New Mexico Hosting 3 Startup Weekends November 15th, Including Teen Albuquerque

Startup Weekend, New Mexico startup, Taylor Chavez, Teen startup weekend, Teen StartupsNew Mexico is a beautiful state. We make an annual trip out to Russell’s Truck Stop and Car Museum every January on the way to CES. It’s not a state that comes to mind when you think startup hub, but since we’re the voice of startups everywhere else, we’ve covered New Mexico quite a bit. Well they continue to find ways to cultivate their startup community.

In November New Mexico will be hosting three Startup Weekend events. Now the only other states (as far as we can tell) that have hosted three Startup Weekend’s in one month are California, Texas, and Florida. So that says a lot right there.

As the Albuquerque Business First put it, New Mexico will see 162 Startup Weekend hours in November instead of the typical 54. What’s even better is that one of the Startup Weekends is all about teenagers. To take that a step further, the new Teen Albuquerque Startup Weekend was started by a girl.

Taylor Chavez (14), attended the first Startup Weekend Mexico with her father Lawrence, who was a coach for that event. The teenager was so intrigued that when Startup Weekend rolled around to Albuquerque last June she went as a participant and joined a team called Crimson Curriculum, which she described as a STEM education tool that uses Lego’s to teach kids complex engineering concepts.

What makes this story even better is that I found that information out from Chavez’ TedX talk that she did last month called “Let Me Tell You About My Summer.” She tells the standing room only audience at TedX Albuquerque about Startup Weekend with the same excitement other girls her age would talk about seeing One Direction, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber.

After you watch her TedX video you’ll see why she was an integral part of her Startup Weekend team’s presentation, which went on to win first place.


Teenagers participating, and even winning, traditional Startup Weekends isn’t new. Back in June we brought you the story of 14 year old Nathan Eyal, who won Tampa Bay’s Startup Weekend. We’ve also told you about Las Vegas tween Ethan Duggan who launched his app at SXSW. And of course there’s the story of 14 year old Emerson Walker, who won Cincinnati’s Startup Weekend and has already received venture funding for his startup.

This time around in Albuquerque though, the event has been organized by teenagers for teenagers. We’re looking forward to hearing more about Albuquerque’s Teen Startup Weekend next month. If you’re a teenager in the area you can register here  for the event that runs November 15th- 17th. 

Farmington, New Mexico’s first Startup Weekend event is also November 15th-17th. This is the traditional tech startup focused event. You can register here.

Finally, Las Cruces Startup Weekend is also November 15-17th and if you’re close to Las Cruces you can register here.

14 Year Old Social Entrepreneur Jack Skowronnek Has Been At It 4 Years Already

Jack's Chattanoggins, Jack Skowronnek, Chattanooga startup, Thiel Fellows, GigTank

Accelerator week in Tennessee kicked off on Monday evening with a VIP reception for the GigTank accelerator and then an event called Fireside Talks, which featured members of the Thiel Fellows Program and local Chattanoogans under the age of 20 who are doing great things.

The Fireside Talk event was kicked off by serial entrepreneur, angel investor, advisor, mentor, and “Mr. Chattanooga” Stephen Culp. Culp, who speaks on entrepreneurship and is passionate about startups. wanted to be brief and insisted that the focus be on the young entrepreneurs who he said “had me questioning what I was doing at age 20”.

Before he left the stage though Culp drove home three major points:

  • everyone has entrepreneurism in them
  • entrepreneurism isn’t just for profit
  • entrepreneurs need support

The second point was manifest Monday evening when Jack Skowronnek took the stage.  This unique 14-year-old didn’t start some social mobile game, nor did he develop some kind of note taking app for school students. Rather, Skowronnek is a social entrepreneur. The best part: he’s been doing it since he was ten years old.

It was when Jack was 10 and going into the sixth grade that his elementary school teacher in Chicago recommended he read the book “Drums Girls and Dangerous Pie” by Jordan Sonnenblick. He told the standing room-only audience at the Chattanooga Theater Center that “you’d never guess what the book was about,” and of course who knew that a book with a title like that would be about a boy who shaved his head in solidarity with his brother who has cancer.

Shaving one’s head to support someone with cancer isn’t anything new. Former President George HW Bush just recently shaved his head when he found out that members of his secret service detail had shaved theirs in solidarity with one of their agents whose son Patrick has leukemia.

What’s unique about Jack is that upon completing the book he immediately told his parents that he needed (not wanted) to shave his head. After stating his case his parents allowed him to do just that. Along with shaving his head he started raising money for St.Baldrick’s, a national non profit organization that encourages people to shave their head and donate to help cancer patients. In two years Jack had raised over $5,000 for the charity.

When he moved to Chattanooga, he continued to shave his head and raise money. His story got picked up by local radio stations and Paul Smith, General Manager at the Chattanooga Market, heard about Jack and immediately contacted his mother Dawn Skowronnek. Smith wanted to host Jack’s head shaving event at the market,  a very popular destination in Chattanooga.

As the event evolved, Jack was convinced to start his own charity to help the Children’s Hospital Foundation, which would keep the proceeds at a local level and help more than 50 Chattanooga area children with cancer. Jack’s foundation was christened Jack’s Chattanoggins, incorporating Chattanooga and noggin.

Young Jack moved the audience near tears when he told the story about a girl named Kennedy who he had befriended at the hospital. Kennedy had suffered through losing a lung and a leg to cancer but remained positive and upbeat. At one point she donated $20 to Jack’s campaign, even though he found out from the girl’s mother she never parts with her money. Jack also realized the significance of his efforts when the people he was trying to help were turning around and donating as well.

Last year Kennedy passed away, which made Jack start doubting his efforts. He explained that he attended the young gir’ls wake but couldn’t bring himself to come to the funeral. Jack dedicated the most recent Jack’s Chattanoggins event to Kennedy’s honor. It was also the most successful to date.

Jack obviously has hair in the picture above. In between events he grows his hair out so it can be shaved again. At the last event even the Mayor cut a lock of Jack’s blonde hair for the cause.

Jack plans on continuing this kind of work for the rest of his life. His entire family and the city of Chattanooga back him 100%. Jack’s looking forward to starting the 9th grade on Thursday and continuing to change the world one hair at a time.


Miami Startups: Herald Announces Winners For 2012 Business Plan Competition

The Miami Herald newspaper just announced the winners of their 14th annual business plan competition contest. The contest had several tracks including a high school track and the winners came from a variety of categories. Yes you read that correctly while many cities are just now working on their inaugural business plan competitions, and others have contests less than five years old, the Miami Herald has been promoting startups through the contest for fourteen years.

All of the contestants were judged by entrepreneurial experts from the Miami area as well as successful entrepreneurs, investors, consultants and academics. The Herald also has a “People’s Pick” category that was voted on by video. The contest is sponsored by Florida International Univerity’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center.

The winner of the community track was a winery experience for cruise ships called Blend Craft Wines. Blend Craft Wines also won the “People’s Pick” category, which was the first time in the last six years that the same startup has won both categories.

A mobile couponing Android app called Geopon won the FIU track in voting. Other startups that ranked in the top included: Agape Marine Ventures, LegalFileIt, BidThatProject and WedWu.

More after the break
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