This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
From October 11th - 13th in partnership with the Saint Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD), Boulder-based startup accelerator TechStars will host Startup Weekend Education Colorado. Over 54 hours, potential entrepreneurs with ideas to improve education will gather at the Saint Vrain Innovation Center in an intense hackathon-style effort to get their idea off the ground.
Hackathons got their start with late 90s computer programming culture as an intense, focused effort to work as quickly as possible to create the simplest possible version of a program. Hackathons have since broadened in scope to include nonprofit activities and business accelerators. Despite their name, they are no longer centered exclusively on computer programming.
InScribe Education CEO Katy Kappler, one of the hosts of this weekend's event, explained the choice to host the event at SVVSD this year. "Each year we select a partner and location that exemplifies Colorado's commitment to innovation and excellence in education. We chose SVVSD this year because of their track record as a leader in advancing quality public education in Colorado. The district is home to more than 32,000 of Colorado's students and they continuously demonstrate a commitment to student success that is reflected through positive academic trends and the receipt of numerous state level and national level awards."
Kappler emphasized that this weekend's event is open to entrepreneurs and businesses of all types and ages. "We've extended invitations to all of [SVVSD]'s educators and students, and are happy to say many have accepted!" Discussing the breadth of past participants, Kappler mentioned that, "In past years, one of our best pitch moments came from an 8 year old!"
Ideas of all types are also welcome, with Kappler adding that "We have lots of ideas that focus on non-software solutions like services, new school ideas, community and enrichment ideas...it really runs the gamut."
Over the 54 hour period of the program, participants will do the hands-on work necessary to get their education-focused business off the ground. The event will begin with participants briefly describing their idea to others after which teams will form based on ideas, skills, and interests.
No background in education, programming or technology is required though interested participants with those skills would be valuable to teams which lack them. Kappler explained that, "people outside the education space aren't sure how to approach students and educators and often miss out on the invaluable feedback that should be helping shape their vision and solutions. Educators and students have real world knowledge of what's needed, but lack connections with developers, designers, and business people who could help their ideas come to life. [Startup Weekend Education] gives us the chance to bring these communities together - not just to build ideas during the weekend - but also to create lifelong connections that they can continue to leverage long after the event is over."
Teams will have access to mentors, internet access, coffee and will be provided with seven meals. The price to attend the event depends on the person's role, from $25 for students and $50 for educators to $75 for software developers, designers and entrepreneurs. For $15, interested parties can attend only the kickoff dinner on Friday night or just the demo day on Sunday when teams will showcase their work. Longmont Observer readers have been offered a 20% discount with coupon code Observer20.
In addition to getting their business idea off the ground, teams can also win prizes including two tickets to South by Southwest's Education Conference in 2020, access to an education-focused co-working space in Denver or 90-day access to CoSolve in Longmont. Registration takes place through the TechStars website.