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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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Connecting with the DC startup scene

I am asked often about where to find out about DC startup/tech events and groups, so I thought it would be useful to have an online list to point them to, instead of emailing whatever groups are fresh in my mind when they happen to ask me. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I will update the list from time to time, but it’s a good starting point for someone new to the city or the world of startups.

First of all, get used to hashing and following #dctech on Twitter. Its the go to hashtag for sharing #dctsartuplove.

For events, these are good sites to watch/follow. is also very active here in DC. Despite how the name sounds, it isn’t a dating service. It’s also not strictly for tech. There are all kinds of social activities, but you can use group tags to quickly narrow your search to biz/tech meetups (or crocheting clubs – your call :).  These four are a good start. You can also see the ones I am in at I’m in at, and the site does a good job of recommending groups as well.

And there are two main Facebook groups depending which side of your brain you want tickled.

  • DC Tech – The main forum for discussing DC startups (after Twitter of course :).
  • Refresh DC – “web designers, developers, and other new media professionals”
And here are just some great DC organizations/sites that are definitely worth watching to see what coolness they will think up next…
  • Holding startup presentations at happy hour is a stroke of genius, because even if the presentation doesn’t interest you, you will probably still have a good time and meet some interesting people. They do stuff in lots of cities, but DC is one of their main hubs.

Mentoring at inaugural Startup Weekend DC

I’m still recovering from mentoring for the first Startup Weekend DC. It was an amazing weekend, so many ideas and so much energy. It felt like I was mainlining startups :).

I guess my enjoyment showed because I was awarded “most helpful mentor” and given a very snazzy USB Power Pack for keeping my phone and tablet juiced.

Image representing Startup Weekend as depicted...

Now I’m lead mentor helping the winners of Startup Weekend DC, Weekly Eats, compete in the Global Startup Battle. It’s a worldwide competition pitting the winning StartupWeekend teams from sixty cities against each other for a cool set of prizes including the chance to present at Demo Asia and the Launch Conference.

Update 11/29/11

Thanks to great work by the WeeklyEats team and the DCTech community we came in 3rd! The team started with an awesome video submission and then we drove a non-stop SMO campaign to get the word out. It was an amazing amount of work to keep the energy up and votes coming, but we did it! Congrats WeeklyEats and DCTech :).

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