As one of the 3 or 4 educators (who also traveled across the country to participate), I have such mixed feelings about the StartUp Weekend EDU in Seattle. First, I want to be clear that I had a wonderful experience, the event ran well (Thanks TeachStreet and www.StartUp!), and I couldn’t have asked for a better team. My frustration came from the pitches minimal connection to education and the decided lack of educators present, as Audrey Watters aptly stated.

Perhaps sharing my thought process during and directly after the pitches might contribute to this conversation. I decided not to pitch because I went into the weekend with the intent to join another team; it wasn’t the right time to pitch anything for LessonCast, the ed tech startup we launched at an earlier StartUp Weekend, and I didn’t want to convince people to join me in a startup I couldn’t pursue after the weekend. Instead, I thought I’d contribute an educator’s perspective to someone else’s idea.

I almost changed my mind when pitch after pitch was only tangentially related to education. Out of all of the pitches, I liked the texting pitch but there are a number of other folks in this space already with viable products, and it was pitched by an educator, so I didn’t feel like I was needed on that team. Similarly, there are already several online course platforms that have simultaneous functionality like what Let’s proposed. Study Buddy already exists in many forms. Death Math and Babble Math concept were likely to become viable apps, but they weren’t looking for a teacher. Gaming makes sense for skills that require automaticity, such as multiplication tables, and at every StartUp Weekend someone builds at least one app that tries to do that. These apps help engage students in very specific skills, but they’re not solving the big problems in education. I liked that the “Buy a Broom” concept came out of a developer’s desire to help a real teacher; however, I knew about groups like, so it wasn’t a real need. In fact, I shared this information with him, and he followed me to the group where I landed.

Here’s why I finally chose TeenStarter. On my plane ride over, I was working through program ideas (for my day job in education) helping move students toward being college and career ready, as part of our state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards. My county’s in the midst of conversations around how we can have students tackle real-world problems—TeenStarter came closest to this.

My big issue with groups like and is that teachers have to write the proposals and do most of the work. Teachers are already overextended. I liked that TeenStarter placed the process in the hands of middle and high school students. Our team didn’t have the time to add all of the educational pieces that would have given students more resources for learning how to organize an event or project, or creating a business, but those were part of the vision. I don’t feel badly for having worked with this group—I learned a lot from my team and I feel like they heard my educator perspective and will definitely contact me if they need that voice again. I also know that my students would use a site like TeenStarter, so I hope someone else does build it. It has the potential to help students focus their desire to make the world a better place into tangible projects, and it allows donors to fund small projects in their communities.

I’m still figuring out how to bridge the divide between ed tech and education; I certainly gained more skills and contacts this weekend that will help me understand the tech side. Next I’ll be a mentor at the DC event, and I’m sure I’ll learn even more. Making these weekends really move education forward is a work in progress—that’s why it’s so great that there’s now a whole series. I’m sure they’ll get better and better.