Winning Minds goes to Startup Weekend EDU Dublin #SWEDUdub

The Background

Something incredible happened last weekend.

I went along to Startup Weekend EDU Dublin – with no clue what would happen.

It was an event where people  pitch an idea in the hope it will be selected – and they will spend the weekend developing it into a business.

The theme for the weekend was edtech; in other words, your idea had to relate to education and include a technology solution.

I knew an event like this would take me out of my comfort zone – and I would meet great people – and boy was I right on both fronts.

Events like this are alien to me and tech is far from my skillset. But I had a hypothesis – and a burning desire to test it.

I was accompanied by my 16-year-old niece Emer O Brien who has been helping me with the Winning Minds Movement since day one (as has her sister Orla).

emer o brien image

Emer is at an exciting crossroads in her education and I was hoping she would benefit from the experience.

But crucially, Startup Weekend would me gave me a chance to test the hypothesis I’ve have had for many years – and one that is close to my heart.

My hypothesis is this:

There is a lack of  mind education  for young people.

The type of education that will provide mind skills – and  help them achieve and cope in school.

It’s an idea that stems from my own experience and the mistakes I made in my early years. I didn’t have the mental skills to cope – or make the right decisions. I believe if I had these mind skills  –  things would have turned out differently for me.

But my idea had a twist. I knew it had to be different in order to get attention. So I use’d a tennis ball and stickle backs to explain how it works. Enter GetMO.

GetMO is an acronym for Get the Mind Onside. And MO – is an onscreen character who will provide visual, engaging and interactive education on the mind. ( I would use the tennis ball as a prop)

Meet MO

The idea was that MO would show young people how their mind works, and show them how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.

The Weekend

So heres what happened at Start Up Weekend Education Dublin 2017.

The event was hosted in the Udemy premises on Grand Canal Dock Dublin.

Not alone did Udemy provide this state of the art work space, they also gave us a gift of staff member Yvonne Jacob – Employee Success & Office Coordinator @ Udemy. Yvonne ensured the smooth running of operations over the weekend and was always on hand when help was needed. A model ambassador for Udemy.

The event was a sellout, with 60 people in attendance… and a multi talented audience of tech, business and creative skills.

Pitching-to-judges image

The Friday evening was lent over to networking and pitching of ideas. Twenty-one ideas were pitched with eight to be selected – it was a nerve racking experience. It never occurred to me I would be pitching against people who build rockets and my idea was a tennis ball stuffed in my pocket.

But to my delight – GetMO got top votes – and made his debut in the world of start ups.

Seven other ideas were selected and we were allocated a team of 4 members from the audience.

The next step was to develop our ideas over the weekend and prepare for final pitches to the judges on Sunday evening.

I got a brief chance to network with my team before leaving at 11 pm Friday night – and skipped happily into the night with my companion Emer.

Getmo team image

And so the journey began.

Startup weekend is not for the faint hearted and work began at 8.30am on Saturday morning.

I arrived at Udemy feeling elated and ready to work with my team.

And then it all went pear shaped.

Never before have I experienced such a roller coaster of emotions as the day progressed. It went from a state of sublime happiness to one of complete dejection.

My idea was chopped, bashed, torn to shreds and built back up again.  Mentors challenged us to rethink the idea several times and at one stage MO (tennis ball) got kicked across the room.

Several times I thought about heading to the nearest watering hole and cursing the day I came across Startup weekend.

But I didn’t.

And now I am glad.

The experience turned into what can only be described as spectacularly invaluable.

It was like cramming a degree course into a weekend. The lessons learned were many: from business to tech, design, team work, emotional intelligence, psychology, building a business and pitching, all rolled into one .

Not to say anything about the incredible people I got to meet.

But heres the kicker: the organizers, mentors, judges and speakers turned out to be some of the most intelligent, experienced and friendly people I have ever met.

It was an experience that will stay with me forever.

And to top it all… GetMO won second place at the final pitches on Suday evening.

Amazing what a  tennis ball and some passion can achieve.

Thanks a million to everyone for an inspirational weekend – including:

My Niece Emer, who helped me break the ice and introduce MO to the startup stage.

emer o brien image 

My four team mates Grainne, Niall, Sebastio and George  who endured the roller coaster ride that was GetMO (I’m sure they’ll never want to hear his name again).

Getmo team image

The Organising team

David Pollard organising team image





David Pollard (chief organiser): A true gent and a wealth of knowledge who kept the show running with boundless energy and a calming approach like I have never seen before. .

Hui Chi Man: A massive thanks to HuiChi who juggled her many staffing duties with helping us put together our final slide deck in world record time. What a woman…. 

Katalina Aguilar image

Katalina Aguilar…  

Allen Thomas Varghese image

Allen Thomas Varghese…  

Rachel Fay image

Rachel Fay…  

Karla Araque…  

Galina Rakanova image

Galina Rakanova: Thanks a million to Galina for her creative input in the final hours of preparing our slides. Another genius. 


