Virtual Summer Camp—Build an AI Start-up

What you'll do:

  • Be an entrepreneur and create a start-up idea with a team of co-founders.
  • Tackle a problem that really matters and one that no one has yet solved.
  • Figure out how to use AI to crack open an opportunity.
  • Experience what it takes to get a start-up off the ground.
  • Pitch your start-up idea to a panel of judges.
  • Do all of this with no need for parental involvement—we love keeping parents in the loop but this doesn’t mean they’re going to camp too.
  • Work with a team, build new relationships and make new friends.
  • Work online and offline—we’ll get you out into the physical world to do things like collect images for an image recognition system or gather data for market research. This is a virtual camp but not all of it will be computer-based.
  • You’ll finish camp with a project that can be handy for any school application portfolio you’re building.

At our virtual summer camp, you'll learn:

  • How to craft a business idea that just might work.
  • How to work with a team of your co-founders to get stuff done.
  • How to apply artificial intelligence without getting too technical.
  • What AI can do to super-power your idea using real-world examples. 
  • How to design and create AI you want without any coding but with plenty of creativity and design techniques unique to AI.
  • How to pitch your solution to people so that they will back you, aka, give you money.

Why us?

  • We’ve helped make big products that matter. We know how to make things work—and we’ll teach you.
  • We teach people at big companies how to design human-centered AI—the kind of AI that’s designed for people and designed to make the world a better place. Everything we do for the big companies, we’re doing for you (and some fun things that they don’t get to do).
  • We’ve invested in cool companies as venture capitalists, we’ve built products that millions of people use at companies like Apple and PG&E and we’ve helped start-ups get products everywhere—from your phone to your home to outer space (really).
  • We’ve run this course before as an elective in a high school (check out what a student and teacher say about our course below).
  • This summer, we are putting all of this together to help you get ahead in the age of AI

Learn from people who had a hand in products like these:

The program:

The Details:

  • Camp is three weeks long.
  • Two sessions: July 6 – July 24 and August 10 – August 28
  • We’ll meet online each weekday, Monday to Friday, for two hours—10am-12pm Pacific, 1pm-3pm Eastern. We’ll mix things up with talking, doing, sharing, online and offline. This will NOT be two hours of watching lectures!
  • We’ll organize the groups based on age and interest and will mix it up between group conversations and smaller, sprint teams.
  • You’ll have other things to do outside of organized sessions: working with your team, exploring how AI works in the world, learning from inspirational entrepreneurs and other things on and off screen.
  • You’ll need a computer or tablet that has a camera for face-to-face meetings in Zoom. We’ll also use tools from Google and we’ll chat and collaborate in Slack.
  • You don’t need to know anything about AI or start-ups but we welcome those of you who do—we’ll run with where you are starting from.
  • Cost: $750 per person
  • Limited scholarships are available. Email us to learn more.

Week 1:

  • Get to know everyone, get into teams.
  • Use our design thinking techniques and real-world AI examples—the same ones we use with companies like Starbucks and the New York Times, and 100% adapted for the AI opportunity—to scope, define and choose the problem to work on.
  • Scope out what the business could be about and why people will care.
  • Learn the basics of AI and experiment with different kinds of AI.
  • Understand what makes AI that people like and want to use.
  • Figure out what AI superpower can turbocharge your business idea. 

Week 2:

  • Design the business, who it will serve, how the product fits the market and what’s different before and after your business succeeds.
  • Have fun learning about how to brand, market and sell your product.
  • Design the product, how the product functions, how it solves the customer need and how they will use it.
  • Design the AI, how it will learn, where it will function, who it will function with, how it will fail, how to prevent misuse and how it will be unbiased and fair.

Week 3:

  • Prototype your product.
  • Test your product with real people. 
  • Build out your business plan—what will it take to succeed?
  • Figure out how to present your start-up so that people want to be part of it.
  • Show your product off in a demo day.
  • Nail the pitch competition.

Sign up

First Session

July 6- July 24

Enrollment Closed

Second Session

August 10 - August 28

Enrollment Closed

Limited scholarships are available. Please email us to learn more.

Note: We’ll follow up with forms for both parents and students with appropriate permissions and rules-of-the-road to help ensure the best experience for everyone.

