could have Ben do this to all 100+ participants. Fun to watch, but not efficient.

4. Provide advance information and office hours signups for mentors

Figuring out how to coordinate members seemed like an impossible art to me, but this group worked it out well by creating a station for teams to review and request mentors.

Mentors are perhaps the most valuable resource at any Startup Weekend event. Choose, but choose wisely.
Mentors are perhaps the most valuable resource at any Startup Weekend event.

Coaches were asked to come at specific times, and teams sign up to meet with them on a first-come, first-serve basis. This eased confusion greatly for everyone.

5. Provide 3 phases of mentoring: brainstorm, focus, and presentation

Traditionally in other Startup Weekends, mentors pop in an event at various, even unpredictable times, and sometimes their advice does not mesh well with the team’s general progress. Some are already validated and advanced, and some are still searching for that “thing.”

Ben and I brainstorm with one of the participants.
Ben and I brainstorm with one of the participants.

SWNYCEDU takes these variations into account and brings in mentors during Saturday morning and afternoon strictly for brainstorm and validation.

Deborah and a volunteer listen and provide feedback.

In the evening, they bring in mentors (usually Startup Weekend veterans) who aim to provide focus after a long day of retaining multiple opinions and ideas.

Team Wizart practices their pitch.
Team Wizart practices their pitch.

By Sunday, SWNYCEDU brings in coaches who specialize specifically in pitch practice and communication, not business content or validation. This overall strategy gives teams a bit more structure and clarity as they evolve their ideas into bona fide companies.

6. Use Google Slides to present pitches seamlessly…

Simply put, there are far too many different ways to present at a Startup Weekend. Teams tend to present off their own laptops and switch back and forth between operating systems and format. In my opinion, this is a clunky and volatile process.

I've got a fever, and the only prescription... is Google Slides.
I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription… is Google Slides.

SWNYCEDU had one computer for the entire presentation setup, so they used a single format (Google Slides) and uploaded everything into the cloud. A huge amount time was saved overall between transitions.

7. … make teams do web demos (and tech check in advance)…

Tech Check is a rough job, yet vital to the success of your event. Make sure you run it right.
Tech Check is a rough job, yet vital to the success of your event. Make sure you run it right.

Doing live demos are traditionally considered a big risk at Startup Weekend – technical failures are perhaps forgiven but not forgotten. With only one computer for all 13 presentations, all demos also had to be sent up to the cloud and tested by 3pm.

8. … and put links to both decks and demos in a single Google Doc

A little embarrassing backstory: Startup Weekenders should always consider Murphy’s Law – whatever can happen will happen. This happened to me when I foolishly opened up every single presentation and demo into a single web browser and, to no one with a basic understanding of IT, crashed the system.

How I was feeling during that stressful 20-minute tech reboot.
How I was feeling during that stressful 20-minute tech reboot.

Organizer David Fu stepped up in a huge way to reboot the system and put all of the links to the slides, demos, and videos in a chronologically organized Google Doc. Once everything was back in order, the process went smoothly. Despite the 20-minute technical delay, we finished the event on time.

9. Serve dinner while the judges deliberate

As a past organizer and volunteer, I’ve never known what to do with the judges deliberation period. Dinner usually is served after presentations are submitted, and in the past I’ve seen ways to pass the time such as Community Asks or some light video or entertainment.

Finally, a moment to relax in a 54-hour maelstrom.
Finally, a moment to relax in a 54-hour maelstrom.

Serving dinner gets people to talk across teams, offer congratulations, and take their minds off the anxious decision that awaits them. Good food placates all.

10. Make animated GIFs of yourselves whenever possible

Taking on a new initiative that gets communities also doing Startup Weekends simultaneously, we made some fun little animated images for our friends in D.C., who held a Maker-themed event of their own. I think this speaks for itself.

Nothing but love for #SWDCMaker. Photo generated by Laura Patterson with GIFMe!

If only we made more… Andrew Young, I’m looking right at you.

Finally, and most importantly of all:

11. Have a team that puts vision, guests, and team above ego

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Team SWNYCEDU. There was not an iota of attitude among any of them. When things went right, they showered each other with support and praise. When things went wrong, they responded to the problems with solutions rather than stand around and point fingers.

