Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mentoring at StartupWeekend Virginia for Education

Well, I’m coming off another StartupWeekend high. This one was StartupWeekend Virginia for Education – sponsored/organized by the excellent Virginia Center for Innovative Technology (including DC Tech pillar Jen O’Daniel).

Image representing Startup Weekend as depicted...

I really love being a part of StartupWeekends. Watching people turn raw ideas into prototypes and a strong pitch in just 54 hours is awesome. Even better is watching folks learn what it means to be an entrepreneur – not to mention how much fun it is. Of course, being a coach/mentor is great because I get to talk to so many folks about their ideas, and then see those ideas get fleshed out and come to fruition. Giving up a weekend seems like a small price compared to the feeling that you’ve helped these amazing, hardworking teams get closer to achieving their goals.

And it’s hard to describe how good it feels to get an email like the one below. It’s good to get some confirmation that I, and everyone at StartupWeekend, really did have an impact. I trimmed the email a bit, but it still does a great job capturing the StartupWeekend experience. Let me add that while I appreciate the thanks – Christine and the WishBooks team had things well in hand when I came to visit. I think I just helped them realize it :)

Our path to Startup Weekend began with a comment that became an action and resulted in a meaningful outcome all in the space of 4 weeks.  And while many of you who were interested in supporting our effort couldn’t attend, I wanted to include you in this email because you are a part of our community, because you are passionate about education, and because your interest and genuine desire to make a difference matters and was a source of inspiration and insight to our effort throughout the weekend and I wanted to acknowledge that.

Our team pitched two ideas and both were selected to be worked on and refined over the course of the Startup Weekend.  We went with one idea, had the biggest team, and went to work on the biggest problem at the event.  Our group was the first team in and the last team to leave each day and this did not go unnoticed by the dedicated coaches and mentors who were there.  Of the 40 or so coaches and mentors there, over half of them spent significant time with our team and made pivotal impacts that helped us put the legs to what had been a personal story and a few words scribbled on a half torn piece of paper on Friday night.  It was clear that what we were tackling resonated and that we needed to really craft the message so that we could get it out.  I am in awe and humbled by the difference their feedback made on our team and our effort.  They are truly amazing people with a generosity of spirit that is mind blowing.

The outcome of all of that committed and focused effort was an Honorable Mention at an event sponsored by a globally active organization.

Not too shabby a showing for a first time team with lots of mixed skills, no real prep ahead of time, and whose pitch deck got finished with only 9 minutes to spare before the final pitch round started!!

We should all be proud! I could not have spent 54 hours with a better group of people.

I want to send a sincere thank you to Paul McGowan (CIT), Hap Connors(CIT), Brooke Bell (CIT), Carole Ottenheimer (CIT), Mary Garber (FredTech Council/Fred Chamber of Commerce), and George Hughes (SIMVentions) for their outreach, support, and continued engagement.  This milestone would not have happened without your passion for entrepreneurship and Fredericksburg.

I want to send a special shout out to Ann Emerson whose show of support made all the difference and Mary Garber again for”getting outside the building” and getting us important data for customer validation.

Heartfelt thanks to the Mikes (McVicker and Wellman) for putting a view to this big idea we had in the nick of time and David Tuell for finding the tag line that pulled it into view and said it all and Brian for doing research at a moment’s notice and getting good results quickly each time.

Thank you to Simona and Vlad for throwing in with us and making critical contributions to the prototyping, customer validation, and development of the pitch deck.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

And finally, I want to acknowledge David Rees – a mentor who spent 40 of the last 41 minutes we had making magic happen for us.  It was his coaching and mentorship that brought the vision that we had scattered across the whiteboard and screenshots and collective heads in the room into view.  Dave, you are a genius and your passion for our story was the breath of life that helped us bring it into view for others to see.  We are eternally grateful for the difference you made and when you made it.  It felt like nothing short of serendipity just in the nick of time.  Can’t wait to return the favor.

NOVA EDU Startup Weekend was an amazing and impactful experience for all the right reasons.

Can’t wait to bring one to Fredericksburg!

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