Last weekend was an amazing experience: Startup Weekend Columbus. You've heard of them, maybe even heard of the Startup Bus. A hundred-some strangers get together Friday night, pitch a bunch of ideas, choose some, and then for the next 54 hours work them into reality.
I did pitch an idea--national support for credit flex--but bombed the pitch entirely. Somehow made it out to be about dropouts. (Which it is for me, but that's entirely beside the point). A winning idea got 12 votes; my pitch got one--mine.
The team I ended up on was an amazing piece of serendipity. Actually, it's rather unbelievable. It was a team to address childhood literacy, and in a way that makes much more sense than most. it was a team to get kids to challenge each other to read books.
covered the weekend. I'm in that lonngg line waiting to pitch. Maybe one of the other teams will make it rich and I'll be sorry that serendipity intervened.
For now, though, I'm just amazed. Amazed because 3rd grade literacy has become for me the second pillar of breaking the back of the dropout crisis. (Well, school-wise, the first pillar). Myself I've long been focused on compelling Middle School and High school content as critical to keeping students in. But if they can't read, or if they read poorly, all the videos, games, and interactives in the world won't help them to make the transition from student to fully-engaged adult.
I've just recently come to see how that is the central issue of K-6 education, and to stumble upon an amazing visionary leader with a great idea for taking this on, well...how many such events could I have gone to never expecting the complimentary vision to mine?!!
A word about the serendipity of the rest of the team, too. Again, you could go to a hundred such events aiming to target K-6 children...and you might get the software and the business plan. If you were really lucky, you might get a few sketches out of the event. Our intrepid leader actually found a passionate drawer of children's characters and scenes! How fortuitous is that?! And one with the professional time to pull it off. What an astounding stroke of luck.
About the team leader, the visionary who saw this solution. She's an elementary principal. She sees this as something totally missing from the set of tools out there. She came prepared--lots of research. And on Saturday she charged out into the community to ask them, to get their take.
Not one in a hundred teachers would have the desire and guts to venture into a high-speed startup event; far fewer commit to an entire weekend with pitch-men, hackers, and designers. And for one with the responsibilities of principal-ship on her shoulders as well,...rather gutsy and tenacious.
You'll almost certainly see this project launch, and I believe you'll see it thriving with a child near you. And I believe it will be one of those rare education apps that really does change the world.
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