1. Meet people who are like you
Are you fed up with current education offerings? Do you think there are better ways to teach and learn? If you answered yes, then you are going to feel very much at home at Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU). Over the span of just one weekend (Friday night through Sunday night), you’ll meet up to 120 other people who also believe there’s a better way to do education. And like you, these people aren’t just interested in sitting around in a circle venting about the problems; they’re go-getters too, who are ready to dive in and take action to actually devise solutions.
2. Meet people who are not like you
It’s great that you’ve found “your people,” but that’s only just the beginning. It’s imperative that amongst these people, you find those who possess different skillsets than you. The fact of the matter is, you’re not going to build a successful edtech company with developers alone. Developers must be paired with educators, designers, business people, and other important stakeholders, in order to create the best possible solution. Just think, if you’re Steve Jobs, SWEDU is where you may be able to find your Steve Wozniak.
3. Learn from people who’ve already done it
How many edtech companies have come and gone? I don’t have the exact number, but ask anyone in a school system who’s purchased edtech, or ask any investor who’s funded edtech, and they’ll likely tell you: it’s a lot. So how do we fix this problem? How do we create better companies that stand the test of time? Well, that’s a very complicated problem, but one thing that’s key is access to great mentorship. SWEDU pairs people with quality mentors from the very start of their entrepreneurial journey. Seasoned school leaders, edtech investors, edtech founders, etc. are on hand throughout the weekend to share their best practices, strategies, and “Do’s and Dont’s” of not just launching a venture, but developing a scalable and sustainable business model. Ultimately, the mentors help participants fail faster, hopefully avoid mistakes they’ve made, and even set them up to leapfrog the current solutions out there.
4. Turn an idea into a startup in 54 hours
Buy a ticket, show up, listen to 3-5 panelists share their experiences and advice, try to get the moderator’s attention so that you can ask your question, mingle with a few other attendees, and go home. Sound familiar? Yup, I thought so. That’s the typical run-down of a meetup, conference, or summit, and this is currently what people are limited to if they want to engage with others who are interested in making a difference in education. (Don’t get me wrong: the Speaker(s): Audience format absolutely has its place in the learning, networking, and community building process, but this article is about SWEDU). At SWEDU we take a different approach that’s represented by our motto: No Talk, All Action. At our events, your success isn’t determined by how many notes you took, how many tweets you posted, or how many business cards you collected. Here, it’s all about what you actually built. The 54-hour timeframe gives you a bite-sized taste of what developing a startup looks and feels likes. At a SWEDU, learning by doing trumps learning by listening.
5. Fail faster
One of the worst things an entrepreneur can do is build something in isolation and not share it with others who can potentially provide essential input. On Sunday night at every SWEDU around the world, the creations are assessed by a panel of judges, who represent important decision makers (e.g. funders, customers, users). By the end of just one weekend, you’ll know what industry experts think of your solution (for better or for worse), and you’ll be able to use that knowledge to inform your next move. This is important, because as Lean Startup founder Eric Ries highlights, “The only way to (truly) win is to learn faster than anyone else.”
Want to attend a SWEDU? Here’s a full list of upcoming events.
Don’t see one listed in your city? Apply to organize an event.
If you liked this article, you may also like A Resource List Every Edtech Entrepreneur Should Have and 11 Brilliant Practices at Startup Weekend Education.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
SWNYCEDU takes these variations into account and brings in mentors during Saturday morning and afternoon strictly for brainstorm and validation.
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.
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.
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)…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
To reach out or get involved with the Startup Weekend New York City community, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com 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.
People in tech often compliment each other on their ‘hustle.’ As I understand it, complimenting someone’s hustle is analogous to congratulating them for their tendency to get sh*t done. Apparently ‘hustle’ is what the kids are calling a ‘work ethic’ these days.
Whatever you want to call it, success in startups boils down to a bias towards action and a machine-like calibration for efficacy: only the fast and the smart survive.
This Darwinian law has created an insatiable appetite in the market for SaaS solutions designed to facilitate startup hustle. Founders must have polymathic expertise in both their market and their industry. The latter compels you to understand what tools exist to improve your effectiveness and your speed to market. Not enough startups treat the process with the intellectual rigour it demands…it’s no surprise then that most startups fail.
With Dublin Startup Weekend less than three weeks away, Gravity Centres, asked me to compile an overview of some of my favourite bootstrapping tools to help the teams get an early leg up on their competition.
