Jessie Arora, founder of Teacher Square, guest blogs on how to get ready for Startup Weekend EDU.
Start Me Up
Before jumping into the fast-and-furious 54 hours that is Startup Weekend Edu, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of some of the complexities of the education system. After participating in my first Mega SW Edu last year and attending several more as a mentor/coach, I found myself answering the same questions over and over again around why the education space is so hard to break into and where are good places to start learning more. Here are a few tips to help you get a sense of the edtech landscape and prepare you to make the most of your SW Edu experience.
Get your feet wet now
If possible attend the pre-pitch meetup to begin brainstorming with other potential attendees. This is a great way to begin building relationships with the edtech community and get feedback on your idea. If you aren’t quite set on an idea yet, check out the #edpain platform from the Digital Harbor Foundation, which is a collaborative space for teachers, students, parents, policy makers and technologists to constructively identify pain points in education. Beyond initial brainstorming, spend some time thinking through your top 2-3 ideas and ideally begin the initial validation by exploring existing approaches. Chances are after some quick Google searches you’ll get a sense if someone has already blogged about this topic, check out the Education Startup resources on Quora, or ideally talk to your target user (teachers, parents, students) and get their initial thoughts on your idea. These contacts will be extremely helpful throughout the weekend as well.
Edtech has become quite the popular buzzword lately and a variety of stakeholders are trying to figure out exactly how technology can be used to improve teaching and learning for all students. One place to get a sense of the burgeoning edtech landscape is the Edtech Handbook, an early-stage version of VentureHacks for Edu that is a compilation of articles and case studies from education entrepreneurs sharing their perspective on how they overcame some challenges in this space. For newbies, the Landscape and StartingUp sections will be particularly useful, and there is even a post on How to Attract Developers at a Startup Weekend event!
Support > Software
As you gear up for what will be a truly energizing experience, remember not to get caught up in all the startup lingo. Education is essentially about people and while we are all optimistic about how new technologies and software applications can make a difference, remember that you’re designing a product for people. Keep your user in mind at all times and think about how what you’re building will fit into the current culture and ecosystem.
Enjoy the weekend. You’re going to learn a ton, meet some amazing people and immerse yourself in the energy of the startup world. Good luck with your projects and please reach out if you’d like to include your thoughts or expertise in the Edtech Handbook.
About Jessie Arora:
Jessie Arora, founder of Teacher Square, is passionate about cultivating the education startup ecosystem to help create tools and services that improve teaching and learning for all students. She is an active angel investor mainly focused on the education space, applying her experiences from Google, Citizen Schools & Stanford School of Ed. She blogs at edcrunch.org and you can follow her @Jessie_Arora. (She is also Editor of the Edtech Handbook, so please share your feedback with her.)