co.lab is an accelerator that works with startups leveraging the power of digital games to build transformative educational technologies for PK-12 students and teachers. Our model is built upon a belief in the need for innovation in education, and in games’ potential to enhance learning – by creating virtual sandboxes that encourage experimentation and engagement, offering new opportunities for collaborative interactions, and unlocking new ways to assess cognitive and social growth. Our program is designed to add value to early stage edtech companies while generating knowledge that will help designers, educators, researchers and funders better understand challenges and opportunities related to developing high quality learning games and applications.
co.lab’s primary offering is a four-month product accelerator based in San Francisco, California, focused on helping promising edtech startups improve and successfully scale their product(s). Participating companies receive a stipend of up to $50,000, desk space in co.lab’s offices, and most importantly access to tools, best practices, and hands-on advisory and mentorship from our mentor network – which includes best-in-class game industry professionals, entrepreneurs, educators and venture capitalists. Drawing upon the resources of our founding partners, we’re creating opportunities for developers to build, test and distribute great products to millions of students and teachers worldwide.
To learn more about the co.lab experience and the value we provide to companies, please visit our program page.
Zynga.org is a nonprofit organization working to promote and facilitate the use of games for social impact. Zynga.org is interested in the role games can play in improving learning and social outcomes.
Reach Capital Reach Capital supports the most promising entrepreneurs developing technology solutions for challenges in K-12 education. Reach invests in early stage tech tools, applications, content, and services to improve education opportunities for all children.
Executive Director, co.lab Partner, Reach Capital
Prior to joining co.lab, Esteban was co-founder and CEO of social game developer Atakama Labs (acquired by DeNA in 2011). After Atakama was acquired by DeNA, Esteban became VP with roles in studios, corporate development and alliances. Previously, he was co-founder and CEO of Wanako Games, developer of console games. Wanako earned Game of the Year for Xbox Live Arcade and was acquired by Vivendi Games in 2006. After Wanako’s acquisition Esteban became VP of Business Development at Sierra Online. Previously, Esteban has worked in venture capital, private equity and investment banking. Esteban is also a Partner at Reach Capital, an early stage educational technology fund.
Director of Programs, co.lab
Deena has over 14 years of experience specializing in interactive educational products for K-12. She has worked at a variety of ed tech companies including Leapfrog, Pearson, Education.com and most recently, AltSchool. She is passionate about making innovative, fun and engaging yet effective learning experiences for kids and teachers both inside and outside the classroom. Deena graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology from Boston University and an M.A in Education with a focus on Instructional Technology from San Francisco State University.
Executive Director of Zynga.org
Ken serves as Executive Director of Zynga.org, an independent nonprofit organization working to promote and facilitate the use of social games for social impact. From 2005 to 2011, Ken was COO of The ONE Campaign, a global grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization focused on global health and poverty alleviation, particularly in Africa. Prior to ONE, Ken was founding president of Network for Good, a national nonprofit that enables online giving and volunteering.
Partner, Reach Capital
Jennifer is General Partner of Reach Capital, an education technology fund for early-stage companies with potential for big impact in K-12 education. Jennifer began her career as a teacher in traditional district schools. After seven years in the classroom, she left to study differentiation at Stanford School of Education and then joined NewSchools and formed and led the Seed Fund. Jennifer sits on the Board of Directors for BetterLesson, Equal Opportunity Schools and Bullis Charter School. She still teaches sometimes, most recently Innovations in Teaching 338 at Stanford’s School of Education/d.school. Jennifer has three children who attend a charter school in Los Altos California.
Erin Baudo Felter,
Director, Employee & Community Impact, Zynga.org
Erin leads Zynga.org’s global employee impact, community and education work. She is passionate about the role games can play in transforming learning experiences. Erin brings both operational and programmatic support to co.lab, with a primary focus on connecting co.lab companies to Zynga’s network of product experts. She also runs a partnership with SFUSD on two public high school Game Design Academies, which leverage students’ interest in games to engage them in STEM and expose them to tech careers. Previously, Erin worked in corporate social responsibility roles at Yahoo! and Warner Bros. She received a B.A. in Anthropology and Plan II Honors from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
Friends of co.lab
NewSchools Venture Fund is one of the original co-founders of co.lab and continues be a collaborator and close friend of our program. Additionally, we work with a wide range of leading research, learning games and educational organizations to support our companies. Collaborators include, but are not limited to:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is co.lab’s focus?
co.lab is designed to support the development of high-quality educational technologies that improve academic and social outcomes for PK-12 students using the power of games. co.lab works with cohorts of promising startup companies to accelerate their products. Our program strengthens these companies’ products by sharing best practices, tools and expertise, as well as by providing access to critical feedback from students and educators.
Who can apply to co.lab? What are the criteria?
Applications for co.lab are open to any startup (for-profit or non-profit) with one or more technology products focused on using the power of games to improve academic and/or social outcomes for PK-12 students. Successful applicants should be prepared to locate a founding and/or product team in San Francisco for the length of the program. We work primarily with startups developing learning game apps (content), measurement and evaluation tools (M&E), educational platforms interested in distributing games (distribution), and/or other educational services that are looking to learn from best practices in commercial gaming to improve distribution, retention and engagement (gamification).
Preference will be given to teams with innovative products, ideas or prototypes that demonstrate significant promise for producing transformative effects on teaching, learning, and/or education in general. A strong preference will also be shown for companies with the potential to achieve wide distribution and generate revenue at scale.
At what stage should companies apply?
We work with companies at a variety of stages — anywhere from company formation (pre-seed) all the way to Series B or beyond as can be seen from our portfolio companies.
Given our unique access to talent, tools and best practices from the commercial game industry and edtech, we believe we can add value to edtech startups across the company’s life cycle.
How do teams apply to co.lab?
Please see our application page for more information.
What roles does Zynga.org play within co.lab?
Zynga.org is a co-founder of co.lab. Zynga.org provides co.lab funding, office space in San Francisco, and coordinates access to Zynga’s talent and best practices from the commercial games industry for co.lab companies. Zynga.org also provides opportunities to pilot games in classrooms, on an as-needed basis, via its relationship with SFUSD.
What is your relationship to Reach Capital?
Reach Capital provides support in content development, mentoring entrepreneurs on navigating the edtech funding ecosystem including advising them on their fundraising strategies. Reach is also responsible for managerial supervision of the program.
What is your relationship with NewSchools?
NewSchools Venture Fund was a co-founder of co.lab when we started in 2013. Currently we collaborate with NewSchools in supporting each other’s initiatives specifically as it relates to connecting co.lab entrepreneurs with educators and schools that are part of the NewSchools network.
Who staffs co.lab?
co.lab is managed by a full-time dedicated staff. In addition, Zynga.org contributes staff time to the accelerator on an in-kind basis. Educators and game industry experts, including Zynga employees, are also a key part of co.lab’s approach to sharing best practices and advice on product development, marketing and distribution and other related topics.
Where is co.lab located?
co.lab is located at 699 8th Street San Francisco, CA 94103.
How long is each cohort?
Each cohort lasts approximately four months.
What type of financial support will participating teams receive?
Participating companies will receive a stipend of up to $50,000.
Does co.lab receive equity from participating companies?
The primary aim of co.lab is to generate a social return by helping participating startups improve their products and generate revenue at scale. As part of participating in co.lab, companies receive a stipend as well as the accelerator services and resources described on our program page. In exchange we ask for a nominal equity stake, which generally ranges between 0.5 and 5 percent, depending on stage of growth. The final terms of each offer will be determined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with each company.