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Social Change, Social Innovation, Technology

And 54 hours later…

I came out of Startup Weekend, feeling exhausted and just slightly insane.

Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the weekend, and from the pitches, it was clear that there were quite a large number of tech genius in the crowd so I might feel a little out of place but it was all good in the end. I was hoping to hear more ideas more in the social innovation space but was slightly disappointed that most of them were only ideas that we want, not need.

@HelenWaters wrote a good short “rant” on The Missing Human Heart of Innovation, which I recommend everyone read. I could be a dick for saying this but I’d love to see more people think about humanity and how their ideas can contribute to social impact more than just “a great idea”.

Innovation for innovation sake is anything but self-indulgence. I wish that we could all start to learn from some of the most innovative companies and turn to impact and social value focused ideas more than the monetary.

Having said that, there were a number that I was really inspired by, such as:
- Pet-a-gotchi: a mobile version of tamagotchi essentially but with a marketplace so you can groom, grow and look after your pet. You can connect to other players through their geolocation tool and get your pets to play (and have sex) together. Great idea from start to finish, bringing people together face-to-face and I’ll be really interested to see what the potential is in terms of benefits to those with disabilities and those with problems socialising.
- Dine Social: We know that when great minds come together, amazing things happen and this is what we try to do here at The Hub Melbourne having a host to connect the right players at the right time. There’s many reasons to love this idea.
- VolunCheer Me: is another great idea but I just am not entirely convinced yet, although I am biased considering I am into the social space. A lot of people have tried to tackle this space and most, if not all, have failed so I am really keen to see another one coming out to take on that challenge. I just sat down with an American entrepreneur who pitched this idea to me 2 weeks ago. We also know that the traditional form of volunteering, particularly amongst young people, just doesn’t work anymore so they’d have to be really innovative in their approach.

And of course, my group’s GetClassmate:

When I joined this group, it wasn’t just for the novelty of the idea but I really have belief in Jesse’s vision and attitude. As a former teacher myself, I know very well that this is a problem, but Jesse’s story as a practising teacher make it very well.

Overall, the weekend was a great experience and it is at this point that I should say a massive thank you to airbnb for choosing me to represent them as one of their “Australia’s top entrepreneurs” at the event and putting me in one of the most beautiful and comfortable house that I’ve ever lived in. Our host, Lynn, was incredibly lovely and she made me feel very comfortable and welcomed with wine, fruits, foods, and everything I need plus many more.

Working on a venture from beginning to proof of concept in 54 hours is a massive challenge and all teams did a great job. It’s almost like working in a startup but on crack – the stress phase, the delusional phase, the silly phase, the everyone-get-serious-right-now phase, the brainstorming, the beers, the coffees, the pizzas and everything a startup is stereotypically like.

Alas, I feel like the marks were more a pitching competition than anything else. I would love to see marks being appointed to the process as well and also the product – I’m not complaining though.

The pitching was an experience in itself. Everyone had great ideas obviously, however, most of the people pitch in different ways than I would do. I usually tell people that at the end of the day, pitching is not a commercial nor a document, so what people always look for is humanity and genuineness, not an advertisement, well-rehearsed robotic speech or the technicality of your idea which they can read on paper. Give your audience an experience, and make them feel something at the end (whether inspired, motivated, enthusiastic or curious) because that leave them wanting more from you and they’d invest in you just to hear more.

I told Jesse and Treffyn that, and they both went away and whipped their magic together to come up with one of the most compelling story and presentation, that when they finished, I turned to my team and said, if I was the judge, I’d let this team win hands down – we gave them a product or concept that contributes to social value, we gave them a story to show relevance and real world problems, and we gave them statistics (linking the story to statistics is important). We also gave them an experience, when judges (or just generally our audience) give you criticisms, its very tempting and easy for us to just justify and defend and we often forget to acknowledge with even simple things like “that’s a great point” or “I’m glad you brought that up”.

Having said all that, great experience overall – my team was a dream to work with and I am so proud of everyone that was there trying to solve real world’s problems although I’d love to see more social impact focused ideas and social innovation like Classmate out of this event. If anyone’s contemplating on attending, I highly recommend it – not only for the experience, but the connection, inspirations and hands-on approach.


  • http://johnhaining.com John Haining

    Hey Ehon, great post and roundup on #swsyd.

    Love this comment: “Innovation for innovation sake is anything but self-indulgence. I wish that we could all start to learn from some of the most innovative companies and turn to impact and social value focused ideas more than the monetary.”

    It seems to me that Classmate started to deliver on that aim.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, John. Certainly when we started, our aim was to make sure we focus on “education as collaboration” and the whole idea of sharing more than our financial model and sustainability – although that was also one of our focus.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewkeast Matthew Keast

    Thanks for the comments and further reading Ehon. I’m really excited to see where we end up with Voluncheer.me. Startup weekend is the perfect platform to explore social ideas so I hope we see more of it in the future.