Using tools to help you work faster and smarter at Startup Weekend is a very good idea, but trying them out for the first time at Startup Weekend? Notsomuch. Most of the tools mentioned below have free tiers and free trials, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the product in advance and add significant value to your startup weekend projects.
To add a narrative element to what would otherwise be just a list of products, I’ve included a brief case study of a micro-project that I undertook a few weeks ago. Using only online tools, a lowly non-techie like myself was able to land at #5 on the HackerNews homepage within 20 mins of launch, become the most popular story of the day on the Next Web, and get hunted to Product Hunt within 2 hours.
So, use your 3 weeks wisely teams, and we look forward to complimenting you on your hustle at the finish line!
Startup Tools Case Study
Plz Don’t Hunt Me Yet
I’m intrigued by the idea of building ‘faux’ products in aid of your real commercial effort. I’ve heard this marketing technique also referred to as “Come for X, Stay for Y”. This could be a book, a tool, or a toy — anything that through a related or unrelated product, draws attention to your main gig.
With this in mind, I decided to see if I could build something in fewer than 4 hours, and with less than 20 bucks, with the ultimate goal of eventually being listed on Product Hunt. From this experimental question, the Plz Don’t Hunt Me Yet Badges were born.
Do the badges look a bit hokey? For sure.
But, did they fulfil the brief and get my primary product thousands of hits and dozens of beta signups? You betcha.
Briefly, the tools I used for PDHMY were:
- Tumblr: Free website hosting.
- Microsoft Word: To design mockups of each of the badges.
- Fiverr: I took my MS Word mockups and paid a designer $5 on Fiverr to convert each into hi-res image files.
- Typeform: I added a customized, embeddable Typeform to collect submission information from each lead.
- Canva: Used to design all my marketing and social network visuals.
- Buffer: To drip tweets over a week at strategic times of day.
- Rapportive: to quickly evaluate each new lead in terms of value and influence.
TL;DR: I spent 3.5 hours and $16.50 on the PDHMY experiment. My primary product — Tapir — is still in pre-launch, so we haven’t done any marketing yet. Since our existing site traffic was so low, the PDHMY attention made a huge impact (see below). The project was also buckets of fun.
And now for the more complete list of tools…A quick heads up, that you can’t build a list like this without making some subjective value judgments. At the end of the day, I’m a Mac, not a PC; a Stripe, not a Braintree; a Buffer, not a Hootsuite…you get the idea. Other options exist and I encourage you to tweet us your faves.
Multi-Purpose & General Bootstrapping Tools
- Product Hunt (Free) — Product Hunt is a startup kingmaker. Being listed on the PH homepage guarantees fame, fortune, and success. Well, maybe not the last two, but it does promise unprecedented attention for small startups. Read the comments when other products launch to find useful and common critiques that should be addressed in your own products. Suss out the best pre-launch marketing tactics and be inspired by the ingenuity of other makers. And if you need a specific tool for a job, PH should be your first port of call. It’s become a useful compendium of SaaS products, often with exclusive discounts applied for Product Hunters. Hiten Shah has also compiled a particularly good collection of free tools for startups.
- GrowthHackers (Free) — regardless of the startup bravado we exude, none of us are pros. By definition, startups must operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty. How well do you understand your market? How aware are you of effective growth tactics, theories, and methodologies? Learn from your peers, eliminate some uncertainty, and get your butt to GrowthHackers.
- Intercom (Free Plan & Free Trial) — Hometown heroes Intercom allow startups to send targeted email and in-app messages, triggered by time or behaviour. Once you become familiar with Intercom’s telltale question mark icon, you’ll notice their widget across the internet in the bottom righthand screen of your favourite startups. And for goodness sake, make sure that you’re following the Intercom blog.
- BetaList (Free) — How do you get beta users before you’ve even finished building your product? You join the likes of Pintrest, IFTTT, and Fab, by getting featured on BetaList before you launch. While you likely won’t have enough time during Startup Weekend to submit — expedited posting takes 72 hours — BetaList is an excellent resource for startups looking to design compelling landing pages. In fact, Marc (BetaList founder and one of the SW Dublin remote mentors) has compiled this handy document outlining How to Build a Successful Beta Landing Page.
- Typeform (Free Plan) — Boiled down, a lot of product development involves forms in one ‘form’ or another (pun verymuch intended).
