My experiments with SW EDU by Namita Dalmia


I was introduced to SW EDU San Francisco by Peter Ehrlich, who I would describe as a smart, passionate and self-taught developer. Peter had been looking to work on cool ideas and find teammates who would complement his skills well. So was I, I thought. As he described why he thought the upcoming event would be awesome to me over a coffee conversation, I was almost convinced to participate myself. After doing a little bit of research online, there was no doubt if I wanted to immerse myself in the energy of those who cared enough about changing the world (or their own lives!) to spend their entire weekend doing something about it.

Trained as an Engineer, I ventured into education sector in India for two years, prior to traveling to west to do my MBA. My meeting with Peter was opportune as at that time, I was learning about education sector in US. Quite honestly, I was not necessarily looking at starting my own venture coming out of the weekend. However, I certainly wanted to learn the latest happening in the sector, meet awesome people and work on a cool idea over the course of the weekend.

20 minutes before I reached the venue on Friday evening, I came up with a half-baked idea to pitch. Even though not everyone is required to pitch one, I still decided to pitch my semi idea to go through the entire experience. With the quality of ideas in the room, my idea did not get much attention but I think it was still worth to share my passion with everyone in the one min that was allowed. Even with organizers doing a great job on timing the pitches, it took over an hour to absorb the enthusiasm of all attendees. As we went around voting on different ideas and forming respective teams, I could feel the increasing excitement within me. I had a team to work with, in the next 48 hours. My team consisted of people with various backgrounds and various level of experience with prior start up weekends. Two of 12 had attended SW events in the past and three had taken a six hour long flight from Seattle just to attend the event. I was completely awed to learn that! Well, I guess it speaks to opportunities that SW holds. It was almost midnight when I left the room excited to re-join my team early in the morning next day.

It took me a little over an hour each way to commute, and so I am pretty sure it did to many others. I found everyone there when I reached the venue on Saturday at 9 am. Grabbing some hot coffee and breakfast that was organized along with other meals, we started working from where we had left last night. Given my background, I volunteered to look at the business side while the developers coded. During the course of the day, several mentors came by and challenged us with thinking about right questions including defining our minimum viable product, conducting customer research, building business models etc. We did a few iterations and found ourselves at a better place on Sunday afternoon. We were getting ready to pitch. In between, I also got a chance to interact with other teams.

At 5 pm when we sat around to hear the pitches, it felt awesome to see how in a course of 54 hours, all the teams had made a wonderful progress from just an idea   to a  working and tested prototypes with significant business sense. It was apparent that judges found it difficult to pick up one single idea to declare a clear winner. Each judge announced their favorites before announcing the event winner.

Wow!! It was completely awesome!! As the event was wrapping up, we mingled around with each other. It being one of the best weekends for me, I felt a strong urge to stay back, and wished that the weekend was longer, that it continued.

And that’s when, I went to Farb and invited him to conduct the event in India.

-Namita Dalmia