Twice a year, we welcome a new cohort into Launch, our 3-month incubator for early stage education entrepreneurs with promising ideas for the future of school. This year, 178 incredible groups sent us their idea for the future of school and we are thrilled to welcome 9 teams into Cohort 11 for summer 2015. They’re a diverse group with diverse interests and we couldn’t be more excited to work with them. But the Launch application process also serves as a bellwether for key ideas and trends that are bubbling up across education.
A key commitment we continue to make is the importance of creating an inclusive space where people of all backgrounds can work together. Continuing our work from our last two cohorts which included 50% female founders and 36% people of color, 46% percent of our Cohort 11 founders are women and 40% are people of color. Against a backdrop where just 10% of entrepreneurs receiving Series A funding are women and just 1% of the tech founders are African American, we continue to believe that making a conscious and deliberate effort to cultivate many voices is critical to building community around education.
Read on to learn more about our newest batch of entrepreneurs.
College and Career Pathways are dismantling the barrier to success
Continuing a trend we’ve seen, Launch Cohort 11 has four teams (unCommon Construction, Bridge the Gap, New Orleans College Bridge, Electric Girls) focused on making sure high school students have great opportunities once they graduate. Bridge the Gap and New Orleans College Bridge are both focused on college, but are each finding specific elements to target for maximum impact. Bridge the Gap targets students early in their high school careers to tackle the problem that high-achieving, low-income students often do not even apply to rigorous, selective institutions they are qualified for. New Orleans College Bridge connects with students after they’ve selected their college, ensuring they secure financial aid, meet enrollment requirements, and persist through their first year. unCommon Construction uses internships in construction to achieve the leadership and character development that will make students leaders employers fight for, whether they choose to go to college or not. Finally, Electric Girls, led by 2 college students, is solving for the role model gap that young women experience in pursuing STEM fields.As a group, we see that each team is building upon the idea that if we want students to be successful in the real world, we must actively support them as they make the transition.
Entrepreneurs want to rethink the platform we use to build schools
With the rise of micro-schools through organizations like AltSchool and Acton Academy, we’ve continued to see interest in creating new models for schools. These microschools, which are operated as small standalone schools with less than 150 students, tend to be learner driven and agile. At 4.0, we’ve developed the Tiny School Project to support entrepreneurs who want to create microschools through an iterative approach, diverging from the huge startup costs we typically associate with launching a school. Now, in Cohort 11, we welcome Great Teachers Academy, a platform to enable teachers to quickly launch their own low-cost micro schools. By creating a platform that teachers can then customize and build upon, GTA is making it easier for teachers to build unique schools that families are excited to attend.
A growth mindset is important for students and teachers
Continuing a theme we’ve seen for the past several cohorts and building on the pioneering work of individuals like Angela Duckworth, Launchers like Pomegranate Labs, Electric Girls, and unCommon Construction are building programs designed to both give students and teachers the knowledge to be successful and also transform their mindsets. This “content plus mindsets” approach indicates that soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to being successful in the 21st century. But while Electric Girls and Uncommon Construction are focused on training students and giving them the soft skills needed to be successful in the real world, Pomegranate Lab is developing solutions for teachers that proactively support their teaching of growth mindsets to students. As the term “growth mindset” becomes further ingrained in our lexicon, it becomes that much more critical for the idea to be embedded in the tools and programs we design.
Learning doesn’t stop at the school house door
The rise of smartphones has transformed many industries, but education is not one of them. American schools tend to treat technology in the hands of students as a distraction that should be clamped down upon, rather than leveraged. But if Launch applications and our cohort are any indication, that equilibrium will start changing soon. We’ve continued to see groups designing solutions for students and parents that can standalone outside schools or require minimal school support, led by Cohort 11 members Educasic and Hookup. Educasic is creating apps for young students and families designed to help parents teach students when they are not in school, enabled with a very small amount of support from teachers. Hookup is taking this idea one step further, providing access to sex education for any student anywhere, working around state laws that have barred it’s teaching. Educasic and Hookup are each showing that regardless of what school districts or politicians want, there are many people who feel left out of the education process and technology is one way to empower them.
Connect with Launch Cohort 11
Thanks again to everyone who submitted an idea for Launch. Your creativity and determination are what make us believe that the future of school is possible. If you’re reading this and have an idea you want to turn into reality, head to our website and tell us more about it. While the deadline for this Launch has passed, our next Launch is coming up soon and Essentials, our program for individuals and groups who are just getting started, runs every month or two. You can also sign up for our newsletter to keep in the know about what’s happening at 4pt0.
You can also join us for Launch Cohort 11 Pitch Night on June 26th. RSVP to cheer on our entrepreneurs as they pitch their ideas at the end of Launch.
Launch Cohort 11
Flor Serna & Maya Ramos
Electric Girls is a self-sustaining community of tech leaders and learners. Our program creates confident leaders and role models in STEM by teaching fundamental skills in electronics, programming, engineering, and design, and giving girls the space and resources to create self-directed projects and pass on their new skills to fellow female peers.
Bridge the Gap is an after-school program that works to prepare high-achieving, low-income students to attend and succeed in competitive universities. We offer advising, near-peer mentoring, and academic enrichment to students throughout high school.
New Orleans College Bridge
Paris Woods & Sarah Payne
New Orleans College Bridge helps graduates of New Orleans Public Schools enroll and succeed in college. We do this by providing coaching and support with financial aid, enrollment, and academic success while in college.
Hookup provides edgy and entertaining sex ed to youth through a mobile app anonymously from trusted sources. The two features allow the user to ask questions to an expert and share/read stories about sex and relationships.
Aaron Frumin & Aron Michalski
unCommon Construction uses apprenticeships on a residential construction site to develop New Orleans’ hardworking high schoolers into team-oriented leaders. Profits from the sale of homes provide pay and scholarships for the apprentices who help build them.