Here's what a student says about our course:

"Sonder Studio did a fantastic job creating an easy to understand yet challenging course. I have a lot of background in technology and computer science, however I was engaged the entire time and ended up learning a lot of content that was entirely new to me! It was a rigorous and exciting course that was unique in their approach. The hands-on experience was dealt with extremely well for having no coding involved! Sonder Studio has developed a way to boil AI down to its core and teach it from a conceptual and exciting perspective. I would highly recommend this course to anyone remotely interested in technology—no matter what experience you may have—or who wants to prepare themselves for what is rapidly becoming more common in our ever-evolving world."
Redmond Proficiency Academy
Chloe Leis

Here's what a teacher says about our course:

"Helen and Dave decided that AI wasn't challenging enough on it's own, so they decided to take on my high school class! Within a few sessions, our students were designing AI for applications that they were interested in."
Redmond Proficiency Academy
Sandy Cloud
Business Instructor

FAQ for students:

  • How much do I need to know about AI? In truth, nothing. This isn’t because we teach the basics as much as that we teach AI differently. We start with the concepts that matter for understanding how AI is different than traditional technology because this will give you a grounding in how to think applying AI. But we are experienced in AI at a variety levels. We’ve run sprints where there have been professors of AI who learn a new perspective on their field based on how we teach AI skills.
  • How much do I need to know about being an entrepreneur? Again, nothing. What matters most is motivation and a growth mindset, which is jargon for being able to handle constructive feedback and being able to stay curious even when you’re sure you have the answer. 
  • Will I get to make a product? Yes! But within realistic boundaries. Good products are products where a designer has a unique and clever take on a user’s need. Finding this need, understanding it deeply, stripping away the assumptions and figuring out exactly what to test and what to make is a complex path. You will learn the important parts of the process and be able to apply them again and again until you find the one that really works. So what you get to take home at the end will be a component of whatever the final product would be—or might be if you keep going.
  • How many other people will be in the class? Classes will be between 10 and 20 people total. Some activities will include everyone and others will be just for smaller teams that will be around 4 people each. In order to create a good experience, we’ll need at least 10 students in the class—if we’re unable to reach that number within three weeks of the start date, we will cancel the course and you’ll get a full refund.
  • What if the dates and times don’t work for me? Get in touch with us and let us know. We may run classes at a different time or on different dates if there’s enough interest.
  • What if I have questions? Just ask. Send us an email or set up time to chat over Zoom.

FAQ for parents:

  • Do you really know about AI and products and entrepreneurship? Yes! We’re entrepreneurs ourselves (built four companies; two succeeded, two failed. Now building two more). We built an AI company and sold it to Atlantic Media. We were both venture capitalists for major venture firms and one of us ran ventures for a corporation. One of us worked with Steve Jobs doing cool stuff at Apple. One of us was a senior exec at a Fortune 500 company working with start-ups, making sure their new inventions got to millions of customers. Our company, Sonder Studio, teaches business leaders at companies like Starbucks and The New York Times about AI design and provides tools to help them do it. 
  • Do you know anything about teaching students? Yes! We taught an AI course at a high school this year (and loved it!). We both have past histories as camp counselors. And we have five kids who range in age from 13 to 20…so we have some hands-on experience.
  • Do you know how to teach online? Yes! We run our courses for corporate customers online and have had good success. It’s not easy—we’ve all seen how schools have struggled to adapt. Nothing will replace in person interactions but we’re used to building great relationships and working with people at a distance.
  • How many other people will be in the class? Classes will be between 10 and 20 people total. Some activities will include everyone and others will be just for smaller teams that will be around 4 people each. In order to create a good experience, we’ll need at least 10 students in the class—if we’re unable to reach that number within three weeks of the start date, we will cancel the course and you’ll get a full refund.
  • What if the dates and times don’t work for me? Get in touch with us and let us know. We may run classes at a different time or on different dates if there’s enough interest.
  • What if I have questions? Just ask. Send us an email or set up time to chat over Zoom.
DayProgram outline
1The welcome—Who’s who
Getting the lingo: What is a startup? What is an entrepreneur? What is a VC? What is AI?
2The language of startups. How design thinking works. Defining problems and opportunities.
How machines learn and how they make mistakes.
3Focusing on a problem or opportunity
5 Why’s. Observing, empathy, becoming human-centered.
Types of AI—experiences and relationships with AI
4What’s this startup about? How is the world different “after”?
How Might We….?
How AI inspires.
AI superpowers and AI superheroes.
5The math of startups
Business models—what are they?
Designing for humans versus machines. What should a person do and what should a machine do?
6Startup stories. Winning combinations. Epic failures from small to large. Entrepreneurs made famous.
How AI makes everything better, faster, bigger. Or makes it worse.
7Designing solutions
Getting creative with ideas
Making stories for users and designers
8Designing for AI: feedback, control, learning, failure, bias and how to make things better using autonomous systems
9Designing a prototype
10Designing a prototype
11Building a prototype
12Testing a prototype
13Tweaking a prototype
Laying out the business story
Adding all the numbers and insights
14Pulling it all together
Practicing the pitch
15Pitch competition