Silicon NorthstarsSeptember 1, 2017
By Jeff Wagner, Group Interactive Director
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being a panel judge for the Silicon Northstars.
The goal of Silicon Northstars is to inspire and educate young Minnesotans to become future leaders in technology. The organization focuses on equipping a select group of high-potential, rising ninth graders from underserved communities in Minnesota with the inspiration and community they need to pursue careers in technology.
These young kids get the opportunity to travel to Silicon Valley and meet with some of the most innovative people and companies in the digital industry. Those companies include Facebook, YouTube, Google, Andreessen Horowitz, Lyft, Indiegogo, Galvanize SF, Intuit, Stanford University, Singularity University, TaskRabbit and the Target Innovation Center.
When visiting these companies, the students learn about how to take an idea and start to make it a real viable product or service. Their ideas were focused on finding innovative ways to tackle the challenges faced by immigrants in this country today.
The students were divided into teams and each team would present their ideas to a panel of judges. Each team would explain how their product idea would come to life and how it would improve the lives of immigrants. Most presentations gave an intro of the team members, an overview of their idea, the research that they did, any concepting that was done (wireframing and or designs) and what next steps would look like.
The judges (three of us: Maya Page, Anton Vincent and myself) would get an opportunity to ask the teams some questions about their ideas and the team members would give us their best feedback. They did such a great job of providing clear and very creative answers to what I felt were, at times, difficult questions.
Most teams pitched ideas around apps and virtual reality solutions, and to be honest I was extremely impressed with the creative thinking they showed and could see a couple of those ideas coming to market. Once all the teams got their chance to present, the judges took fifteen minutes to deliberate and pick what we thought was the best idea. We came back and highlighted what we felt the best points from each of the teams and in the end picked an overall winner.
The judges picked team “Cultural Realities” as the winning startup of our Silicon Northstars 2017 MN Demo Day! In the end all of these kids won. The opportunity they received to travel to the West Coast, meet with seriously influential innovators and learn about what it takes to bring an idea to life. These are life-changing skills and experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I was so incredibly honored to have helped, what was only a fraction compared to many others within the organization, with giving these students this amazing opportunity.
Silicon Northstars is always in need of donations and community support, so if you have the means to help young kids have the opportunity to learn about how digital innovation can help change lives, please do what you can and give.
Here is a link to the photo gallery from the event if you’d like to see more.