Friday, 5 September 2014

Startup weekend Education

What a weekend, a couple of months ago I was introduced to the startup concept. This was through a tweet on twitter announcing New Zealand's first Startup Education weekend.

What is a startup weekend...

Startup Weekend is where entrepreneurs, developers, and designers get together to form new businesses in a 54-hour marathon of inspiration, perspiration, collaboration, and fun! We attract people with all skill levels in a friendly, welcoming, yet challenging environment.

Wellington Startup Weekend EDU will be the first Education focused Startup Weekend in New Zealand and follows closely on the heels of Sydney Startup Weekend EDU.

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) was founded on the belief that entrepreneurship is the most powerful force to positively impact education outcomes. We are a global initiative that brings people together over the course of 54 hours to launch startup companies and projects that have the ability to drastically improve the educational experience for various types of learners or have a positive impact on the education sector. Only two years old, SWEDU has already expanded to 16 cities across the world, and we are excited to give everyone an unprecedented opportunity to play a role in creating the future of education. SWEDU is part of the wider Startup Weekend global initiative.

More than simply a themed Startup Weekend event, the SWEDU programme is designed to drive change and innovation into the education sector by using the awesome power of the Startup Weekend format.

What’s different? SWWLG EDU has the same rigour as a normal Startup Weekend, running from pitchfire to pitch night, Friday through Sunday. The main difference is the make up of the room, which includes Educators and the criteria for judging on Sunday.

This sounded like something I wanted to be a part of, impacting educational outcomes. 

On Friday, we arrived, being from outside of Wellington didn't matter, the people involved were all finding out who people were, what was going on, who had a idea, early pitch practice. 

Pitches started after the initial hype of what startup weekend was all about, what we were to do, what we would be marked on.

The first 1 minute pitches started, should I get up and make a pitch? This was a question going through my head, as a heard more and more pitches I started wondering what value they would have within education. I has a star system for each of the pitches, a simple one to five scale. Majority of the ideas were getting a one. Then I heard a couple that talked about valuing education, I wanted to pitch, the idea was a way to search the New Zealand Curriculum, its 8 learning areas, was for students and teachers to search for terms, levels and develop ideas based upon these. I had the educators hooked, I didn't have the non technical, developers or designers though. There is no money in this.

Now I started to struggle with the startup weekend education concept, was this to create products that could be used to improve the value of education, or where they business ideas. 

I was fortunate to have a conversation with Pascalle after, in which she explained that she faced the same issue when she attended her first startup. Education is part of the focus, but the product has to be sustainable. It needs to be a paid for model.

A pitch called Pave the Way, developing innovate students was presented. This managed to get 4 stars based on my scale. Having a conversation with the pitcher Anika, this idea had merit, it met the education model, as well as looking at a possible model for revenue.

We managed to find a place to start work. We had, 2 developers, 1 design, 2 non technical, 3 educators on board. A 8 person team was formed. We had an idea, we needed to make it work.

So the rest of Friday night was spent working out what we were doing, what was needed for the next two day, formulating a business plan and finding out what each person brought to the table.

Day two -Validation!

We needed help, we needed to validate what we had planned. Everything needed validation. It was just good enough to know that this would work, we had to show, through feedback and numbers.

The day was talking to educators, using our networks to find out if this idea had merit, would they buy it?
This was carried out through surveys as well as phone and google hangouts. We even had a visit from two teachers who we took through the process and they wanted it.

The survey,

The problems:
  • Innovation enables us capitalise on opportunities HOWEVER 84% of our validation participants believe that innovation is not adequately taught in schools.
  • Teachers do not have the skills, confidence or resources to support the development of key competencies from the New Zealand curriculum that result in innovative students. “they are trained to kick the ball into goal posts – innovation is about creating new goalposts”
The unique value proposition:
  • Increased engagement and by in from students in learning
  • Safe Environment – facilitated through teachers and mentors
  • A tool to prepare students for jobs that do not exist yet
Product names:

but no, that was taken

IdeaVolt is...

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Working after midnight

First design and what it changed to very quickly afterwards
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We needed to find out what we were creating would spark interest. We used eventbrite as a way to guage interest, a way to validate what we were creating could be used within school. A $5 chance to register your interest to show some money coming in for the judges. So the question was put out there.

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The pitch

Teacher dashboard

Students Ideas

The Challenges

Understanding the problem

Getting down to work, loved the sharpies

Having the mentors explain some of their concerns

Answering questions from the judges

Feedback from the Judges

Innovation in the classroom is a sound idea. Relevant and backed by understanding of teaching.

Need to think through issues such as if teachers have little understanding, how effective are they going to be as judges of progress. Also, could be easily linked to other learning areas to increase impact.

Love innovation, great tool to aid. Needs more teacher validation.

Good concept and market validation. For a sustainable business need to look at detailed sales and marketing, and possibly overseas.

Love the comment from one of the mentors,

There were times when you lot were all over the road. But you stuck with it and pulled it together into a really strong presentation worthy of your commendation. You also did a great job of holding together and working positively despite the team size. We were very impressed with your resilience and dynamic.

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