On Friday Oct. 16, over 120 students, from 15 different schools, began a 31-hour entrepreneurial work weekend, after which each team presented a product and a pitch to a panel of judges. This event was the third iteration of Startup Camp, an introduction to entrepreneurship based at the Catlin Gabel School.
With the help of many mentors, newcomers and veterans of Startup Camp teamed up to create a full-fledged or mock-up product, a tri-fold poster, and a presentation, all in time for the 5:00 tradeshow, 6:00 presentation and Q&A on Sunday.
The winning team would have to meet a number of qualifying criteria. They needed a diverse group across grade levels, genders, different schools, and skills; a clear, captivating, and confident presentation; a sufficient amount of customer validation that influenced or confirmed product development; a revenue model that considered competition, cost, and a marketing plan; and a functional or mock-up product.
The five winning companies this year included Clear Park, Peer (peer-to-peer tutoring), Macamilk (milk from macadamia nuts), GeoCheckin (automated medical appointment check in), and Cardea (new vital-monitoring tool). Each of these groups were awarded a different entrepreneurial opportunity that will allow them to learn how to improve and further their companies moving out of Startup Camp.
The members of Clear Park, the overall winners of the weekend, will travel to a technology-oriented venture-capitalist firm, Rothenberg Ventures, in Silicon Valley, exercising their new opportunities. Clear Park created a prototype of an app that will allow its users to find garages or rentable driveways to park in.
The panel of judges consisted of Michael Gray, the co-founder of GlobeSherpa, Lisa Herlinger, the founder of Ruby Jewel, and Lynn Le, the founder of Society Nine. Gray was impressed by all of the presentations, stating, “The level of public speaking and poise exhibited by the team was really astounding. It is one thing to get up and speak about something that you’re wholly confident in, and it is another thing to have this idea that you pulled together in 36 hours and stand up, and sell it to other people.”
Throughout the weekend, campers listened to numerous speaker presentations, as they have been in past years. The first speaker was Anarghya Vardhana, an investor at Rothenberg Ventures. Part of her job is to listen to a pitch and decide whether or not to help fund that startup, thus making her an excellent entrepreneurial guide for the students. She discussed the importance of developing a good team dynamic, becoming comfortable with failure, and asking for help, among many other topics.
Unlike in past years, there were fewer clinics explaining the general gist of how building a startup works, since many veteran campers returned. Meredith Goddard, an Upper School Social Studies teacher at Catlin Gabel School, and one of the organizers of Startup Camp, spoke to CatlinSpeak about both the positives and negatives of having many entrepreneurially experienced participants attend again.
She expressed that because “there were many more repeaters this year,” they could be mentors for their own team. Returning students helped to fill in the knowledge gaps of their team members, leading to an increase in peer-to-peer teaching unseen in past years.
Conversely, Goddard stated, “at the same time, I think [having returning students] limits the impact of the event because we are not reaching as many students as we did before.”
Goddard has been discussing this problem, and came up with one possible idea for next year. She decided that priority will be given to students who haven’t had this experience yet: “for registration next year, we probably won’t do first come, first serve, but perhaps we will have allotments per school, and then maybe a student will have to apply and be selected based on an application. But I do not know what we’re going to do.”
Goddard reflected on this year’s Startup Camp and thought of ways to improve the variety and number of students that it impacts, stating: “Startup Camp is a really exhausting weekend, and it is not for everyone and you can’t do something like that more than once a year because it is so exhausting. So I am wondering, what are smaller offshoots of Startup Camp that can be really impactful?”
She is beginning to think of some possible solutions, but nothing has been decided as of yet: “Maybe there could be a themed day [in addition to Startup Camp], where lots of innovators in the nonprofit world are brought in, and students engage with those innovators and leaders, ask questions, and for a portion of it do a mini ideation session with those innovators.”
Moving forward, Goddard and other organizers are discussing new ways to make Startup Camp more impactful for students throughout Portland.