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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

A Community of Half-Hunchers

By Guest Blogger — March 23, 2013 2 min read
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Note: Rick Hess is on sabbatical through May 6th. If you’re missing him, you might try to catch him while he’s out and about discussing his new book Cage-Busting Leadership (available here, e-book available here). For updates on when he might be in your neck of the woods, check here. Meantime, a tremendous lineup of guest stars has kindly agreed to step in while Rick’s gone and share their own thoughts on the opportunities, challenges, implications, and nature of cage-busting leadership.

Guest blogging this week is Matt Candler, CEO of 4.0 Schools.

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2013 is in the books. (#noew2013 for play-by-play).

Highlights of the last 24 hours:

Education Pitch 2013
Last night we hosted Education Pitch 2013, where the founders of six new ventures solving real problems presented their solutions to the rest of the 4.0 community. And to a panel of judges with $30K to spend. The winner was mSchool ($25K). Runner-up was HaystackEDU ($5K).

Solutions built by imagilabs, enriched, Overgrad, and ReadNimble made an impression, too. Many folks were stunned to find out it was the first real pitch for a few of the teams. We did no formal pitch training in our Launch program. Working on defining and solving problems is a better use of time than burnishing pitch decks. (Play-by-play for Education Pitch on #noewedu and here).

Power Pitch 2013
Unlike the Education Pitch, this was a citywide competition, and Haystack hit the podium again, sharing a win with another startup, ZLien. They won a round-trip to SF to meet with investors interested in New Orleans. Seeing an alum of 4.0 compete with other startups outside of education was encouraging.

The Big Idea Festival
For the big finale, 15 young companies competed in an amazing event where more than 1,000 New Orleanians voted (with a Harrah’s poker chip) for the company they liked the best after speed-dating with each company in an open-air festival setting. Two were led by alums of 4.0 - Andre Feigler’s enriched and Lorenzo Castillo’s Education Everytime. A third - DinnerLab - was founded by our Director of Entrepreneurial Investments, Brian Bordainick.

When the votes were tallied, two companies were tied for the win. An anonymous donor doubled the prize money and $50K and Nutrition Delivered and Education Everytime each won $50K.

Startup Weekend EDU
Early this morning a platoon of 4.0 staff and Cohort alums left for Startup Weekend EDU in San Francisco. They’re pitching potential solutions they’ve spent 3 months defining. And they’re under some serious pressure; 4.0’s have had good luck thus far at Startup Weekend.

A community of half-hunchers
The stories we’ve shared this week aren’t about 4.0 (or New Orleans) proving anything. Many of the ventures we launch will fail; some already have. I tell these stories because they help me explain our community - the community within and the community around 4.0. I haven’t used the word tech, much less ed-tech in these stories. Innovation isn’t about tech, or blended learning, or any other “silver bullet.”

Innovation is not about silver bullets. If Steven Johnson is right - and we’re betting the 4.0 farm that he is - then innovation is about places where people trust one another enough to let their own half-hunches bounce off of another’s.

We’ve got a long way to go, but when I hear the newest members of our community saying things like this, I think we’re on the right track.

Onward, but faster,

--Matt Candler

P.S. Headband pic of the week here.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.