Over 54 hours between 24 to 26 April, more than 750 participants came together virtually to pitch their ideas, form teams, develop their prototypes, and receive guidance from startup mentors. All this without anyone leaving their homes, as participants, mentors, judges, and even the organisers powered through the entire event and connected with one another online!
Startup Weekend Singapore (SWSG) 2020 was brought from conceptualisation to kickoff in just 16 days, by a passionate group of 13 of us who had been running the hackathon annually to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in Singapore and beyond. This 2020 edition was put together to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for ideas that would shape a post-pandemic world. This was part of a global effort by Techstars and over 500 fellow Startup Weekend community leaders from around the world, where we hosted 55 Startup Weekends in the month of April with a total of 16,861 attendees!
Innovation is ever more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Singaporeans practicing social distancing during this period and grappling to deal with the challenges from the pandemic, the need to innovate and create solutions for ourselves has risen high on priority. We knew life as we know it has changed, and even after the pandemic passes, most of us will now be ready to cope with the new normal. And so, despite all of us working from home and in the midst of us adjusting to circuit breaker life, we decided to put together a virtual hackathon to invite others to join our fight from home and help #save2020.
The goal? To galvanise everyday citizens to ideate around the present and future challenges that people, communities, and businesses around the world are facing due to the pandemic, and design solutions that will shape the next decade.
And galvanised we did. In just 16 days, over 750 participants from 43 countries signed up to play their part. Partners from Microsoft, DBS Foundation, NUS Enterprise, and many more chipped in to help and support in whatever way they could. Many industry leaders such as Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of Banyan Tree, and David Cohen, CEO of Techstars, gave their time to work with our participants, mentor them, and shared their insights and thoughts on opportunities and gaps in a post-pandemic future. We are thankful for the amazing outpouring of support from our friends in the ecosystem and proud of how our people can come together so quickly to get things off the ground.
As our opening speaker Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan noted when he spoke to our participants during our kickoff, the crisis is not a problem that the government alone can solve, and it requires the whole of society to get involved.
“It’s not just the government, not just the private sector, not just the big companies or the internet giants but everyone with an idea, with a good heart, with the energy and the dedication, can make a difference.”
50 amazing ideas were worked on throughout the weekend, and participants made do with brainstorming virtually, iffy internet connections at times, and in some cases, even working across time zones as they tried their best to build their prototypes and pitch decks in time for final pitches. Ideas in education were a big trend, as was healthcare, and the future of work. But closest to heart were impact-driven ideas that focused on communities that were struggling especially during this period, including the migrant workers, senior citizens, F&B owners, and charities and their beneficiaries who are likely to see a decrease in charitable gifting this year.
When it came down to final pitches, we held our breath as our seven amazing judges dialed into our Zoom room and prayed hard that the pitches would proceed smoothly. Save for one team who forgot to switch on their mics when it came to their turn to pitch, the rest of the evening went on without a hitch for us and 2500 of you who tuned in to watch.
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