From customer research, to onboarding, to payment and satisfaction surveys, forms are often the medium through which we connect with our audience.
So, why the heck did we ever settle for ugly, janky forms? Typeform is the form you need, when you need it, looking beautiful and asking awesomely.
Product Management & Communication
- Slack (Free Plan) — Slack may be the fastest growing enterprise app in history and it’s certainly one of the fastest startups to reach a billion dollar valuation. That last designation might be arbitrary as f*ck, but these superlatives arise from the product’s extreme utility as a team communication tool. I have a theory that a number of enterprises could forgo their silly corporate innovation programs, instead adopting Slack to achieve a better ROI. For oft-dispersed startup teams, operating across multiple time zones and functional areas, Slack is on a mission “to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
- Trello (Free Plan) — Self-described as “the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone,” Trello is many things to many people. Personally, I use Trello as a bookmarking tool, to track and sort online sources I want to come back to later, and ideas I want to blog about. Professionally, my co-founder and I use Trello as a project management tool to track each stage and milestone of Tapir’s development. I’ve also been toying with the idea of creating a Trello board to track and sort all of our beta user feedback.
- Peek User Testing (Free) — Peek provides free five minute user experience videos with real people from the interwebs. The current wait time for a video review is 2–3 days, though they sometimes arrive in only a few hours. Peek is a fun way to get a fresh perspective on your product. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt — it’s only the opinion of one person.
- Canva (Free — 1$) — I just recently learned that Guy Kawasaki is the Chief Evangelist at Canva. Makes sense, given how brilliant Canva is. Engagement rates skyrocket when you combine visual elements with your social networking content. Canva has the tools and templates you need to make it look like a professional was involved. Their ‘design school’ blog is also a terrific resource for those of us with questionable design aesthetics.
- Keynote (Free) — Getting an idea out of your head and communicating it to others is a vital step in the early validation stages of an MVP. If you’re familiar with the Google Ventures 5-Day Design Sprint, you know that Day 4 is devoted to creating a super-realistic prototype in just eight hours. While apps like InVision exist for solely this purpose, bootstrappers may also be drawn to the unconventional use of Keynote. Check out the GV guide to using the “world’s best prototyping tool.”
- Stock Up (Free) — Sure, you need to work fast, but as David Cancel says, “Ship It, but don’t Ship Shit.” There’s no excuse for startups to use terrible stock photos (let’s leave that to the big corporates). StockUp aggregates and makes searchable hundreds of free stock photo assets…free to use as you see fit.
- Fiverr ($5+ but get a free gig using this referral link) — Let me preface this tool with the age-old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Fiverr has a pretty simple pitch: get things done for $5 (though some tasks cost more). Suffice to say, buyer beware, but for simple rote tasks lacking in creativity, I’m down with Fiverr (and eventually you get used to all of the designers calling you ‘dear’).
Payments, Sales & Marketing
- Stripe (Fee per charge) — Stripe is web and mobile payments. So simple, so smart, so sexy. How many other APIs can you say that about? Stripe is unapologetically a tool built by developers for developers, combining functionality with intellectualism in a heady digital mix that’s difficult not to find appealing. Stripe understands that it’s god — not the devil — in the details. (And sure, their Irish origins make them even more likeable.)
- SlideBean (Free Plan) — Creating your Startup Weekend pitch deck is finicky and time-consuming. Why not give some thought to outsourcing the design elements to SlideBean. In addition to the option to start with a blank canvas, SlideBean offers pre-designed templates including the “3 Minute Startup Pitch” and a “10 Slide Investor Deck.” For inspiration, you can take a look at 10 SlideBean pitch decks from the most recent 500 Startups Demo Day.
- HARO (Free) — HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is a mailing list that connects journalists looking for expertise with credible news sources. Email comes 3 times a day with time-sensitive requests for sources from diverse media outlets including Forbes, Fast Company, USA Today, and theNew York Times. Startups can use HARO to potentially garner international exposure by offering their domain expertise in topics like business, HR, travel, and lifestyle.
- Buffer (Free Plan) — Buffer is awesome (literally). As a startup, content is important, but devoting unnecessary hours to the administration of your social presence before your product is even built? Get a life. Buffer allows you to load up your tweets in advance and have them fired out atthe most strategic times throughout the week. I also, highly recommend the Buffer Chrome extension, allowing you to add content to your buffer queue directly from your browser.