What a terrific team and Startup Weekend community!
What a terrific team and Startup Weekend community!

On top of that, they were an absolute pleasure to work with. I laughed at Laura and Ingrid’s wry jokes, felt secure by Ben and Deborah’s unflinching professionalism, and may have found some long-lost cousins in Fu and Young. You couldn’t buy a better team than this one – they’ll do it all for free.

In short, I learned a lot at Startup Weekend Education New York City. I hope you’ve learned a lot by reading this, too. Can’t wait to come back next year… perhaps as a participant? =)

Lee Ngo was the facilitator of Startup Weekend Education New York and is a Regional Manager at UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend. To learn more about UP Global and its efforts to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the world, you can email him at

To reach out or get involved with the Startup Weekend New York City community, reach out to or specifically to contact the SWNYCEDU organizers.

Photos from this event courtesy of Frank Fukuchi and the organizers and volunteers of Startup Weekend New York City. All rights reserved. 

More about Education Entrepreneurs

Education Entrepreneurs is the largest initiative in the world focused on helping people use entrepreneurship to improve education. Its suite of offerings include Startup Weekend Education, Startup Digest Education, Workshops, online resources, and a global network of Community Leaders. Spanning six continents, Education Entrepreneurs has created an unprecedented opportunity for anyone, anywhere to shape the future of education.

Hugo Ploegmakers (Shapeways): Leer van je fouten

ShapewaysHugo Ploegmakers, werknemer #15 van Shapeways, genoot van het ondernemende publiek op Startup Weekend Eindhoven en vertelde niet over alleen de successen, maar ook de leermomenten in de afgelopen jaren.

Hoewel 3D printen nu een enorme vlucht heeft genomen, bestaat de mogelijkheid eigenlijk al 15 jaar. De kracht van Shapeways zit vooral in het beschikbaar maken van de techniek en het platform voor iedereen. Gestart in 2007 op de HTC, als spin-off Philips zelfs, en nu in 2014 een nieuwe fabriek geopend op de Kanaaldijk Zuid in Eindhoven.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Samenwerking met Soundcloud

Als eerste voorbeeld van de leermomenten was het voorbeeld van de samenwerking met Soundcloud. Niet iedereen kan een design maken, met de beschikbare tools indertijd althans.

Het idee was als via Soundcloud een ontwerp van de geluidsgolven van een favoriet muziekje omgezet kon worden naar een ontwerp voor een telefoonhoesje?

De verwachtingen waren hoog. Het zou gaan knallen. Veel verkoop. Veel productie. Maar hoe zou je de designs uit elkaar? De golven zijn niet direct herkenbaar, welk hoesje is voor wie? En wat als deze dienst echt viraal gaat? Komt de gebruikelijke productie in gevaar?

Uiteindelijk bleek het bestelde aantal minimaal. Maar om nu echt van een mislukking te spreken? Nee. Er was nu immers een platform voor zulke apps die verschillende (online) diensten aan elkaar knopen naar het systeem van Shapeways. Dat plaveide de weg voor het volgende partnerschap: Google. Dat werd een samenwerking om (technisch) design ook in beeld te krijgen bij meisjes rond het project Made w/ Code. Google.

Zonne grote vuurbal jong!

Probleem twee: Bam, explosie in fabriek van nylon die 60% uitmaakte van de grondstof in het productieproces van Shapeways. Mogelijk wat het materiaal een jaar lang beperkt leverbaar… En nu?

Shapeways ging op zoek naar andere leveranciers. Dat betekende veel onduidelijkheid over kwaliteit, dus moest men zelf meer controle gaan uitvoeren op de kwaliteit, zowel in het eigen proces als bij leveranciers. Daarvoor vloog men de hele wereld over met als tweede passagier een machine om de kwaliteit te meten. De klanten hebben er uiteindelijk niets van gemerkt en dit probleem leverde een groot voordeel op beter begrip van eigen proces.

Hurricane Sandy: NY, we might have a problem…

Probleem 3: Storm. Een simpel mailtje van de directeur, over de storm Sandy die naar NY kwam. In het kort: ‘Let op, mensen kunnen mogelijk niet naar het werk komen in New York, en thuis werken zou lastig zijn zonder stroom.

