Startup Weekend EDU Heads to Charlottesville

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Who knew that picturesque Charlottesville, VA, could be a hotbed for innovation in education? Well, apparently the organizers, sponsors and participants of the Startup Weekend Education Charlottesville this past weekend did. There have been several Startup Weekend events in Charlottesville before, but this was the first focused on education.

This event brought together almost 40 participants, representing an equal balance of educators (researchers and practicing teachers), developers, designers, and University of Virginia business students, most of whom met for the first time at the event. The impressive team of mentors and organizers represented University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, education technologists, the business community, local government, angel investors and the local school district--all focused on building education solutions over the course of 54 hours.

Charlottesville's Edupreneurs

Charlottesville may be a small town, but it’s got a big heart for education innovation. Here are some of the fine Virginians leading the charge to create a budding community of edupreneurs:

Letitia Green, MBA, M.Ed,  shared why she organized this event: “As an angel investor, I see VC funds investing in edtech, especially as the Common Core State Standards make solutions more viable across states. With a major education policy think tank like University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, Charlottesville is ideal for developing innovative education companies. The structure of a Startup Weekend EDU provided the perfect opportunity to bring the community together around education solutions.”

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, led by Dean Robert Pianta, Ph.D, provides active support for education innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, several education companies including CaseNex, another sponsor of this event, were founded within the university, a model more universities should explore.  The Curry School of Education Foundation is currently raising funds for an Innovation Incubator to continue to support the development of education solutions, so look for future announcements.  

Startup Weekend EDU Charlottesville also appreciated significant support by the local school system, Albemarle Public Schools, led by innovator Superintendent Dr. Pam Moran, who spent several hours with the teams and attended the final presentations. (Check out her blog.) Chad Ratliff, Assistant Director of Instructional Programs, also generously spent his weekend mentoring the teams. Budding education startups rarely have such unfettered access to a superintendent and district leaders.

The winning team, SpedPort, helps teachers document the progress of special education students more effectively and efficiently through an online portfolio. (Check out SPEDPort founder, Patricia Walker, on the local news!) The other four final teams focused on improving the STEM pipeline for girls (Tech Girls), using eye tracking technology to diagnose early reading problems (EyeKey), developing a platform to search for science experiments (All Experiments) and ways to support informal community learning (UpEd).

How can folks in Charlottesville continue to learn how to build an education company after this weekend? Sign up for the Startup Digest Charlottesville to find out about upcoming events including the next Charlottesville cohort of the newly launched Startup Weekend NEXT program.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing more education companies coming out of Charlottesville! Not near Charlottesville? Look for a Startup Weekend Education event near you.

Katrina Stevens served as the Startup Weekened EDU facilitator.

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