Startup Weekend NYCEDU: 54hrs to Change Education

by / ⠀Startup Advice / February 13, 2012

On the weekend of Feb 3rd-5th, educators, developers, and designers gathered at the Mandell School in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for Startup Weekend NYCEDU.  Entrepreneurial minds from across the United States ventured to NYC with the hopes that this 54-hour sprint of a weekend would leave them with indelible relationships and ideas that would disrupt the education space.

The weekend started off Friday at 6pm with a brief networking session and moved quickly to the lightning pitches.  These pitches lasted a mere 60 seconds, yet, had to be powerful enough to convince others to rally around it.  Ingrained within each pitch was a deep passion for enabling student success inside and outside of the classroom.  A full list of the lightning pitches can be found here.  Following the pitches, educators were able to support one idea, narrowing the field of ideas down from 49 to 19.  Every attendee was then given 3 post-it notes to be placed on ideas as votes.  The top 13 ideas began recruiting team-members and the sprint was officially under way.

The next 48 hours would prove to be a mental and emotional roller coaster that was every bit as physically tolling.  Each team set the limits of their own ambitions and worked under their own schedules, using as much or as little of the midnight oil as they saw fit.  With people coming from different industries, different mindsets, different parts of the country and having different expectations for the weekend, managing team dynamics became an integral part of the success or failure of the teams.  Tuckman’s stages of group development were fully evident during the course of the weekend.  Small teams that were working towards a concretely defined issue with a road-map of implementation seemed to get to the Tuckman’s ‘performing stage’ much sooner than larger teams whose ideas were still being defined and refined.

The culmination of the marathon weekend was a brief 5 minute presentation in front of all the attendees and a panel of judges including:

Chaula Gupta: Managing Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative at TFA

Heather Thompson Rivera: Principal on Google’s New Business Development Team Charlie O’Donnell: VC at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures

Sachin Jade: Investor at Klifer Capital

Miranda Stamps: Vice President of Product Development at Schoolnet

Harold Levy: Managing Director of Palm Ventures

Bios for each judge can be found here.  Each of the 13 presentations were remarkable, leaving no evidence that a mere 54 hours before they were simply ideas looking to be matched with the right people and the right talent.  Top honors for the weekend went to ClassroomBlueprint, an online community for teachers to design and share their portfolio of best practices for classroom design.  The ClassroomBlueprint team was awarded with free tickets to this year’s SXSW Conference.

This incredible experience was made possible by Startup Weekend, who will be hosting similar events across the country throughout the year, and organized by the amazing Heather Gilchrist.  Every team benefited from the insight of the 40 mentors who volunteered their time over the course of the weekend; with the help of the mentors, teams were able to take their ideas from good to great.  The weekend also featured two speakers, Charlie O’Donnell and Saad Alam, who spoke about their experiences and how entrepreneurs should approach the education space.  Their bios can be found here.

To see what people were tweeting during the weekend search #nycedu.  Additionally, a Twitter contact list of those who participated in the weekend can be found here.

People exited the Mandell School that Sunday afternoon with much more than business ideas; they left with bonds of friendship, new perspectives on the world, and an appreciation for what a small group of thoughtful, committed people can accomplish in just 54 hours.

-Stephen Eyring

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