The Speakers

 Clair Hough Udemy image

Claire Hough – SVP of Engineering @ Udemy

The courtsey shown by Claire and Udemy will stick with me forever. And I promise to introduce many people to the Udemy products.

Pitch Coach Catherine Moonan image

Catherine Moonan – Pitch Coach @ The Dragon’s Den…  

Catherine gave a stunning presentation on……how to make a presentation. And she definitely walks the walk. But her passion and support for the GetMO concept shone through when she mentored our team on pitching. She was inspirational at the start of the day – when inspiration was needed. I hope to meet her again some day and if you want to master the art of pitching, look no further than her book the Pitch Coach. Link’s Below


Roger Osorio – Entrepreneurship Program Leader @ IBM…  

And for me, the star of the show – Roger Osario.

What can I say about Roger. Well first of all I can confidently say I have been in the presence of one of the most gifted and passionate speakers I have ever witnessed.

But more importantly, he’s one of the most helpful guys I have ever met.

And heres why:

On Sunday afternoon while under incredible pressure preparing staff and teams for the final pitches, Roger took 2 hours of his time to mentor my niece Emer, and provide her with guidance for her educational journey.

The guy is a true scholar & gent and will never be forgotten in the O’Kelly and O’Brien households.

(PS – Maybe GetMO will make an appearance in the big apple soon……)

The Mentors

I would love to comment on all the mentors who helped us – but much of the weekend is a blur. However – I do remember some..

Seamus Mathews Mentor image

Seamus Matthews
CEO & Founder @ PennyOwl…  

Seamus came into our group in the midst of a maelstrom when tensions were running high. And boy did he help. Some solid advice got us back on track and then he was gone.

Emer Thornby Mentor image

Emer Thornby
Computing Support Tutor @ National College of Ireland

Thanks to Emer who also spent some time talking with my niece Emer and showed great interest in her career

Mentor Jennifer Kelly image

Jennifer Kelly – STEM Educator…  

Jennifer spent a lot of time with our team and showed great enthusiasim for our idea. Her knowledge as an educator was invaluable and her validation of the idea was very motivational at a time when enregies were flagging. I hope we meet in the future when GetMO has matured into a solid offering

Tom Pollock Mentor image

Tom Pollock
Commercial Development Manager @ Learnovate

Tom was another rock of sense – and to listen to someone of his stature was something to be treasured. He combined family duties with mentoring and I do hope he got his daughter to rowing practice on time 🙂

Dr Ioana Ghergulescu Mentor image

Dr. Ioana Ghergulescu – Head of Research and Adaptive Learning @ Adaptemy

Dr Ionana was another great thinker who helped us see through the mist. Her expertise in innovative learning provided guidance on shaping our vision on what the finished product should look like.

Event Staff

Yvonne Jacob image

Yvonne Jacob…  
Employee Success & Office Coordinator @ Udemy

Angelia Yingge Xu

Angelia Yingge Xu…  
Co-founder @ Creative Engagers Dublin

Raisa Pokrovskaya image

Raisa Pokrovskaya

Ruchi Palan image

Ruchi Palan

Gar Mac Críosta image

Gar Mac Críosta: Gar got the energy flowing and will be remembered as the master of the Icelandic clap and the tin foil guru. Infectious  energy and another great addition to startup weekend

David Winn image

David Winn

Tamara Stone image

Tamara Stone

Event Judges

The event judges were an incredible group of professional people who gave up their time on a Sunday evening to provide expert advice. Thanks so much to you all for the great feedback and watch this space for GetMO V2.

Sarita Johnston image

Sarita Johnston…  
Female Entrepreneurship Manager @ Enterprise Ireland

David Scanlon image

David Scanlon… 
Venture Investment Lead @ NDRC

Liz McCarthy image

Liz McCarthy…  
Strategic Projects @ Dogpatch Labs

Martyn Farrows image

Martyn Farrows…  
Head of Digital Strategy @ CJ Fallons

Gene Murphy image

Gene Murphy…  
Entrepreneur in Residence @ Bank of Ireland

(PS If banking wants to reinvent itself – then this guy has got to be at the forefront. Gene is everything you never imagined of a banker and great craic to boot. I hope to meet him again someday when MO has matured and we are ready to make a difference in the lives of young people.

And of course, the sponsors, who without them none of it would have been  possible. Thanks a million to: Bank of Ireland, Udemy, Versari, IBM, Learning Tech Labs, Local Enterprise Office, Creative Tim, and UXDX.

An incredible weekend. Thanks to everyone and hope to see you all again soon

Got the T-shirt – Got the cert – GotMO

Derek O Kelly – Founder – Winning Minds movement

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