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 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!

Startup Weekend NYC EDU 2014-01-05 19-39-56

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 for more information.

SWEDU Inspires Change at Schools

This post written by Startup Weekend EDU Program Manager John Baldo.

Startup Weekend EDU (SWEDU) alumni Stacey Wang, Jeff Miller and Wendy Tsu recently piloted their first EduHub: Hack Your School event at the San Francisco Flex Academy.  The event brought together the school’s students, teachers and principal with designers and entrepreneurs from Levi Strauss and TechShop to reimagine different aspects of their school.  And the results were amazing!

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The EduHub team kicked off the day with a crash course on the Stanford’s Design Thinking methodology.  Then, much like a SWEDU event, SF Flex Academy students and teachers pitched problems and ideas they wanted to work on throughout the day.  Five teams with diverse skill sets formed and started applying the Design Thinking process to come up with innovative new school experiences.

A sophomore student found that some elements of his video curriculum were not always engaging and wanted to do something about it.  His team dove deeper into the problem using empathy building techniques they just learned and came up with a new curriculum model that supplements quick video lessons with offline peer-to-peer activities.

Another teacher-led team decided that the classroom environment was too limiting and designed a school that was entirely at sea!  In their school model, students would spend part of the day learning the usual core subjects and then immediately apply those concepts while learning how to sail and navigate a ship!

This event was just the beginning.  The SF Flex Academy principal has already invited the EduHub team back for another event in the Spring to get more of his staff and students involved in the design and direction of SF Flex.

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If you’re in the Bay Area (or beyond) and would like to talk to the EduHub team about leading a workshop or PD session at your school, drop them a line at info at and

The EduHub team was formed at the first ever Startup Weekend EDU: NextGen Schools event in Silicon Valley.  To learn more about upcoming Startup Weekend EDU events and find out how you can get involved, visit

Why does LA need a Startup Weekend exclusively for Education?

This post was written by organizers of LA’s upcoming Startup Weekend EDU:


EDUpreneurs in Los Angeles have finally found the quote they have been waiting for: “The first ever Startup Weekend EDU in the City of Angels will take place on the weekend of January 24th at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.”


Until now, Angelenos passionate about education and startups have only had 3 choices:

1) Buy a plane ticket

While LA hosts a variety of incubators, meetups, VCs and startup gatherings, those looking to find the epicenter for educational innovation have undeniably had to look elsewhere.   Additionally, the circuit of education keeps skipping LA, and as a result, entrepreneurs looking to join in the ed-craze have needed to rack up frequent flier miles.

2) Read about success somewhere else.

LA is in the news and under the microscope for purchasing devices.  Yet, the heated debates rarely highlight tremendous success.  While our newspapers are filled with the many problems of a large-scale implementation, entrepreneurs should be enamored with the opportunities to make a powerful solution within our own classrooms.

3) DIY – Go it alone and scrap together a solution for the nation’s second largest city and its neediest students.

LA has a rapidly growing entrepreneurial community, with a patchwork of educational technologists and do-gooders.  However, up until now the community has been relatively quiet.  A spattering of great challenges, teacher groups and passionate leaders has started the conversation, but its still a whisper.


From January 24th-26th, for the first time ever, LA will bring together the greatest educators and entrepreneurs.  In just 54 hours,  the goal is to form a new age of educational startups.  While the purpose of Startup Weekend EDU is to have newly formed teams compete for the greatest innovation, the melding of minds at UCLA Anderson is an opportunity for our EDU community to cooperate.  This city has all of the tools to become the leader in education and to showcase success.

Visit to learn more and sign up for your ticket.  Please contact for additional information.

Educator to Entrepreneur: Using Entrepreneurial Skills to Impact Learning

This post was written by Maggie Croushore, Founder of KidFit Academy and Co-Organizer of SWEDU San Francisco Nov 22nd.

We have an amazing organizing team filled with former teachers, entrepreneurs, startup weekend graduates, and people 100% dedicated to finding solutions to education’s most persistent challenges.

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) San Francisco Team

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A Life-Changing Experience

Early on in our planning conversations, my Co-Organizers and I knew that we wanted to do a special workshop just for teachers leading up to our SWEDU San Francisco on Nov 22nd.  Three out of five of us are former classroom teachers, so it made sense for us to hold an event specifically for educators to prepare them for the weekend. And for me, in particular, this idea hit close to home.

I remember when I attended my first SWEDU as a teacher last year. I was incredibly nervous, as I had never before been exposed to entrepreneurship and had no idea what to expect.  However, as I drove to the event, I gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone in a room full of complete strangers and pitch an idea that had been ruminating in my mind for some time.  And I am so glad I did! I ended up creating KidFit Academy, and I can honestly say that SWEDU changed my career path. I would not be where I am today without it. And so my Co-Organizers and I wanted to make sure other teachers get the same opportunity to play a leadership role in creating great solutions to their own problems in the classroom.

