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 mentorship from our advisor 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.
NewSchools Venture Fund is a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that invests in early stage entrepreneurs who are transforming public education so that all children — especially those in underserved communities — have the opportunity to succeed.
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.
Executive Director of co.lab
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.
Associate Director of co.lab
Before co.lab, Cameron worked as a Fellow and Learning Technology Specialist at NewSchools Venture Fund. He has also worked at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington DC, where he helped to align out-of-school programming with the school’s broader missions. Cameron graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University, where he wrote his undergraduate thesis on the intersection between child psychology and environmental design. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College, studying instructional technology and media.
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.
Managing Director of NewSchools Seed Fund
Jennifer leads the NewSchools Seed Fund, which she founded with Wayee Chu to make investments in early-stage education technology 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. 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.
Chief Advancement Officer of NewSchools Venture Fund
Deborah’s career has included stints in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. At NewSchools, she has the pleasure of leading the development, communications and convening teams. Deborah particularly enjoys creating partnerships with organizations, like Zynga.org, that believe entrepreneurs hold the key to rapid and deep change in public education. She was thrilled to help get co.lab off the ground and looks forward to supporting the companies and learning from them.
Friends of co.lab
We work with a wide range of leading gaming and edtech organizations to support our companies. Collaborators include:
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’ games 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. Companies that participate in co.lab must be incorporated in the United States.
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. (Our first 2 cohorts are comprised of companies that represent most of these stages of development.) Given our unique access to talent, tools and best practices from the commercial game industry, 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 do Zynga.org and NewSchools Venture Fund play within co.lab?
Zynga.org and NewSchools Venture Fund are co-founding partners of co.lab. In the first year of the program, Zynga.org will provide 100% of co.lab’s funding. In addition, Zynga.org provides office space in San Francisco, and also coordinates access to Zynga’s talent and best practices for co.lab companies. NewSchools Venture Fund provides co.lab with operational oversight and guidance, coordinates partnerships and pilot testing with educators and schools and includes co.lab companies in all activities available to our network of edtech entrepreneurs.
Who staffs co.lab?
co.lab is managed by a team of full-time, dedicated staff employed by NewSchools Venture Fund. In addition, both Zynga.org and NewSchools contribute staff time to the accelerator on an in-kind basis. Volunteers from the game industry, 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 650 Townsend Street, Suite 225, San Francisco, CA 94103.
How long is each cohort?
Each cohort will last approximately four months.
What type of financial support will participating teams receive?
Participating companies will each receive a stipend between $25,000 and $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.