Meet the passion project awards finalists

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Meet the passion project awards finalists

Start conference culminated in a passion project award pitch, where 9 pre-selected participants pitched their projects to a panel of 4 judges, who along with the crowd determined 3 winners. Meet the participants and their projects here. They were rated on their passion, hustle and impact.

If you have a passion project idea, or simply searching for your passion, now is the time to go after it through The Passion Co.’s 5 week part time program. See what all the hype is about. 

Creative Category

Name: Sabereh Kashi

Project: Home Yet Faraway is a documentary on living in the USA and connecting with Iran.

Name: Kevin Gordon

Passion ProjectShine On is an inspirational short film series about people with typical day jobs but some unexpected passion outside of work that they live for. 


Name: Wynne Arete

Passion Project: Learning to sew and make a family of simple versatile clothing pieces that can be worn throughout the year, inspired by the natural colors of the Pacific West Coast. Learn more here.

Small Business Category

Name: Rachel Lipkin

Passion Project: Rachel's Bake Lab makes homemade cookies shipped nationwide and delivered locally!

Name: Meghdad Abbaszadegan

Passion ProjectFeel Free promotes face-to-face interactions within local communities.


Name: Miquila Alejandre

Passion ProjectBloom Equation uses the lost language of flowers to say what you really mean. Real flowers turned real smart. Miquila is a Passion Program alumni. 


Personal Category

Name: Keiko Shimizu

Passion ProjectThe Concert Company is a private concert booking platform that connects audiences and musicians. Keiko is a Passion Program alumni. 

Name: Mini Mukherjee

Passion Project: Our Smile Project is a growing collection of short stories celebrating the anonymously great moments that happen every day. These stories inspire readers to find strength through compassion, see beauty amidst darkness and to always smile in the face of adversity.


Name: Maria Yuan

Passion Project: Use IssueVoter to know when issues you care about are up for vote, send your opinion to Congress in one click, and know whether your Rep is actually representing you. We even summarize issues to make them easy to understand.

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Start conference day 1 Recap


Start conference day 1 Recap

Yesterday we kicked off the Start Conference 2015, the first ever conference dedicated to our passions. Over 350 inspired individuals, from 12 cities, 5 countries, showed up to ignite their passions.

The conference’s clear messages were the importance of community, asking for what you need and ACTION. At the center of it all was Jessica Semaan, kicking off the event with a dance party. With her contagious energy and electric passion, she lead the participants through The Passion Co. method to connect with their passions, and design a passion project. Additionally, participants were grouped in tribes, that provide support, and foster connections.

Photo Oct 24, 9 19 51 AM.jpg

Throughout the day, speakers from different industries dove into the struggle of beginning and the importance of community in the process of creating. Omid Scheybani, a photographer and storyteller shared how he went from a first Instagram picture with only one like to his now 26.5k followers, in less than a year. Adam Smiley Poswolsky, author at Penguin Random House, recalled the rejection after rejection he got with his first book. Kara Goldin gave credit to the executive at Coke who told her that Hint, a locally founded water company she started, wasn’t what Americans wanted.

Ankit Shah, founder & CEO of Tea with Strangers, spoke about the transformation bringing strangers together has made on him and his community. His company now is in cities all around the world.

Alyssa Ravasio described borrowing confidence from Steve Huffman, founder and CEO of Reddit, who asked her if what she wants to build is a problem she wants to solve for herself. When she said yes, he said do it. during her journey in creating Hipcamp, the first platform to find campsites.


Another story that stood out was when Dijon Bowden shared how his mother flew out to San Francisco to pull him out of depression and reignite his passion project, Souls of Society – a project lifting the souls of others one picture at a time.

In between speakers were more dance parties, delicious snack breaks from local food companies: Thistle, Poco Dolce, Chump Chai, Philz Coffee and many more.

Crew members were going around taking polaroid photos of participants.

The day the day with a pop up gallery cocktail party, in partnership with Vango, the app to find art featuring San Francisco based artist, Dyanna Dimick.

Some of our favorite day quotes from the day

“By not starting, you’re doing the world a disservice” – Nate Bagley, founder of The Loveumentary

“The road isn’t always clear and mapped out perfectly when you follow your passion,” Nikhil Arora, Back to the roots

“Borrow inspiration from your favorite brands” William Werner, Craftsman & Wolves   

“Experiences with the people you love is the ultimate key to life.” – Khaled Hussein, Tilt co-founder and CTO

“Action over perfection” - Jessica Semaan, The Passion Co.

“Rejection is a numbers’ game” - Jia Jiang, Fearbuster

“Find your gift, and give it away.” - Chip Conley, Airbnb

“It only takes one.” On how ONE artist introduced Vango, founded by Ethan Appleby, to their next hundred artists.

“We need to tap into our courage and intuition, not our minds” Pat Bailey, Founder of PB Yoga

“Choose one thing and take action on it.” – Mark Dwight, CEO and founder of Rickshaw Bagworks

“F’ your inner critic” - Adam Smiley Poswolsky

Join us for our closing brunch party Sunday by getting your ticket here


5 ways how Start will benefit your Passion Project/ Business


5 ways how Start will benefit your Passion Project/ Business

Participating in the Start Conference this October will give you a powerful push to take your passion project to the next level. It doesn’t matter where you are starting from zero or a hundred, we all need motivation and support to keep going. Here are the top ways that Start will benefit your existing Passion Project.