From the beginning, we knew that we not only wanted to recruit some amazing teachers for our event, but we also wanted to connect teachers to the growing education technology sector in a real and meaningful way.  After some conversation, we decided on the following overarching goals for the workshop.

  • Introduce educators to the concepts and skills needed for startup weekend
  • Begin cultivating a community of educators dedicated to entrepreneurship
  • Empower educators to use entrepreneurial skills to problem solve pressing educational issues
  • Provide a safe and supportive learning space for educators to brainstorm and practice pitching business ideas for upcoming SWEDU

swedu sf panel 

A Big Success

Through our event, we were able to accomplish several of our key goals.  First, we were able to recruit some amazing teachers for our event. After participating in our dynamic workshop, these teachers will be even more prepared for an amazing SWEDU experience. Also, by exposing teachers to the power of their voice in the education innovation movement, we were able to open the dialogue for future conversations bringing together education startups and teachers.

It is important to communicate to teachers that SWEDU is not just for those that might be thinking of joining or founding a startup. Classroom teachers do not have to leave the setting of a school, in order to make an impact in the edtech world.  I know that as a teacher, I was intimidated by these type of events; however, throughout the weekend, I quickly realized that I not only had a lot to add to the conversation, but I also was an asset to my team. Only us teachers have the experience of seeing many problems up front, on a daily basis, and that experience is a value-add to anyone interested in solving those problems.

At the end of our workshop, it was inspiring to see some attendees share their problems and proposed solutions. Just imagine! If they can come up with such great ideas in less than hour, what could they come up with over the course of a 54-hour weekend?

Replicating the Model

After a while, those of us in the startup scene sometimes forget that not everyone speaks the language of entrepreneurship and that can be incredibly intimidating. Having a teacher-centric event not only shows teachers how important they are, it acts as preparation for the weekend.  By hearing from former educators-turned-entrepreneurs and participating in a startup weekend mini-simulation, teachers walked away from the event with a better understanding of entrepreneurship, as well as a strong pitch for the weekend or beyond.  Teachers already engage in the thinking behind entrepreneurship; they just might not realize it, because they call it something different—good teaching.

I would absolutely recommend that future SWEDU Organizers implement this type of workshop prior to their event. Teachers need to be in the dialogue when it comes to education products and startups, as they always think of their students and have the ability to see things that others may not. Teachers are an essential part of the SWEDU puzzle, and the better you prepare them for the weekend ahead, the more empowered they will be to contribute their experience and skill-set to the development of solutions to some of education’s biggest problems.

Join us this weekend at SWEDU San Francisco, Nov 22-24

Community Leader Of The Week: Christine Ortiz

Christine Ortiz

Christine Ortiz is the Executive Director of a preparatory school for Gifted & Talented students in Florida and a Startup Weekend EDU organizer.

We love her because:

  • She founded The Knowledge Laboratory – a project that focuses on motivating teenagers by making learning fun.
  • Ortiz and all of her organizations have been featured in various publications including the M.I.T. Newsletter, Success Magazine, Alpha Phi Quarterly, USA Today, Seminole Voice, the Orlando Sentinel, and Entrepreneur Magazine.
  • Christine has also been a keynote speaker at state and national conferences on topics of youth empowerment and social change.

Christine on SWEDU:

“The red-tape of the teaching profession has led to this group of folks who are passionate about teaching — but who are treated like robots, given scripts to read in class, who have to teach tests and spend half their time filling out papers. Things like Startup Weekend Edu provide the catalyst they need to walk into those classrooms and take control back.” 

 “Startup Weekend EDU does two things: it promotes the start of more viable companies in the area, and being an Edu vertical … we’re hoping to bring the educational community together in Orlando.”

Arne Duncan Guest Moderates Edtechchat on Monday, October 28

We are excited that on Monday Oct 28, from 8-9 pm EST, the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) will be guest moderating #edtechchat as part of Connected Educator month.

We are excited and honored to have him join us and are looking forward to what will certainly be a stimulating and fast-paced chat!   Secretary Duncan wants to engage more directly with educators and to support educators becoming more connected. This is the first time a Secretary of Education has moderated a twitter chat, so we’re making history!

However, we are aware that, given Secretary Duncan’s role, some educators may wish to use this week’s chat as a forum to vent some of their frustrations about being an educator and any shortcomings they see with our educational system. Therefore, in the spirit of encouraging good digital citizenship, we’d like to outline some guidelines for next Monday’s #edtechchat.

