SVA supports Sydney’s first Startup Weekend Education

Late last month Social Ventures Australia (SVA) co-sponsored Australia’s first EdTech start-up weekend. Held at Telstra’s tech accelerator muru-D, over 100 educators, tech developers, entrepreneurs, and investors joined forces for 54 hours to develop tech prototypes that address educational issues.

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with 25 individuals pitching ideas to the group. Participants in the audience then elected to join ideas to create teams, and others pitching also had the option to disregard their idea and join another. The requirements were that there needed to be at least one educator and one tech developer in the team. Eventually, the weekend was left with 10 teams.

Over Saturday and Sunday the teams worked tirelessly on building their EdTech prototypes. This culminated in a final pitch to a judging panel, which included Terry Hilsberg (EdTech VC), Annie Parker (Co-Founder of muru-D), Annabel Astbury (Head of Digital Education, ABC) and myself.

The focus points of the pitches and judging criteria included:

• Educational impact – are the EdTechs servicing high impact areas in education?

• Audience – clear about who they are servicing.

• Technical development – creating a prototype that demonstrates the usability of the product.

• Market validation – shows that this EdTech will meet a clear market need and understands the position of competitors.

• Roll-out and adoption strategy – a compelling case about how these start-ups will roll-out their product and access users.

• Business models – logical progression to lines of revenue.

There was a whole suite of EdTech ideas pitched; from apps that can assist parents with having conversations with their children about obesity, to social learning products that assist with MOOC (online courses) completion rates. However, there were two that stood out from a social impact perspective.

The first prize winners were a group called Roleplayce, which is a gamified language learning platform targeting English learners. Roleplayce are developing a highly scalable product that has the potential to improve English learning outcomes for ESL students. Roleplayce were awarded the first prize across all categories.

The second prize winners were a group called Generation Entrepreneur, founded by three 16 year-old boys from Baulkham Hills High. Generation Entrepreneur wants to improve entrepreneurial education at high schools across Australia. Over the weekend, the team developed a peer sharing website that’s designed to help organise educational meet-ups for high school students facilitated by mentors on entrepreneurship and share resources online. SVA decided to award the social impact award – a half-day workshop with SVA Consulting – to Generation Entrepreneur, which will happen later in the month.

Overall, the event was a success and it was great to be involved. I loved the energy that the diverse range of people brought to the weekend. It’s exciting to see great technical minds shifting their attention towards educational issues. The next step is directing more of these great entrepreneurial minds to educational issues in low-income communities. That’s where the greatest needs and challenges remain.