Purple Suitcase For The Win*

This past weekend, 7 teams of young Boston entrepreneurs competed in a "start-up weekend." It was hosted at our high school.

(I wasn't there. I was at a glorious bat mitzvah instead. So the photo above is just some attendees from the competition's website -- the odds are 7-to-1 against it those humans being the ones from winner Purple Suitcase).

Anyway, here's what happened:

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Our kids gave some feedback.

Students from Match High School stopped by on their break for a snack and then were drawn in by Purple Suitcase’s idea for an online global travel experience. One thing I love about teenagers is their willingness to say exactly what they think, like and don’t like. The whole group was drawn to similar features. They loved being able to connect to a teen in another country and to learn a bit of another language.

Out of this dialogue one student concern emerged: students want to make sure that anyone from another country that they meet is safe. When asked what would make them more comfortable was the same relationship-building process they use now: email for awhile, establish a rapport, eventually lead to comfort with Skype or Facetime. As a teacher, I was glad to hear that students knew to protect themselves online, including not giving out their private information.

A local entrepreneur, Simeon Simeonov, wrote it up on his blog -- along with advice he provided to the young whippersnappers:

Do not be cool. Entrepreneurship is about action. Most startup ideas never get acted upon. Let your emotions give you energy to overcome the inertia to act.

Practice educated ignorance. To solve big problems in new ways you need to be reality-based but you also need distance & perspective. Find a balance and avoid what at TechStars we call mentor whiplash.

Bring a gun to the knife fight. Startup Weekend may be about a lot of things–building community, collaborating, coming up with good ideas & starting companies to name a few–but at it’s core it is about selling. You need to sell yourself and your idea so that you can recruit a great team at the event and accomplish seemingly impossible things over a single weekend.

Beware the Kool-Aid. Not the proverbial Kool-Aid, the banal one. Startup Weekend is an athletic event: 54 hours of excitement and stress. If you want to perform at your best, you have to take care of your body: eat well & stay hydrated.

In related news:

Just got an email that Evan Rudall is stepping down at Uncommon to launch a new ed tech organization. That should be fun to watch. Evan was helpful to me back in 1999, when he was launching Rox Prep and I was cooking up MATCH. Or more precisely: I was cooking up most of the dumber ideas that would eventually be jettisoned from MATCH, while Evan was building a legit No Excuses school with John King.

Stig and I just visited with Jennie Niles who heads up E.L. Haynes charter schools in DC, and Eric Westendorf, who used to be principal. Eric's company, called LearnZillion -- Khan Academy 2.0 is the pitch, or maybe 3.0 -- was incubated at ELH. I like what I've seen in clicking around on LearnZillion. Teachers of math and English: worth checking out, particularly the slides that accompany each lesson.