Launching NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015

July 6, 2015

At NewSchools Venture Fund, we have always had a great affection for early-stage school entrepreneurs who are (re)imagining, (re)designing, and (re)creating the student experience and we are truly excited by all the school leaders realizing these visions in schools and getting great results for students.

One of the more famous early innovators, Leonardo daVinci, not only excelled at painting and sculpture, but was also skilled in science, mathematics, engineering, inventing, and architecture, among many other domains. DaVinci famously brought some of those skills to bear on the catapult, not by inventing it, but by seeking to improve upon the designs which already existed. We envision the imagining and launching of new schools much as daVinci approached the catapult; we already know a lot about what works for students, but there is still ample room for continued innovation and improvement.  To advance the state of the art in school design, just as in catapult design, we need to foster the imaginations of the greatest minds out there. We must partner with and encourage collaboration among ambitious innovators with diverse and varied skills and backgrounds, to put their skills to use in service of advancing student learning.

NewSchools Catapult

In that spirit, we’re thrilled to announce NewSchools Catapult, the first endeavor of our new national strategy. Its goal over the next several years is to propel successive waves of education entrepreneurs to launch new schools – the kinds of audacious, life-altering schools that can truly prepare our students to pursue their most ambitious dreams. In keeping with our mission and core values, our focus is on schools that serve significant numbers of underserved students in grades PreK-12 and will be operated by (a) early-stage charter networks for which this would be their first or second school or (b) district-operated schools with sufficient autonomy and support to realize their vision.

To help prepare school teams at similar stages to plan and launch successfully, we have separated NewSchools Catapult into two distinct phases:

  • Phase 1: Invent: A 6-10 month program designed to support school teams during the year prior to launching a new school. Teams selected for this phase will receive financial support (averaging around $100,000), targeted assistance and a cohort experience with others at a similar stage of development. All teams who participate in Invent will be working toward developing an application for Launch, though we expect that some will decide to postpone or abandon their launch plans.

  • Phase 2: Launch: A highly competitive 2 ½ year program designed to support school teams for the months leading up to launch through their second year of operation. In addition to continuing to receive ongoing assistance and a cohort experience, teams selected for this phase will receive financial support (our investments vary widely based on factors such as seat count and local funding conditions, but averaging around $400,000).

Here is a link to our Invent 2015 application and other materials which is intended only for school teams with aspirations to launch a new school in fall 2016. In the application, you’ll find an overview of our strategy, a description of the opportunity, the application and eligibility requirements, what we mean by “innovative schools” and our investment criteria.  We hope it’ll answer any questions about our work, but if you’re still left with questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected].

Later this fall, we’ll release our Launch 2016 application, which would provide a larger investment to support the first two years of a new school that opens in fall 2016. Schools that receive an Invent 2015 investment will receive priority for this program.

We’re excited to start this phase of our work and to spark the imaginations of entrepreneurs who believe in the limitless possibilities for meeting the educational needs of students.  If you meet the eligibility criteria and your vision aligns with ours, we strongly encourage you to apply.  Otherwise, please send this on to great innovators you know who are reimagining schools and together, let’s watch the inventing take place.

Apply for Invent 2015

NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015 Application

NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015 Budget Template