The Startup Weekend Education

By Maylis Buonomo - Apr 18th, 2016

When I first arrived at the Startup Weekend Education Amsterdam, I thought I would be there as an observer. In reality, it was much more than this!

Friday – 19:00. Wout Laban starts his introduction presentation, and shares what the startup weekend education is about: 54 hours to build a startup with strangers. All of this with a very precise approach: "No talk, all action". Four different goals: having fun, getting inspired, finding a cofounder, and most of all, bringing a change in education. And an inspiring promise: "Everybody in this room will learn something".

After different games and challenges, including building a startup in five minutes, 24 brave people took the stage for a one-minute-pitch. One single minute to convince the rest of the participants to join their teams for the rest of the weekend. This is when everything started!

Ten initial projects were selected, thanks to the participants' votes. During the weekend, some teams split up, and some re-organisation and re-orientation happened. "This is always the case", according to the volunteers. Discussing business models and sharing ideas and competences helped every team to specify their project, and change it if needed.

The results: what had they learnt?

Two days later, on Sunday at 15:00, nine groups were finishing up the last details and going through pitch training to prepare their five-minute-pitches. The advice of the mentors? "Be happy. Be enthusiastic about your idea, sell a story, not a product!" After 50 hours of work, quite a challenge! But the incredible energy at WeWork would make it possible.

At that moment, I remembered Wout's promise: "Everybody will learn something". And I decided to go and check. What did these 60 participants learn after all?

I walked around, and I must admit, I was expecting answers about what a startup was, about great tips to pitch, or about the educational sector. Truth is, their learnings were all focused on two things: People and Change.

The team of the project "Make it fun" learnt how important it is to split big teams into small groups, to change talk into action. A learning also shared by the "Workwide" team, who discovered that handling decision-making in a group of seven within 54 hours is a tough task, and who actually ended up being a group of four at the end of the weekend. Both these teams highlighted the hours and hours of debates and discussions about the business model and the project itself, and "Workwide" members added: "We have learnt that it is normal to change ideas, it is normal to spend time on finding the right approach." In a nutshell, they have learnt to see and accept changes. And after all, that's what the spirit of this weekend is: accepting change, thanks to a great team spirit.

Listening to all their answers, I realised that the promise of learning wasn't only for the participants. It was for everyone stepping in this room, including myself. From the position of an observer, I was taken into the learning adventure, and became part of it.

If there is one thing that you, as a reader, could learn, is that the startup weekend education was about much more than merely building a startup in 54 hours. It is about accepting to join a life adventure focusing on people, and change, two of the biggest challenges we all face and experience in every single situation of our lives, making us lifelong learners.

The winners

After 9 brilliant final pitches on Sunday, the jury voted for four projects:

The honourable mention went to John Dojo, a project based on the will to teach entrepreneurial skills to children via events and fun games.

The third place went to Calculator, a unique app guiding you through the mysterious mathematical secrets of Amsterdam, and creating educational tours.

The second prize went to Cu.rio, an online platform for curated online courses.

And we are happy to welcome the winners for a Talk this Wednesday at our event: Workwide! Their project? Helping people wanting to change careers by offering them the possibility to spend one day in their dream company. The recruitment of tomorrow? Join TEDxAmsterdamED on Wednesday to find out more about their idea!

To find out more about Startup Weekend Events, click here.

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