Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton
A virtual learning environment and an app for connecting politicians to constituents; these are just two of the ideas from Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton. 45 youth, teachers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs spent the weekend of March 6 and 7 pitching and developing their business ideas with a focus on education in the hope of winning the top prize. The NAIT sponsored event started with 10 pitches ranging from content curation to collaboration software. Four were selected, and teams were formed to develop the ideas. Each team made a five minute pitch to judges including entrepreneurs, CEOs and educators.
Priya Shukle, an 11-year-old from Edmonton, had the idea for a virtual learning environment. It is a game which allows players to guide a historical figure and then compare their actions in the game to the actions of that figure in reality.
The application connecting constituents to political representatives was developed by Jeffery Gossain, a 27-year-old engineer originally from Lebanon. The app, called Crystal Politics, won him the grand prize; a startup toolkit with books from successful entrepreneurs such as Pixar’s John Lasseter, and gift cards to help him on his way.
We had the opportunity to speak to both Priya and Jeff about their experiences participating in Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton.
How did you get involved with Start-up Weekend? Did you immediately have an idea in mind?
My mom's boss was a mentor for the event, and he recommended it to me. It was two days before the event when I knew I could join. My family got together one night and talked about ideas. Then it sort of just came to me.
What was your idea?
It’s a virtual historic game. You can go into the game and play in history. You choose a historical figure and go through the game and solve challenges. As you go along you get quizzed to see what you have learned. At the end you get a side-by-side list of what you did compared to what the person did in real life.
What would you suggest for anyone who wants to get involved in this sort of event?
Just go for it and try it out.
How did you get involved in Startup Weekend?
I was looking at start-up weekends around the world to see where I could attend one. I noticed this one and when I signed up for it I didn’t know it was for education but that ended up working out for us.
Can you describe what you startup pitch was?
It’s called Crystal Politics. It’s an app designed to promote two way communication between government and its citizens. It allows for constituents to add issues to the platform and it’s organized by region so an MLA, Councillor or MP could look at it organized in that fashion. People vote up or vote down issues allowing the MLA to see the issues most relevant to their region.
What inspired you to come up with that idea?
I was driving back from the gym with my brother, the co-founder of my team, and we were talking about snow removal in Edmonton. We thought they wasted a lot of money on it, and that kind of thing and the idea kind of steeped in my head. I thought there should be an app for that; allowing people to actually voice their opinions. Right now the only people voicing their opinions directly to politicians are people who are very involved in politics. The average person won’t do it so some issues are hidden. I found that when debating political issues with colleagues and family, they were bringing up good points but none of it was being shared with anyone.
Do you plan to move forward in developing your app?
Absolutely. We got some great insights regarding the product. People brought up some valid concerns that we can consider going forward. We got the confidence we need from the judges and other participants to proceed with the idea. We even had an MP retweet that we won, so there is some interest and we want to go ahead and develop it.
What would you suggest for anyone who wants to get involved in a similar event.
Take the leap of faith and try it. We were very reluctant to enter and didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if our idea would be good, but you’d be surprised how you can validate your idea by talking to people about it and they gave you very good feedback. Go do it, and have fun and you’ll learn so much.