1. Investment in yourself

Investing in yourself over and over again is the secret to living with passion and meaning as well as making a difference. At Start you will have time to recommit to yourself. By taking the weekend to focus on what is truly meaningful to you and doing it, you are giving yourself some of the best love there is and exactly what’s necessary to have your passion project thrive. Remember this wise saying,

Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman      

2. Practical learning from speakers

Hearing from those that have started, failed and succeeded can empower us to move forward. Everyone who is successful got started somewhere. We have specially selected speakers to deliver Start Talks to share the vulnerable stories of their beginnings: their struggles, challenges, rejections and tips to success. Taking the tools and teaching will help you develop your passion project or business strategically.

3. New connections

We can’t do it alone. At Start you will meet and connect with hundreds of other like-minded who there to help you in different areas of your project. The diverse learning community at Start will give you the support, accountability and motivation to take major steps throughout the weekend, and continue on with your project into the future with a new supportive community.

4. Further Action

At Start you are going to get shit done. There are over 30 workshops to choose from that will help you build skills and get your hands dirty. There will be an ongoing creative bazaar for you to cowork with all the resources and tools you need at your disposal. Also, there will be coaches all weekend to support you if you get stuck.  

5. Chance to win a Passion Project Award

At Start you have the chance to share your project with the world. Apply to pitch your project on the last day of the Start conference to a panel of judges including a representative from Kickstarter and win gifts worth over $3000. The exposure and prizes will take your project to the next level. Deadline to apply is October 12th, 9 AM PST. Apply and learn more here.


Announcing Start Conference Final Schedule


Announcing Start Conference Final Schedule

We are so excited to announce the final schedule for the first Start conference. We designed the weekend, with the purpose of reinventing what a conference means. Instead of networking, we designed for connection. Instead of sitting, we designed for movement. Instead of focusing on speakers, we chose to focus on you. Over the weekend we commit to:

  • Making you feel at home and safe to try and play
  • Making you feel a part of a village and inspired by others
  • Making you realize your power and potential

On day 1, you will hear from over 30 speakers about their personal stories of starting. Start talks are up to 10 minutes talk, that will keep you engaged, and focused on the early phase of a company or a project including stories of failure, luck and hard work.

Throughout the day, our founder Jessica Semaan, will lead you through exercises from the flagship Passion program, to connect with your passions, your meaning and pick your passion project goal for the weekend. If you want to go deeper you can attend the one hour Find Your Passion workshop in the afternoon. You can also attend one of the panels: Successful mompreneurs, or launching a successful Kickstarter.

In partnership with Vango, we will ending the day with a pop-up gallery and cocktails on the panoramic third floor, at Sunset time.

On day 2, We have curated over 30 workshops, with some of the best instructors, with topics ranging from rejections, to pricing to watercolor. You can attend up to 3 workshops, or simply work on your passion project. This is also a time to discover the burgeoning neighborhood over lunch with new friends. At the end of the day, we recommend you hang out with your tribe, maybe go dancing, or if you will be pitching at The Passion Project Awards, prepare for that.

On day 3, you will reconvene in the morning to have a closing circle with your tribe and reflect on what you have accomplished over the weekend. Then you will join the fun of The Passion Project Awards, where 9 contestants will pitch their projects with the chance to win up to $3000 in gifts and cash. The conference will close with a boozy brunch, prepared by head Airbnb chef, Anisha Jagtap, and the tunes of London based DJ Chvck.

You can find all the workshop details here, and be sure to get your tickets as they are selling out.


Speaker Spotlight, Meet Khaled Hussein, Founder of Tilt


Speaker Spotlight, Meet Khaled Hussein, Founder of Tilt


How and when did you find your passion?

I grew up in modest circumstances and the idea that I could impact people’s lives in a positive way has always motivated me. As a 3rd generation entrepreneur, I like building things and solving problems. So I started my first company right after high school. Technology has been a great tool/method for me to achieve the impact I’ve always sought out.


How do you hone your skills?

Reading a lot. I am an avid reader. Then practicing what I read. Practice makes perfect.


What is failure to you, and how do you deal with it?

Failure is a milestone you have to hit in order to master a skill. I am an athlete, and know you have to make mistakes while training in order to perfect form. The same thing applies to entrepreneurship--and to many things in life, really.


What is your biggest fear?

I don’t have a lot of fears in the typical sense. However, one thing that is always a concern of mine is making sure I am investing my time in the most important thing, with the right intentions and a clear purpose.

Was there a time when you were running out of money?

Many times in the past. The hardest one was after starting my first company and raising some capital from family and friends. The company didn’t do well, but it was bleeding money. So I was losing not only my money, but my family’s and friends’ money too. That was really hard for me.

What is self-love to you? And how important is it to your journey?

Self-love is living your life with a purpose. It is probably one of the most important things that we need for our journeys. This purpose will help you know whether your current job is going to be fulfilling for you or not. It is going to help you to live your life to the max by eliminating all the distractions that don’t fit into this purpose, etc.

Who inspires you and why?

The more recent ones is Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. He is inspiring in his dedication, determination, and impact on the world.

Are there mentors that support you? Who are they?

One of my mentors is Bill Boebel, very successful entrepreneur in Austin. Another one is Dr. Asad Tarsin, he is a surgeon who helps me with my spirituality and religious studies.

Please share a piece of advice with our community of men and women who are looking to leave their traditional jobs and live their passions.

You’ll only be truly fulfilled when you do something you truly want to do. No one is responsible for your fulfillment but listen to your heart.