Often Startup Weekend organizers will encourage participants to place different colored stickers on their nametags to indicate the skill sets they bring or the role they want to play over the weekend. For example, a green dot may designate an educator, while red would be a developer. This helps immensely if you have the beginning of a team but are missing a key role; you can actively seek participants with the color sticker you want.

Educator: This category includes K-12 teachers, administrators, higher ed professors and administrators, and occasionally other kinds of educators. Startup Weekend EDU is encouraging more educators to participate in the Ed Tech world, so that products developed will solve real problems in education.

Nontechnical: Some participants will have non-technical backgrounds such as business and/or marketing. Once I had a fabulous startup attorney on our team! Often non-technical participants can create financials and help with the business model. (I’ve found that many educators, including myself, are so focused on wanting to provide a service that helps teachers that we don’t worry enough about the business model.) I’ve more than a few fellow participants who already run their own startups and have invaluable advice to offer.

There can be significant overlap between the role of a designer and a developer. In the startup community, this can be amplified because an individual many need to take on more roles and will have a wider range of experience.

Designer: A designer is someone who basically creates the look and interface of a website or app; a great design appeals to its intended user and is easy to navigate. There are primarily two kinds of designers: graphic designers and web designers.

    • graphic designer is highly skilled at making the application look beautiful but may not have experience in making the application functional.


    • web designer may or may not have a graphic design background but has experience in making a site intuitive and functional for users. (A web designer will sometimes say they do front-end development.)


    • You may also hear designers/developers share that they have experience in UI or User Interface design, which means they’re comfortable balancing technical functionality and visuals, e.g., deciding where to place a button on an iPad app and making sure that it works.


Developer: The role of developer covers a wide range of tech folks. Essentially a developer or “dev”is someone who is willing and able to code, though developers usually take on more roles than simply coding a project to spec. Most developers have a mixed skill set so they don’t fall neatly into categories, but here are some terms tossed around to describe different technical expertise:

    • Front-end developer: A front-end developer creates the visuals and makes sure that they function. Some front-end developers also call themselves web designers.


    • Back-end developer: Most of the work a back-end developer does is invisible, but crucial. A back-end developer builds databases and infrastructures that support websites and applications.


    • *Looking at the creation of a website registration process provides an example of a function that needs both front-end and back-end work: A front-end developer/web designer would make sure that the registration button was in a logical place and clearly directed users to register. Aback-end developer would create the database that would connect to the front-end, so that all of the registration information was logically stored to allow users to log-in and interact with the site under their registered name.


    • Hacker: In the Ed Tech community, hackers are not malicious programmers trying to illegally break into computer systems. In fact, a hacker is someone who has high-level coding skills and genuinely enjoys understanding, creating and changing computer programs and infrastructure to make them do something different than originally intended. The title hacker is usually given to someone by the larger community as a sign of respect, rather than claimed by one’s self.


    • Coder: The term coder is a bit dated because writing software has become more sophisticated, but it can apply to anyone who writes software. Coders tend to focus on doing specific tasks well, whereas hackers are known for liking to explore what a program can do.


    • UX/User Experience: Someone who oversees UX or the user experience is responsible for the whole experience of the user from the first moment of clicking on the iPad, mobile phone or program through all of the facets of the user moving through a program, app or game. The goal of the UX designer/developer is to drive the user toward what you want. During a startup weekend, you won’t have time to iterate enough times to have a perfect user experience but folks with experience with creating effective applications can jumpstart the process.


    • Gamer: More and more gamers are joining Startup Weekends for Education because there’s a movement to make some kinds of learning more game-like, particularly skills that need lots of practice until they become automatic, such as basic math computation.


  • Information architect: There may be some developers who are information architects, which means that they have experience developing large-scale infrastructure. You won’t be building information architecture during a Startup Weekend—the lean startup model calls for continual iteration on a small scale and architecture implies larger structures. While you don’t necessarily need these specific skills, architects tend to have experience with other forms of development and design as well.

In the end, don’t worry if you’re not really sure what each job description means; just ask people what skills they bring and what they were hoping to do that weekend. Everyone’s usually friendly and happy to explain what they can and are willing to do!