A day full of teaching and learning

I love days that are full of both teaching and learning, and Wednesday was one of those days. Here’s how my day went and what went down.

A morning of teaching – Startup Weekend Bootcamp at Inter-American Development Bank

On Wednesday morning, I helped run a Startup Weekend pitch bootcamp for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The IDB is preparing for their own corporate Startup Weekend in a couple of weeks to spark innovation throughout the company, so we held this bootcamp to help employees understand how to convey the key elements of their idea in a one-minute elevator pitch.

During the pitch exercise, the employees had to break up into teams of 4-5 members and were assigned a specific industry and customer segment (one of my favorite combinations was “toys” and “Angry Chileans”). The teams then had to come up with:

  • A problem that these customers may have that has to do with the specific industry
  • How large the target market is
  • A solution to the problem
  • Why the solution is different than what currently exists
  • Why they are the team to build that can succeed

They only had seven minutes to develop all of the above, and then only one minute to clearly pitch the idea to the crowd. Feedback was provided for each pitch, and the teams repeated the process twice more to hone their skills.

Creating a one-minute elevator pitch is not an easy thing for anyone to learn, let alone a group of employees who are trained to deeply think through solutions and provide in-depth research and statistics about why their project may be a good one.

But the IDB staff did an amazing job of getting out of their comfort zone during the exercise and were really receptive to the feedback given. I can’t wait to see how they apply what they learned at bootcamp to the full Startup Weekend!

An afternoon of learning – Washington Ideas Forum

The Atlantic held the Washington Ideas Forum here in DC this week. While I was only able to attend the latter half of Wednesday’s programming, the amount of amazing speakers they crammed into a short amount of time was astounding, and I learned a ton in just a few hours.

Here is a quick rundown of the speakers I saw and short takeaways from each session:

Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of J. Craig Venter Institute

He’s doing some ridiculous stuff in biology and genomics, including producing bacteria that can make medicine and create clean fuels. What what what?

T. Boone Pickens, BP Capital Management Chairman

The energy magnate believes that natural gas will separate us from our reliance on OPEC, which is a great thing for this country.

Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard

Mike believes that we’re just getting started with the curated web and that Flipboard will be the leader in delivering the best curated content.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, and Jim McKelvey, Co-founder of Square

Anant and Jim were interviewed together and highlighted how education is undergoing transformative change. Anant highlighted how online education is disrupting higher ed, and Jim focused on giving students specific skills, like computer science, that lead directly to jobs.

David Skorton, Incoming Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution

David highlighted how the Smithsonian is all about giving people access to its high-quality programming, both physically in Washington DC and digitally through the web and apps. That will continue when he takes over.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and DEKA Research and Development Corporation Founder

Dean believes that kids think science and technology isn’t fun, so he created First to combine the competition and entertainment aspects of sports with the subject matter of engineering and science to get more kids interested.

Dean also created a fully controllable and life-like prosthetic in just two years. He’s working on other amazing energy and clean water projects. The guy is just an inventor through and through.

Peter Thiel, Founder of PayPal and Palantir

This is the second time I’ve seen him speak and it’s more and more evident that he hates incremental change and wants people to work on big ideas, like underwater cities. Also, he very much questions higher education and compares exclusive universities to nightclubs – they’re expensive to attend, are all about status, and there’s long line of people who want to get in – and these schools want it this way.

Steve Crocker, Shinkuro, Inc. CEO and Co-Founder and Steve Case, Revolution Founder and Partner

Both Steves were interviewed by the great Walter Isaacson. Steve Crocker basically invented the Internet and told the really interesting story about how it came together. We owe a lot to that guy.

Steve Case talked about the third wave of the Internet will be incorporating the web into all aspects of our lives – transportation, healthcare and the Internet of Things at home. He also highlighted his “Rise of the Rest” initiative that aims to facilitate entrepreneurship anywhere in the country, not just Silicon Valley, NYC, and Boston.

Wednesday was a jam-packed day for me. But it felt great knowing that I helped the employees at IDB think differently and that I learned from many others who think differently as well.

Image courtesy of Defense.gov

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