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Shooting Stars Foundation Bets on Teens for Next Generation Startup Entrepreneurship

Shooting Stars Foundation​, a non-profit organization focused on empowering youths through education, conducted its Youth Entrepreneur Camp​ in Silicon Valley in early January. A group of 30 students from various local high schools participated in the three-day camp, resulting in six teams delivering 15-minute startup pitches and Q&A, in front of a panel of professional judges and parents.

“This camp gave an opportunity to students to think and build on topics that otherwise is rare as well as to learn from the leaders,” said Sachendra Shetty, a parent and Senior Network Engineer and Tech lead at Google Inc. “Altogether, this is the best way to kindle the idea of entrepreneurship in these young minds early on.”

The three-day camp was held at ServiceNow, Santa Clara, and included on-site visits to local high-tech companies, Google and NetScout. The camp was organized by two upper class high school students who are alumni of earlier NYC, under the guidance and supervision of Foundation staff. Both the youth organizers — Arvind Jayaraman, an 11th grader at Mission San Jose High School, and Anirudh Ramasubramanian, also an 11th grader at Irvington High School — gained real-world leadership experience, which is critical for entrepreneurs as well as advantageous for highly competitive college admissions.

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Seven business leaders spoke on different aspects of entrepreneurship and on creating and nurturing startup businesses. These presentations helped the student campers get a real-world view of how ideations turn into profitable business outcomes and what it takes to run a successful organization.

Thirty student campers, ages 12 to 15, were then grouped into six “founding” teams. Each student “founder” was encouraged to come up with a business or a product idea before coming to the camp. The founding teams learned to collaborate with peers during the ideation process — they debated each other’s ideas, brainstormed new ideas and arrived at a team consensus. Then each team began to form their startup plan. Both the youth organizers and Foundation supervisors provided one-on-one assistance to startup teams, providing further insight and guidance to get to the presentation stage.

On the third day, the teams built their presentations which included: startup name and brand, its team and mission, the problem statement and proposed solution, market size, pricing and packaging, go to market options and competition. Their presentations were built leveraging materials from the professional speakers, hands on workshops, as well as the company tours they had taken. Finally, each team pitched their startup idea and business plan to a panel of three judges as well as the parents.

Awards were given under the categories of Best Pitch, Best Innovative Idea and Best Business Plan.

Startup ideas included Tutor.Ly, an app that could connect tutors with tutees; Marine Protect, robots that could help cleanup oil spills; featherweight, an eco-friendly backpack made from reusable material, and more.

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