Startups and Education

I’ve always been passionate about education and last weekend I finally did something about it. I spent 54 hours at Startup Weekend EDU immersing myself in the world of EdTech. At first I didn’t know what to make of it: 56 random people from diverse backgrounds giving 1-minute startup pitches ranging from a browser plugin for MLA citations to a “Million Student March”. Since none of the 3 ideas I voted for made the cut, I was disheartened. Was my gut really that far off??? Fate had other ideas apparently because the team I eventually joined won the whole thing.

The prize is a meeting with Andreessen Horowitz, but I already got my money’s worth. I had a candid chat with my teammate Ben, a high school teacher from rural Mississippi, who effortlessly shot down all my over-engineered and ungrounded ideas on how to “fix education”. I was inspired by an elderly woman and her son from Minnesota who combined her original songs with animated caterpillars to teach music and concepts together. Most valuable of all, I learned that we each hold but fragments of complete solutions.

At the end of our presentation, we whipped out an iPad and quipped “There’s an app for that!”. It was our flourish, demonstrating that what we built works seamlessly on the iPad as well as the web. I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed about it. I’m proud that we were able to build something that would have taken many times longer in the past but embarrassed that we spent the majority of our time building and not thinking. One day, Startup Weekend will produce startups that will build products, mature in the market and get acquired all before the 54 hours are over. Until then, I’ll be working on building the tools and improving the education needed to get us there.


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