Exceptional Participants & Coaches, Part 1


Exceptional events like Startup Weekend, Maker Edition attract exceptionally talented people. Not only do we have a remarkable lineup of coaches, but we’ve have also seen many amazing participants sign up. We’ve interviewed several of each and share a few of those conversations here.


Kyle Kesterson, Co-founder and CEO of Freakn’ Genius


Q: What made you interested in Startup Weekend, Maker’s Edition?

A: In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to participate, coach, or facilitate Startup Weekend events that were either open with no theme, or had a specific vertical (gaming, health, education, mobile, etc). During these events, if participating, I would only get to flex my digital creation skills, or team management skills, but much of my work before startups was working with tactile mediums. Having the opportunity to combine my expertise and passion for the online and offline worlds, while collaborating with skilled engineers is a dream. There are endless opportunities to bring these talents, ideas, and mediums together to create… well, anything. There has been a gold rush to create software-only solutions, and the world is becoming entirely too stimulated with their minds, which is noisy and overwhelming and is leading to psychological, physical, and emotional disorders. We need to not neglect our tactile senses and truly interactive experiences.

Q: What is your background and what relevant experiences are you bringing with you?

A: I grew up as a carpenter’s son, building with my hands. As I started to explore my own creativity, I’ve learned to work with dozens of mediums, tools and production equipment. It doesn’t matter what the canvas is, or what the medium is, my aptitude for mixed-media is high, and can bring anything to life. I’ve worked in wood shops, large-format print shops, sign shops, art studios, ceramic studios, silkscreen printing studios, digital agencies, a toy company, and more.

Q: Are there any areas of technology, design, or business you’re particularly excited about?

A: Tech, design and business is the epitome of my startup, Freak’n Genius. It’s the combination of the three that drives us to create software and experiences that help lower the need for technical abilities to be creative. When they all come together harmoniously, they tap into our core human need to connect through humor, creativity, and fun.

Q: Do you have an idea you’d like to work on?

A: My sketchbooks are filled with ideas to work on. The hard part is choosing just one!

Q: What kinds of outcomes would you like to see from the event?

A: First and foremost I just want to have fun making things. Being in a buzzing environment of people just playing with materials is one of the most inspiring environments I can think of. I’m expecting that bringing different mediums and skill sets together will result in solutions and experiences that none of us have conceived of prior, and will help change the way we think about building products and businesses for the people we wish to connect with.


Adam Benzion, Portfolio Manager, 1OAK Technologies


Q: What made you interested in coaching Startup Weekend, Maker’s Edition?

A: I started my first own hardware company in 2010. Never done this before, walked into this with confidence and resolve regardless of (zero) experience. And I made it happen. I found a great co-founder, we built the company from PowerPoint to prototypes, CES award, Kickstarter funding, and eventually a sizable acquisition by OtterBox. The process of starting and building something out of nothing fascinates me and I want to help others be successful at it. I have learned so much about hardware and CE for the past 3 years of my life, so there is a lot I can share forward. So my interest is really to help others do what I did, only bigger, better.

Q: What is your background and what areas do you expect to offer the most guidance in?

A: Marketing and product development, mostly software and recently hardware. From idea to go-to-market, I can help people build fast track plans, including funding, prototyping, certifications, etc. I have almost 20 years of professional experience at this point, yeah I’m kinda old (-: Worked in several startups, three acquisitions, 8 years at Microsoft.

Q: Are there any areas of technology, design, or business you’re particularly excited about seeing at the event?

A: I love eye candy Dieter Rams-esq design, using new materials, and technically anything with a BLE radio. Interested in audio and health care innovations. Interested in green designs too.

Q: What kinds of outcomes would you like to see from the event?

A: People taking the right steps to get to an impressive prototype, UX plan and pivots, and a funding plan. If my team gets to that, they can figure out a lot more later. I feel that these are often the make it or break it events.