Boulder Start Up Weekend 2016
Honestly, the last thing I expected to hear was that our team would win Start-Up Weekend, Boulder. Check out the highlights from the Techstars' blog:
What is the name of the company you formed at Startup Weekend Boulder?
The name was originally “Alexa Teacher” the night of the pitch. We changed it to “Alexa Learn” because we wanted to capture the idea that what we accomplished at Startup Weekend was just the gateway to more possibilities of learning from your in-home AI.
What was it like forming a team and starting on all of the work?
I walked around listening in to all the teams as they formed, trying to get a sense of what I had to offer the team and what I could potentially learn from the members. The “Alexa Teacher” team had four developers.
When I asked Evan (who pitched) more about what they wanted to build, he said he wasn’t totally sure, but that he had flown to Boulder from Seattle with the goal of learning more about building Alexa skills.
I asked him some questions about how he would infuse a pedagogical approach into the build-out, and with whom he would do validation. I realized I could help the team in those areas. I was excited to learn more about developing Alexa skills myself.
Any other memorable moments from the weekend?
Yes. We spent Saturday morning ideating on the possible pain points in-home AI could solve when it comes to “learning,” and then we grouped those ideas into themes.
Off the top of my head, the main themes that came up were procrastination, lack of immersion or adaptable algorithms for world language learning, and social and emotional challenges resulting to a lack of growth-mindset.
We settled on how Alexa could potentially solve the pain point for lack of an “immersion” experience for learning a second language, and spent most of the day interviewing students on campus with regards to language learning.
By late afternoon we ended up completely pivoting after speaking to a father (one of the mentors) who was having trouble helping his son learn to read on his own.
We felt we had a unique solution that would solve his more acute pain point, and started over late Saturday afternoon.
Did you take advantage of the exclusive GSW resources before or during the weekend?
Absolutely! I watched Zach Nies’ video on empathy interviewing. My main resource was the fortunate fact that my team was very skilled and this wasn’t their first startup rodeo.
So the weekend is over – what’s next!?
We are still working on next steps. Since the weekend has ended, we have begun rethinking our Business Model Canvas a little bit. I personally have continued interviewing and speaking with colleagues I regard as experts in language learning and literacy.
I also recently participated in Telluride’s Startup Weekend where we took second place with another Alexa-inspired learning idea.
Any tips for others about to head to Startup Weekend?
Go to learn. Let that be the underlying expectation that guides your experience.
Be present and participate for the entirety of the weekend.
Write a reflection about what you learned the Monday afterwards.
Stay connected to the community. Volunteer. Get colleagues and friends to participate in the next event.
If you were to do it again, anything you would do differently?
Nothing, honestly. Every time I participate in a Startup Weekend, I’m going to show up with an open minded willingness to apply new knowledge on the spot and the readiness to work with any and everyone. Ready to learn.