Hugo Ploegmakers (Shapeways) presenteert op Startup Weekend EindhovenGelukkig draaide er ook een fabriek in Eindhoven, dus productie kon gewoon doorgaan. Dacht men. Helaas, de servers stonden bij La Guardia Airport. Die luchthaven nabij New York was ook hermetisch afgesloten, dus ook de servers onbereikbaar. Shapeways lag plat, ook niet in Eindhoven.

Maar he, ook hier van de nood een deugd maken: Al die ideetjes die zijn blijven liggen werden nu opgepikt en uitgewerkt. Veel tijd voor todo lijstjes, brainstormen enzovoort. Het was een bijzondere ervaring in NY. Binnen het ecosysteem van Startups werden alle beschikbare middelen gedeeld. Stroom, kabels, alles wat er wel was.

Voor Hugo een eyeopener: dat moet ook meer en meer vorm krijgen Eindhoven. Wees open en deel. Dat is dan ook de reden ook dat hij op het podium stond, om zo de volgende ‘Shapeways’ te helpen. 

Sneak Peak: Food Edition Teams

Today was the second day of Startup Weekend Food Edition NYC. Not only did we have a phenomenal set of mentors to help guide each team in their iterations of design, business plan, and product idea, but we had our very own cooking show! Pentloft Studios brought Cajun in the city and cooked up homemade red beans and rice, southern style.

The teams that formed last night after an intense series of pitches from SW participants were in full throttle today. Here is a sneak peak into some of the teams that are hard at work building their product.

The Teams: What’s That?, Dynamic Food, Off The Menu, One Touch, Lunchees, Fork Meets Spoon, Brew Local, VegSpotter, One Menu, Mobile Oasis, Grandma’s Meatballs, Sage, Food Loop, Stamps, YourFood

Fork Meets Spoon

What’s That?


Brew Local

The teams have a wide range of product ideas: Visual dictionaries to expand peoples palates; service to provide affordable tailored meals for kids in schools; a food discovery app through pictures (swipe through photos to build food preferences); service that dynamically controls wholesale food prices based on expiration date and shelf time to improve revenue; personalization of food recommendations; ‘speed dial’ for menu items to make mobile app takeout easy.

Gary Reloj, co-founder of Swill, gave a few solid pieces of advice:
1. In the food space, beautiful content is important!
2. Choose a product that is either easily executable or that you can make money on early after launching.
3. Clearly identify the problem, describe the solution, and finally point out the opportunity you have to carry out this solution.

Up next? Teams are working hard to validate their products, build a business plan, create wireframes of their product, and in some cases begin product development itself. Tomorrow we will find out what the judges have to say. Best of luck to all!

Startup Weekend Day by Day Breakdown: Friday

swpgh-day-3-40So its Friday evening, the ideas have been pitched and voted on. What happens now?

Forming teams

Forming teams is an organic process. You can join any team that you want to join. If you like someone’s idea, talk to them and see how you can help the team.

Some ideas will attract more people to it. So the way you pitch your idea is important ( Some ideas will find it harder to build teams. You may have to go out and talk to people individually to get them to join your team. You have to sell people on your idea and tell them why they should be helping you with your idea. This part of the evening is most chaotic and it is designed to be this way. Its going to be a tough process to recruit people to join your team. So push on through and build your team.

We found a correlation between successful pitches and team building: the better the pitch, the easier to build the team.

All teams must have a minimum of 2 people and at most 8 people.

What if I am unable to build a team or my idea wasn’t picked. 

This is a natural occurrence. Some ideas will not be able to put together a team before the night is over. It happens. The WORST thing to do is to just leave and not return on Saturday. Please dont do that. You came all the way to Startup Weekend to learn about building startups and to challenge yourself. If you leave now, you will miss out on the learning you can do over the weekend. And worst of all, you will miss out on building new friendships with all the people around you.

So if your idea wasn’t wasn’t picked or you are unable to to build a team, find a team/idea that you like and join it. You will learn so much that weekend so you can apply it to your own idea after the weekend is over.

Cool, I got a team! Now what? 

