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The Startup Experience Comes to O’Dowd

Bishop O’Dowd High School hosted an intensive two-day workshop – the Startup Experience – on February 10-11 geared for future entrepreneurs and social innovators.

About 60 O’Dowd students, joined by a group from St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School, were challenged to work in small groups as startup teams and, in the process, learned about problem identification, user analysis, new tech trends, design thinking, business model innovation, customer development, fundraising and professional pitching.

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The workshop was led by Danish serial entrepreneur Henrik Scheel, the founder and CEO of the Startup Experience.

“The students in this two-day event  developed new and enhanced understanding of their own talents, a much more sophisticated understanding of the entrepreneurial process and business, and a new appreciation of the advantages of team work and listening to others,” O’Dowd President and Entrepreneurial Club Moderator Steve Phelps said.

Students were randomly grouped into small teams for the duration of the Startup Experience – from brainstorming to pitching.

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“Some students arrived with an idea in mind and a vision for how the program would be, other students arrived with no experience or idea of what the two days would hold. All students quickly learned that this was a journey they would all take together regardless of any previous entrepreneurial background or exposure,” Career Partnerships Program Coordinator Meghan Bailey Wallingford ’89 said.

Andre Ward ’19 hopes to one day create a company that positively impacts others, and looked to the Startup Experience to gain insight on entrepreneurship.

It was a great experience, he said, in that he learned the various steps of building a company from scratch – from defining a problem, to creating ideas to solve the problem, to validating assumptions with potential users, to building a business model and finally pitching.

“The most useful thing I learned in the Startup Experience was the value of teamwork,” he said. “If my team hadn’t been on the same page throughout the experience, we would have failed.”

Added Ward, “One thing I did not expect from the Startup Experience was the awesome feedback we got – both from the other student groups and parent volunteers – that made our group better.”

Emmanuel Abeye ’18 was blown away by Scheel’s relentless energy, and openness to sharing his learning experiences. “The most useful thing I learned in the Startup Experience was how to be an effective leader,” he said.

Maya Jenkins ’18 said she learned that while one person can sometimes get a project done independently, “working together as a team made the workload both fun and manageable.”

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Adult volunteers who participated as mentors included O’Dowd parents Jennifer Bunkers (CEO of TruKid), Susan Huaco, Jamie Keating (President of Trailhead Ventures, LLC), Michael Liquori (entrepreneur coach and founder and COO of The Concepts Foundry), Peter Loukianoff (founder, seed investor of Silicon Valley Data Science), alum James Cunningham ’09, St. Ignatius science teacher and STEM Club moderator Jeff Noblejas, and O’Dowd Main Office Assistant/Executive Assistant to the President Darling Vinavong.

The jury panel at the conclusion of the event included O’Dowd parents Tim Choate and Matt Murphy and alums Rico Mok ’11 and Stakeem Young ’09.

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