  1. Before participating in Monday night’s #edtechchat, please read Tom Whitby’s post, Duncan’s DilemmaPay special attention to the points that Tom raises in the final paragraph. Don’t slam the door on the possibility of ongoing dialogue with Secretary Duncan before it has even begun.
  2. #Edtechchat discussions are constructive spaces where we share ideas, best practices, and experiences, and this week is no different. The #Edtechchat team (which consists of Susan BeardenTom MurraySharon PlanteAlex Podchaski, and me) is always grateful to the guest moderators who take time out of their busy schedules to join us. We expect participants to treat them with respect and this includes this week’s guest, Arne Duncan.
  3. #Edtechchat is a fast moving, high volume chat even on a “slow” night, and we expect Monday’s chat to exceed our previous participation records. As a chat co-moderator, I speak from experience when I say that it is impossible for anyone to read every tweet and keep up with the conversation without reviewing the chat archives (posted weekly at This includes Secretary Duncan. Please don’t expect him to respond to your tweets or be offended if he doesn’t. I expect that he will be as overwhelmed by the pace of the conversation as the moderation team is each week! As moderators, we will be retweeting the questions as well as tweets/resources that we find particularly meaningful or helpful.
  4. Keep your expectations realistic! It is a huge step for Secretary Duncan to engage directly with educators in this forum and, as Tom Whitby pointed out in the post referenced above, not without risk for him and his team. My hope for this chat is that perhaps, if Secretary Duncan has a positive experience interacting with rational, articulate and professional educators, he might be interested in continuing to dialogue with the Connected Educator community. That’s all. I don’t expect it will lead to a sea change in US education policy, and neither should you.
  5. No matter what your position on Secretary Duncan’s policies, model the principles of good digital citizenship during the chat. Take the high road. Be respectful of others, even if you disagree.  Let’s show Secretary Duncan that the Connected Educator community is a class act, a community of intelligent, thoughtful professionals who work together to improve education for all kids. Civility and respectful dialogue is a rare commodity in Washington these days. Let’s prove to him, by how we handle the discussion on Monday night, why we deserve a seat at the table when it comes to educational policy discussions. 

An Unprecedented Moment in Education Innovation

The following is by Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Director of Startup Weekend Education at UP Global.

The common thread that ties us all together is the experience of learning – engaging in an activity for the primary purpose of acquiring information. However, how best to learn is still up for debate, and we at Startup Weekend Education want to help turn peoples’ ideas about education into action! We are thrilled to announce that starting this fall 2013, we will be giving educators and entrepreneurs the greatest opportunity in history to play a role in shaping the learning experience of others around the world! Read below to find out how you can get involved.

The Common Denominator

Have you ever sat in a group setting with one person positioned in front of the room, instructing you and your peers on a particular topic? Have you ever referenced a book, website, or app to acquire information? Have you ever participated in an activity for the sole purpose of increasing your knowledge and/or perfecting your skills?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are what we call a Learner.

You have intentionally engaged in the process of acquiring, compartmentalizing, and retaining information for the purpose of increasing your knowledge. For the vast majority of us that grew up in the U.S., we have developed a large sense of what it means to be a Learner in the traditional public school system. There, one person deemed qualified by the institution instructs a multitude of pupils on one or several subjects, and then assigns homework, tests, and projects to assess the pupils’ mastery of the content. Levels of proficiency are indicated using a letter or numerical grade that serves as a scorecard to determine the students’ readiness to graduate, be accepted into college, or enter the workforce.

Seeing that most everyone shares this common experience – that of the Learner – when it comes to the question of how best to educate the Learner, almost all of us have an answer to contribute, most often times based off our own personal experiences.

“My education was great. We did A, B, and C, so it only makes sense that we continue doing A, B, and C. I mean, look at me. I turned out alright, didn’t I?”

“Yeah but what you’re forgetting to mention is that your parents’ also hired private tutors, so you could receive additional help to ensure you passed all your classes. I had the same A, B, C  schooling that you did, but without the additional support, I didn’t fare nearly as well. I think it’s time we start considering a 1, 2, 3 approach that better serves all students, no matter what their background.”

“Yeah that sounds great, but you’re both totally overlooking the fact that times are drastically different now then when we were kids, and that with the advent of technology, these differences will continue to proliferate at insanely fast paces. So how can we educate and prepare students for a world that doesn’t even exist yet?”

Sound familiar? If you’ve listened to or read any public discourse about education recently, you most surely have heard these sentiments being shared. The experience of the Learner is the common denominator that ties us all together, and yet even still, how we define a good learning experience varies drastically. But even if “the best way” is still up for debate, your ability to contribute your perspective and thoughts to the conversation and play an active role in the creation of amazing learning experience for others is most definitely not.

The Catalyst

Here at Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU), we believe that entrepreneurship is the most powerful force to positively impact education outcomes. We are a global network of passionate educators, entrepreneurs, developers, and designers on a mission to revolutionize the education and learning markets, and we welcome people from all walks of life to contribute their ideas and passion for education to help advance the ecosystem. Since its launch in 2011, SWEDU has brought together people from these networks to partake in 54-hour events that help them design and produce viable companies that solve some of education’s most pressing problems. In just over two years of existence, SWEDU has already carried out 23 events in 15 cities around the world, and has resulted in the creation of countless teams and companies that have gone on to make a positive impact on the lives of Learners.

