Thoughts and feelings about Startup Weekend Education

12/11/2014 | By Aurelio JimŽnez Romero

This post originally appeared on


In October 2014 we organized the first Startup Weekend Education ever in Spain.

The organizing team was composed by Iván García, Mario López de Ávila and me. The facilitator was Jaime Aranda, one of the most active members of the community in Seville.

We kicked off the weekend on Friday night with 30 participants and 18 pitches, mostly targeted toward the K12 markets and higher ed, with some lifelong learners enthusiasts mixed in (more info). For the opening, we got Matthew Boland, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer from the U.S. Embassy on stage. Great advice and first lesson to the attendees: help people to learn how to learn.

Jaime announced 8 ideas that had made it through the voting round and came out on top, but even as early as Friday close, these didn’t end up as the teams moving forward the next morning, just 5 succeeded.  The team formation process is complex. Maybe your idea is great, but you have to convince other people to spend their next 48 hours working on it. Second lesson: ideas are just that, ideas. Execution is everything.

Saturday morning is always a challenging time. People are still pumped from the night before but need to get things rolling.  To incentivize people to get started bright and early, we scheduled a light pitch session with mentors so they can identify the best way to help teams during the morning.

We also scheduled a couple of short chats given by great people in the local startup community who donated their time for free. Carmen Bermejo, from Tetuan Valley, talked about product validation and PMV, while Félix López, from the Young Entrepreneurs Association (AJE) explained how to sell your product when you’re a startup. Both taught participants things that they could put immediately into practice.

Saturday night was really busy and the teams worked until late trying to put in order all their work.

By Sunday morning, people started to get nervous thinking in pitches. To make it easier we organized another session with coaches as training. The good news was that they have improved a lot from what we have seen just 24h before. There were some “problems” though. One team come up with and presented a almost new idea. Other was struggling to keep the team together.

This is all about pivoting ideas and solutions, bringing order into chaos!

The time for the jury arrived on Sunday evening: Maruja Gutierrez-Diaz, a Senior education policy maker from the European Commission, Carlos Rodriguez, Senior Associate Axon Partner Group, and Ángel Blanco, Colegios y marketing co-founder, were there for the pitches.

As we got only five teams, we decided to have just one winner per category (jury/public). After the five presentations, both categories were clearly won by the same team: Competis.

Competis is an app and webpage, geared towards higher education which allows students to improve in their learning through on line competitions. At the same time, Universities and companies looking for talent could also benefit becoming the paying customers.

We best prize for our winners was the resources and support provided by organizers and one mentor to start their company. Competis team expects to have their product in market by the beginning of 2015.

However, despite significant incentives to win, I would say that the level of competition in SW Education is rather low with a strong emphasis on collaborative learning.  Perhaps the most valuable  takeaway for participants is the connections they form with each other. More than one noted that they were very happy to see that there is a real community of education entrepreneurs and people interested in education innovation in Madrid.

I like to think that that SW events help people realize their passions and interests or gives them the confirmation they needed that they can pursue them – it’s what sets SWEDU apart from a typical hackathon or business competition.  It’s the reason organizers and facilitators volunteer their time…they want to spread the magic!

I want to end with a big thank you to the organizing team, coaches, judges, and all of our participants who spent their weekend with us…and a call to action.

I was ecstatic to hear that people want to collaborate in the next Startup Weekend Edu in Madrid and also in other places of Spain. But there are still other ways to get involved, keep this community engaged, and open it up to new folks. Edupreneurs Madrid is a very active and growing group of education innovators where we have bootcamps, meetings and discussions about the 21st century education (you can read more about it here).