- Rapportive (Free) — Rapportive shows you details about your contacts, right inside your Gmail inbox. I use Reportive to quickly evaluate beta list signups, to identify who is worth responding to immediately or tagging as a VIP. As an added bonus, it also helps you to discern when seemingly personal emails, might actually be part of a larger marketing campaign.
Als Sponsor des Startup Weekends Luzern freut sich 99designs bereits auf die Vielzahl an Ideen, die an dem Wochenende entstehen werden. Einige dieser Ideen werden über den Zeitraum von 3 Tagen zu wahren Projekten, nehmen Form an und entwickeln sich im Endeffekt zu einem Startup.
Wenn man etwas Neues präsentieren will, kommt man an einem professionellen Branding nicht vorbei. Branding trägt die “inneren Werte” Eures Unternehmens an die Außenwelt und teilt potentiellen und bereits bestehenden Kunden mit, wofür Ihr steht, was Ihr macht und warum Ihr unentbehrlich für sie seid.
Logo Design – Der erste Schritt für Startups
Die Basis jedes Unternehmens-Brandings bildet das Logo Design. Bereits ab CHF 279 kann man bei 99designs über 30 verschiedene Entwürfe von einer Auswahl an Designern erhalten. Um ein aussagekräftiges Logo erstellen zu lassen, ist es wichtig sich zunächst Gedanken über das Design-Briefing zu machen. Nur wenn man klar formulieren kann, was die Besonderheit am eigenen Unternehmen ist, können Designer diese Information auch in das Corporate Design stecken.
In unserem aktuellen Ebook “In 4 Schritten zum perfekten Logo” haben wir alle wichtigen Tipps für ein erfolgreiches Design-Briefing und zur Durchführung des Design-Wettbewerbs zusammengefasst. Unser Logo Design Ebook stellen wir exklusiv für Startups kostenfrei zur Verfügung.
Logo & Visitenkarten
Wer gleich zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen will, hat die Möglichkeit bei 99designs einen Logo und Visitenkarten Design-Wettbewerb zu starten. Beide Designs über einen Wettbewerb erstellen zu lassen hat den Vorteil, dass beide Endprodukte aus einer Hand stammen und somit zur Vereinheitlichung des Brandings beitragen. Der günstige Paket-Preis ab CHF 419 ist noch ein weiterer Grund Visitenkarten gleich mit dem Logo erstellen zu lassen.
Corporate Identity Komplett-Paket
Logo und Visitenkarten sind noch nicht genug? Dann lassen sich mit dem Corporate Identity Komplett-Paket alle Geschäftsunterlagen, die ein Startup benötigt, in einem Wettbewerb erstellen. Für nur CHF 559 bekommt Ihr neben dem Logo Design und den Visitenkarten auch ein professionelles Briefkopf Design, dazu passende Briefumschläge und ein attraktives Facebook Cover.
Logo & Website Start-Paket
Für wen Offline so 1999 ist, kann diesen Bereich einfach überspringen und mit dem neuen Logo & Website Start-Paket von 99designs direkt online durchstarten. Startups profitieren hier nicht nur von den günstigen Logo Design Preisen, sondern erhalten ein Jahr Web-Hosting über Jimdo gratis dazu und das zusammen bereits ab CHF 459. Nachdem das Logo Design erstellt wurde, passt ein zertifizierter Designer die Jimdo Website an das Logo an und schon ist man online. Weitere Informationen zum Logo & Website Start-Paket gibt es in unserem aktuellen Blog Post.
99designs wünscht allen Teilnehmern des Startup Weekends viel Erfolg!
Education Entrepreneurs Workshops launched during the summer of 2014 and have already spread to three continents: North America, Europe, and Asia. In Canada, fellow UP Montreal community leaders Noor El Bawab, Diana Cheptene, Marek Zaluski, Charles Gedeon and Mirjam Sulger organized the first one in the Province of Quebec.
Workshops help you teach key education entrepreneurship skills to your community. We provide you with all the materials, so you’re well equipped to create a valuable experience. You can either host a workshop 1-3 weeks before a Startup Weekend Education event, or as a stand-alone event any time during the year.
If you are passionate about education innovation, learn the foundational skills you need to launch and scale an edtech venture at a workshop near you.
Education Entrepreneurs Workshops are two hours of engaging instruction, quality guest speakers, and hands-on activities designed for an audience of about 50 people. The two Workshop topics we offer so far are:
- Edtech Business Models, and
- Customer Development and Empathy in Education.
