What the Heck is a Startup Weekend, and How Did I Ever End Up in One??

That’s me in the picture, with all those handsome young men!  How did I end up there, you ask?  Well, it all started with a couple of friends of mine who somehow seem to persuade me into doing things that are several zones outside my comfort zone.

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3rd place team at Startup Weekend Calgary, February 2014

One such journey last February took me to Calgary’s Mount Royal University.  I was listening to one-minute pitches by several individuals who were all hoping to win the audience’s favour.  This was my very first Startup Weekend.  A weekend where you spend 54 hours working to launch a startup:

“Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.” (website: http://startupweekend.org/about/). And win prizes!

I had no idea what I was getting into when I registered for this event.  The registration form asked me whether I was attending as someone with a startup idea (nope, didn’t have one); coder/programmer (What?? certainly wasn’t one of those); marketer (Haha! the only selling I do is trying to get students to do their homework); businessperson (does balancing my chequebook count?).  There was no “I have no idea what I’m doing” button, so I pressed the businessperson button.  That seemed the least fraudulent.

After the voting was finished on the Friday night, everyone began forming teams.  I thought I would just wander around throughout the weekend and get a sense of what the teams were doing.  That also seemed the safest as I still wasn’t sure what I could contribute.  But, Stephanie, one of my persuader friends, would not let that happen.  I ended up on a team and, for the rest of the weekend, I was plunged in the world of designing, validating, building, and marketing a startup.

When Sunday night came, teams presented their business plans and prototypes. Guess what?  We came in 3rd!  What a sense of accomplishment that was.  My teammates had done an awesome job with their business and tech skills.  And I like to think my market validation skills and question framing abilities played a small but valuable role in our success. Talking and writing are two things I know:)

I left Calgary on Sunday night for the long drive home to Edmonton.  I thought the drive would be tiring.  It wasn’t.  The weekend replayed in my mind and how incredible the whole experience was.  I learned a lot about the fascinating world of startups and entrepreneurship and how this fits so well into Inspiring Education and 21st century learning.

Now I am playing a small part in organizing one for education.  This one has 2 tracks: one for adults with an idea for improving education in some way, and one for students of all ages with an idea to launch.  It’s an great opportunity for educators, students, developers, marketers, managers, and anybody who is curious and enthusiastic.  No experience required!

To find out more or to register for this event, click on the link below:

http://www.up.co/communities/canada/calgary/startup-weekend/4292

About Sherry Langland

I have been teaching English for 15 years and am passionate about teaching students to read critically, think critically, and live purposefully. I am also the lead teacher for our junior high department and am thankful to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to collaborating around the most important part of our job: student learning. My biggest blessing is being the mother of 2 young men who are in their 20s and discovering their purpose.
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5 Responses to What the Heck is a Startup Weekend, and How Did I Ever End Up in One??

  1. A really interesting blog post! I am a recently retired teacher who is now working with a group of young entrepreneurs (two of whom are U of A computer science grad students while the other is a professional photographer and graphic designer) in the development of a start-up. It has been an incredible journey, and, like you, many times I have been stretched out of my comfort zone. It’s been a great combination of talents, as they bring their own knowledge (backgrounds in machine learning, artificial intelligence, video games, and design), while I contribute my background as a teacher and writer. We are developing a web-based writing app for grades 3-9 which is unlike anything I’ve seen over my teaching career. You are right about the start-up experience being exhilarating!

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    • Thanks for the comments, Chris! It sounds like you have a very interesting post-retirement job. The world of startups is really fascinating. I’ve participated in one and helped organize two EDU Startups. What incredible learning experiences.

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  2. Pingback: Startup Weekend Education Edmonton - Rhonda Jessen.com

  3. Great to hear about your experience at Startup Weekend Sherry. I have heard about the experience of Startup Weekends from those who were already converts before, but it was great to read about it from your “I have no idea what I am doing” perspective.
    Thanks for joining us in #oclmooc, I am looking forward to learning with you.
    Rhonda

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  4. Angie Tarasoff says:

    You do realize that every time you leave your comfort zone, you end up enlarging it, so we have to keep upping the ante. It’s brinksmanship.

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