The clock is ticking away! Get to work! Get to know your team. Exchange contact information with each other. Start to discuss your various backgrounds and expertise. Asses what each other can do and get yourself ready to hit the ground running on Saturday morning.

-Andrew Young
Startup Weekend NYC

Pitching your idea at Startup Weekend!

full_1381354002photo22Are you going to be pitching an idea at Startup Weekend?

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

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

If you have an idea and you have been doing some customer research, researching on the internet, designed some wireframes, talked to businesses to see if there is any demand, then great! Thats fine. We expect you folks to do your own due diligence before hand. As long as you havent launched, have customers or an MVP of the app.

In 60 seconds you need to:

5-10s Who are you?

10-20s What’s the problem? Use this time to set up the story. How did you discover this problem? How can we (the audience) relate to it? How many people are affected by this problem? Build that connection to the audience to capture their attention.

10-20s What’s your solution? Mobile? Web? Something physical?

5-10s Who do you need? Developers? Designers? Product folks?

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


What can NYC Teens create in just one weekend?

This post was written by SWEDU community member Samson Peng

If you’ve participated in a Startup Weekend and stopped by this event thinking you know what to expect, you’re in for a surprise. The rooms and hallways at this event are filled with teenagers. In a main meeting room, a keyboard clacks rhythmically to the rotations of a Rubik’s Cube as two teens meet each other. A crowd of young aspiring students queued by towering glass doors. Hushed whispers mixed with excited chatter within the effervescent halls of New York University’s MAGNET in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center.


The Teens Track at Startup Weekend EDU brought together high school students from the boroughs of New York and even two entrepreneurial students from New Jersey: Nikita Krasnogorov and Emily Fuentes from the Academy for Independent Studies in the Hudson County Schools of Technology school district (both their teams Ducky and A Passionate Pursuit proceeded to take first and second place).

SWEDU Teens focused on engaging teens in the entire entrepreneurial process, from idea generation to product development, all within one short weekend – a challenge even for teams of trained and experienced professionals. As the event kicked off, each teen brought their unique educational and incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds to the games-inspired presentation room, united by the anticipation which filled the seats of the room.

Gabrielle Santa-Donato and Andy Hagerman of The Design Gym got things started with Friday night training on design thinking. Students were given the tools to dive deeper into their proposed ideas and identify the underlying problem they were trying to solve.  The problems that surfaced during these discussions were all derived from first-hand experiences ranging from racial segregation in the cafeteria to a mountain of frustration surrounding the infamous SATs.  By the end of the evening, most students walked away with a well-refined problem/solution pair and were ready to pitch bright and early the next morning.  On Saturday, many brave souls (at least half) took the stage and gave excellent pitches.  After quite a bit of discussion and voting, every student had found a team and was eager to get started.

The Saturday workday allowed each startup team to strategize, validate, prototype and tweak their products. Not a second was wasted as teens surveyed their facebook friends, designed their products and coded on the Chromebooks provided for them. After products were developed, professional mentors rotated around teams, giving them vital tips and answering their questions. One team consulted their mentor to explain programming bottlenecks they’d encountered. Another team filled jumbo dual-sided whiteboards (on both sides) with ideas and designs for their mentor to review. Yet another teen practiced presenting data to her mentor, who paused momentarily to remind the team to stay focused.


On the final evening, teens had the opportunity to present their projects to their peers and a panel of entrepreneurs, government representatives, professors and leaders in education. Highlights amongst presentations included a live demo web application named Ducky, used to aggregate extracurricular activities for teenagers, a job sourcing website just for teens and a business which helps teens discover their passions – each idea carefully crafted to address the needs of a young generation which sees how technology could benefit them.

The weekend was an ambitious experiment: What happens when you bring together over 30 teens from diverse backgrounds, create an explorative environment, provide access to supportive mentors and freedom for less than 24 hours? Creative solutions to teen concerns, an extraordinary learning experience and businesses hilariously named after their favorite rubber duckies.

Between the hustle of time constraints, the hallways of MAGNET filled with laughter, conversation, and teens learning about the benefits (and sometimes challenges) of working in teams. SWEDU Teens is not a typical event – it is a movement to show our youth their potential and dare them to dream.