Startup Weekend Education gives you the unique opportunity to show people in your community how to launch a startup in just one weekend. Coming together on Friday night to pitch ideas, participants from a variety of fields (e.g. educators, students, developers, designers) quickly form teams and spend the next 54 hours working together to build innovative solutions to important education problems.
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
Website: Startup Weekend Girls
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.
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.
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.
Here are the teams so far. We know your name and idea will fluctuate throughout the weekend so let us know of updates!
- emrj: online platform to connect students with companies for job shadows
- The Wrinkled Brain Project: connect students with scientists to encourage deep thinking in science labs
- Imaginate: interactive storytelling to encourage kids to read
- Every Penny Counts: kids get rewarded with pennies for answering questions during class
- Field Trip: making botany more real-world interactive through teacher-directed initiatives
- Root Ed: connecting college mentors with high school students
- ClassR: collaboration platform for students in the same class working on projects together
- Lunchtime: summer lunches for kids through a non-profit food truck
- Pittsburgh Thriving Index: a dynamic real-time dashboard with multidimensional data that reframes education with access points for all
- E-lectern: build a better interface for online teaching
- The Project Playground: app to give teachers insights on student projects, straight from the kids
- Code Trail: helping young kids learn to code through gamification
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips: prioritize what your team needs guidance on and spend as much time with those mentors.
- List out questions: Time is limited with mentors so make sure you use it wisely.
- Be humble and open-minded: Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know.
- Be upfront and direct: If you need to pass on a mentor to digest and implement information, let them know.
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.
That’s what I asked myself… I mean, I already have a job. I’m not really looking to start a new company. I do have ideas all the time about various inventions, and I will admit to recurrent daydreams of owning a flashy silver airstream trailer that I could drive into the parking lot of virtually any school and set up this gypsy like STEM-TECH sideshow that is filled with Lego Robotics, Little Bits and a theoretical bakery of Raspberry Pis. I’d be wearing blue tinted circular eyeglasses, carrying a sequinned “handbag of holding”, a loudspeaker over my trailer pumping out classic video game themes like Frogger or Dig Dug would announce my arrival.
Imagine a 21st Century version of an ice cream truck driven by a literal mashup of Mr. Dress Up, The Happy Painter and a sprinkle of Bill Nye the Science Guy – I’d bring STEM experiences and maker movement concepts to every child in my community and, eventually, the world.
So why did I sign up with a friend to partake in 54 hours of entrepreneurial innovation that could potentially transform my ideas into reality surrounded by strangers?
1. Because the event asked, “Have you ever had an idea for improving education?”
2. Because I said to myself, “Hey… I do have an idea!”
(granted, my ideas may swim upstream, but you have to do the things in life that move you…)
And here’s the kicker… everybody who gathered at SWEDU YYC also had amazing ideas, inspired dreams, fuelled up passions, and innovative visions. In just moments, I became connected with these ‘strangers’ and found myself engaged in conversations where I was desperately trying to place every shared piece of wisdom into some metaphorical internal vat of knowledge.
I watched as people pitched their own personal idea of the ‘next big thing’ with unbridled passion, and moments later I was witness to those same people setting their idea aside and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into supporting the ‘next big thing’ by the person beside them.
Over the weekend I met true mentors who taught me how to ask the right questions to get me where I want to be. Not one of them hesitated to call me out when they knew I was accepting less of myself, my vision or my team. Their insight and guidance helped me to frame my problem, check my assumptions and belief systems – in the 22nd hour it felt like nothing could hold me back and I was no longer destined to spend copious amounts of time spinning my wheels.
As the weekend approached the 51st hour, I watched the culmination of every participant’s ingenuity, inspiration and vision materialize. The realization of the wealth of opportunities that this event was providing gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride, gratitude and an absolute state of limitless potential.
I learned that if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. That collective knowledge from a group of your peers combined with intention and action will organize the fulfillment of almost any desire at any age. Embrace the opportunity to make connections – because the person you perceive to be a stranger today may turn out to be a key person you need tomorrow.
Are you an Educator willing to spend 54 hours like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t? Because I know that didn’t walk into school on Monday morning with the same perspective that I left with the Friday before…
Jus’ sayin’… mind… blown…. phooooosh….
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.
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.
Free entry and free drink tickets, but you must RSVP here.
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.