Innovation in education via StartupWeekend EDU

I was a judge at Startup Weekend EDU this weekend – for those that don’t know, its a fun, frantic, sleepless event that last 54 hours where teams try to launch a startup.  This particular one focused on the education space, something that’s been getting more and more of my attention recently.

So let me start with some background info.  I don’t know too many people who aren’t supportive of education, but I don’t know one person who thinks the current state of affairs with education is acceptable.

Soap Box – If it were me, I’d be paying teachers $100+K a year, no tenures, and radically bonusing teachers and principals with highly performing schools.  I’d make the requirements to be a teacher pretty damn high.  I’d radically reduce overhead expenses (read Board of Educations and multiple layers of management).  I’d support the voucher system so parents can take their kid ANYWHERE.  Let the bad schools die off. I would force 100% transparency in dollars spent, testings, curriculums, and hold people accountable for them. And I’d get rid of the unions.  At the bottom line, everything, EVERYTHING is riding on the education of our youth.  Our government, the arts, roads, economics, fresh water supply, whatever – you name it. They’ll be the ones tasked with all of these items in a decade or two, and we should be giving them all the resources to do it better than us.  It is absolutely ludicrous that we have freshly paved roads but our kids education is below par, dare I say abysmal.     End soapbox.

Okay, but clearly everyone wants to see education improve, but its really difficult to do so.  We can’t leave it to the beaurocracy to make the improvements, they move too slowly and their incentives aren’t aligned with success.  I think its the teachers and entrepreneurs who can introduce innovation.  Sites like Kahn Academy are a great example of this.  Therefore, I’m hugely in support of all aspects of entrepreneurship and education – thus the judging of Startup Weekend EDU.

Out of 6 pitches, I saw 4 that I thought could move the needle in the education space.  Wow.  FOUR of SIX.  They had a long way to go and  most of them were just at the concept phase, but that’s impressive.  That’s only one startup weekend (there are dozens), and only one effort targeting innovation in education (I’m sure there are hundreds).  I can feel the ground swell with energy in this space. It’s coming.

Massive props to the organizers of StartupWeekendEDU – they volunteer to do this, and it was a great event.  Especially Dr. Janet Corral, she was warm, welcoming, and a force to be reckoned with (I’m sure you all were, I just got to know her the best!)

My hat goes off to all entrepreneurs and teachers and creative thinkers who are trying to solve the problems in education.  Carry on, and change the world.

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