Lessons Learned From Startup Weekend EDU for Teens

This post is written by Preeti and was originally published here.

The InnovateNYC Schools team uses “lean methodology to create catalytic models for how people can do things and think differently in a bureaucracy.” As we apply this to our own work, we are also seeking to engage students in opportunities to learn and apply the same methodology through events like Startup Weekend EDU for Teens. There were numerous takeaways from planning and executing this first-ever event that I hope to share with the community.

With lean methods in mind, our guiding principle for designing our first iteration was to reduce as many barriers to student participation as possible: financial, infrastructure, and prerequisite knowledge. Reducing barriers enables change and innovation. We adopted Startup Weekend’s framework, which is recognized as a “gold standard” in lean methodology. They highlight key entrepreneurial activities including: customer validation, business model, marketing, and execution. Because we wanted to make this event accessible to a wide range of NYC High School students, there were numerous steps to ensuring enabling conditions for success. Here is a look at some of these steps:

1. Seek feedback from experts in the trenches

2. Modify the programming with feedback

3. Leverage our personal network to recruit mentors and coaches to support programming

What did the weekend look like? The Design Gym held the weekend’s kickoff Idea Explosion Workshop on Friday where students explored their ideas for improving education. The goal of the night was to also prepare students for 60-second pitches which informed which ideas were hacked over the weekend. The workshop was so successful that 14 out of 35 students were confident enough to pitch in front of nearly 50 people Saturday morning. The students then formed six teams made up of 8th-12th grade students representing over 23 schools. Guiding them Saturday and Sunday were 25+ coaches and mentors. All six teams made final presentations on Sunday evening covering such topics as teen jobs and internships, learning about opportunities to gain skills applicable to careers, embracing diversity, and a website for discovering afterschool programs (check it out here!).

So, how do we validate a successful engagement? Here is one of the several emails I received after the event:

After three days at the first teen StartUp Weekend program my son came home and told me he learned more there than he has learned in two years at his accelerated high school. I don’t think I have ever seen him as energized, enthusiastic or stimulated by any single activity. Coming from a 10th grader that I had to coerce into attending, that is really saying something.” 

Designing, organizing and executing the first-ever Startup Weekend EDU for Teens has been a highlight of my career with the NYCDOE iZone. Though I faced many challenges and failures through the planning process – it was all worth it to tangibly experience impact on increasing access to educational opportunities from within the bureaucracy.

A very special thanks to partners at NYU SteinhardtThe Google+ Education, and Design Gym for making this event possible.

First Startup Weekend EDU Teens Event in NYC!

This post written by the Startup Weekend EDU NYC Teens organizing team:

The globally recognized Startup Weekend is hosting the first-ever Startup Weekend EDU (SWEDU) Teens Track in NYC January 31-February 2. The goal of SWEDU Teens Track is to engage high school students in a hands-on startup experience and build their knowledge of entrepreneurship through live pitches, design sessions, mentor hours, and collaboration with like-minded students.

The focus of this weekend will be on ideas related to improving education. As consumers of education, teens are expertly equipped to define key problems in current teaching and learning, and to build the tools and school models that enable students to be better learners. We are seeking high school students with an interest in challenging assumptions about traditional education and who are eager to develop new education technology products and new school models to join us for this exciting weekend.


The SWEDU Teen Track kicks off on Friday evening with user-research experts from the Design Gym who will lead participants through a “Idea Explosion Workshop.” Students will discover develop their new ideas for education into 60-second pitches.

On Saturday morning, students will give their 60-second pitch for a new edtech product or school model to all event attendees. From there, teens will form teams based on the best pitches and spend Saturday and Sunday focusing on user research, customer validation, building prototypes, and developing their ideas together. Each team will be supported by a dedicated coach to help them reach their goal of creating an engaging final presentation that includes a business model and prototype.

The weekend will culminate with teams presenting their final products or school models to a panel of expert judges. Teams will experience what it’s like to pitch an idea or product and receive valuable feedback from the judges.

SWEDU Teens track is tailored to young entrepreneurs, and we’re excited to work with great partners, like NFTE, NYU Steinhardt, Design Gym and others to bring the event to life. Location: NYU Steinhardt, 2 Metrotech, 8th Floor Brooklyn, NY.

High school students interested in participating should submit the completed application forms (1. Parent / Guardian Notification & Consent form 2. Media Consent form)  to nycedu@startupweekend.org by Friday (1/24). Please note: Sign-ups will be confirmed on a first-come/first-serve basis.

Join us as we share ideas, form teams, and build products and new school models, at the first-ever SWEDU Teen Track event!

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Adult Professionals, if you are interested in participating as Coaches or Mentors for the SWEDU Teens Track, please fill out this interest form and/or contact nycedu@startupweekend.org for more information.