Below: Check out the trailer for Startup Weekend Education.

A math teacher and a former principal frustrated with obsolete technology in their schools resort to competing in “Startup Weekend Education” a 54 hour event that will test their limits. Startup Weekend Education was selected to be screened at SXSW edu 2013.  Full film will be released soon!

Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation* provided Startup Weekend with the initial grant that helped launch this education vertical. Today we are thrilled to announce that the Gates Foundation has increased their commitment to SWEDU and confirmed their belief in entrepreneurship as a powerful catalyst for change by extending their involvement and granting SWEDU an additional three years in funding! Using the traditional Startup Weekend event as the foundation, SWEDU’s expansion efforts over the next few years will be focused on strengthening the involvement of educators and those with domain expertise, providing more tactical support both prior to and after the events, and increasing the number of events taking place each year. Not only that, but SWEDU will now serve as a resource hub for education entrepreneurs looking to incorporate academic research, as well as a community of connected leaders, consistently collaborating and leveraging the power of the collective to impact education innovation.

In a nutshell, SWEDU will be giving educators and entrepreneurs an unprecedented opportunity to play a role in shaping the learning experience of millions of people around the world!

The Influencing Factor

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?! Well, it sure is! And I should know. I’ve been given the awesome opportunity to help make all of SWEDU’s expansion efforts happen. Not only have I had the privilege of being a former public school teacher, administrator, and education researcher, I have also experienced winning SWEDU, and subsequently working with my co-founder to turn our idea into a real edtech startup! Given my passion for education, love affair with entrepreneurship, and unique history with SWEDU, I am absolutely elated to be a part of this incredible movement of education innovation in a new capacity. However, one of the first things that became apparent to me as I took on this new position, is that it is you, not me, who are the true leaders of this movement.

It is you who possess the courage to challenge the status quo and advocate for a new, better way of doing things. It is you who has the allergic reaction to mediocrity and a distaste for anything average. You are that rare individual that has big dreams about how education should be and can be, and you back those dreams up by massive action. Ultimately, it is only through the involvement of you – people passionate about education and invested in using entrepreneurship as a tool to enact change – who will ultimately determine what it means to be a Learner for generations to come. And so, it is you we want to hear from; it is you we want to serve.

We’re still in our very early stages of development, and our official website is set to launch later this fall, but for now, here are 5 simple things you can do to get involved!

  1. Organize a SWEDU in your community

  2. Become an official SWEDU Facilitator

  3. Subscribe to our mailing list to find out about future events and be notified when our new website launches!

Attend an upcoming event

    • November 22: San Francisco
    • November 22: Seattle
    • December 13: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
    • January 24: Athens, Greece
    • January 24: Los Angeles, CA
    • January 31: New York City, NY (“Mega” theme)
    • January 31: Sao Paulo, Brazil 
    • February 21: Oakland, CA
    • February 28: Johannesburg, South Africa
    • March 29: St. Bonaventure, NY
    • March 29: Toronto, Canada
    • April 11: Recife, Brazil
    • April 18: Phoenix, AZ
    • April: Ann Harbor, MI
    • May 16: Bay Area (“NEXT Gen” theme)
    • June 27th: Sydney, Australia
    • Sept 19th: Oakland, CA

Ask questions/share ideas – Contact


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 


*The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, the Gates Foundation aims to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in America. Particularly, with respect to K12 education, Gates is focused on supporting innovation that can improve U.S. K-12 public schools and ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college.

DemoL12_DSC_0117_EMeet Mandela 

For the past six years, Mandela has dedicated her life to improving the educational outcomes of students, increasing the professional opportunities for teachers, and inspiring the public to play an active role in the improvement of our education system. Beginning her career as a Teach for America corps member in South Central Los Angeles, Mandela was quickly promoted as Lead Teacher in her second teaching position. After obtaining a Masters Degree in Education Administration and Policy, Mandela was admitted into one of the nation’s top Ph.D. programs in education, UCLA’s Urban Schooling program.

In June 2011, Mandela co-founded what was to become Tioki, the online professional network for the education community. Funded by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12, Tioki connected educators from over 28 different countries, and positively impacted hundreds of schools across the United States by helping them secure the best educators for their students.

As a former first place winner, guest speaker, mentor, and facilitator of four different Startup Weekend Education events, Mandela is thrilled to be joining the UP Global team. She is looking forward to utilizing her skill-set and passion for education and entrepreneurship to create events, tools, and services that empower people from all walks of life to come together, collaborate, and launch startups that have the ability to drastically improve the educational experience for all types of learners.