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ABSeed Combinator

Incubating education; investing in students rather than just companies

Photo of Joshua Lavra

Written by

Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

The target audience is anyone who is entrepreneurial or interested in pursuing ideas that impact a wide audience of people across the world. Students who are interested in non-traditional paths with hands on mentorship and learning opportunities.
  • student from high school apply and are selected based on a set of diverse criteria
  • students are able to enter a trail with the help of mentors from the incubator
  • if they decided to join the incubator, they are sponsored by investors, governments, individuals, or NGOs to not attend a traditional university and pursue incubating three ideas
  • over the course of three one year periods the students are taking on ideas that have the potential to impact 1 billion+ people globally (water, sanitation, food, etc.)
  • each project has peer mentors, checkpoints, goals (tangible and stretched), and support systems to encourage success and challenges (and failures!)
  • following the three projects, students are prepared with a portfolio of projects and experiences that they can take to build their own company, work for a traditional company, join NGOs or government organizations, or go back into education. 
  • this is a full circle type of approach, with alums going back into the program as mentors. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Partner with small groups of students over the summer who are willing to trade their traditional summer job for something a bit more entrepreneurial. A company could sponsor this activity in exchange for a summer's worth of work in a non-traditional setting.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Discussing how to build in the "soft skills" and social aspects of the system. Talk with incubators about their funding principles and interest in sponsoring students versus individual businesses. Work with people who have completed "non-traditional" educational paths.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO meetup

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes

10 comments

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Spam
Photo of Kellie Marks
Team

Hi Joshua -

In response to these 3 select points from your contribution:

<<Students who are interested in non-traditional paths with hands on mentorship and learning opportunities.>>
<<Each project has peer mentors, checkpoints, goals (tangible and stretched), and support systems to encourage success and challenges (and failures!)>>
<<Discussing how to build in the "soft skills" and social aspects of the system.>>

You should check out InventiveLabs (www.inventivelabs.org), a relatively new incubator/career-training program for "individuals with ADHD and/or Dyslexia who think and work differently"— a segment of the population for whom making it through college is more difficult.  Their program is built with a similar support system and philosophy as the one you've outlined here, and even includes life coaching sessions for soft skills development.

That said... their tuition isn't exactly "cheap"...

------
CC: Blake Anneberg  (Online course for Dyslexic students to learn career paths & increase confidence via project based, tuition awarding scheme. ) 

Spam
Photo of Qiqi Xu
Team

Joshua - thanks for the beautiful visuals!
There was an interesting idea that came out of the SWEdu at Oakland - Edhost. Worth checking out! Would love to refine ABSeed a little more!

Spam
Photo of Joshua Lavra
Team

Thanks Qiqi -- if you have any suggestions for refining in the ideas phase, let's chat!

Spam
Photo of Kellie Marks
Team

Hi Qiqi Xu - Do you have a link to that?

Spam
Photo of Philip Arca
Team

ABSeed Combinator
Appreciated your presentation at SFOpenIDEO Meetup and great to see it on the platform!

Given the array of nonprofits that work on youth development/ed gap issues in regions around the US, wondering if you could have a more regionalized hub approach for the social impact, as there are regional issues more amenable to regional solution, and you might get more buy-in and synergy from the network that could be built -- then connecting region to region -- scaling that way.

Who has relationships with these potential students? The local networks of educators, nonprofits, existing educational institutions already have the connection, but need a connector, and a connecting idea -- supported by funding, to better align the factionalized energy that does not realize its greater potential. Funding region by region, demonstrating how local students have local impact might be a great way to pilot and scale.

And perhaps you partner with, and reposition existing institutions (e.g. libraries, community colleges) to leverage their spaces and base funding to do something more innovative and impactful.

Spam
Photo of Joshua Lavra
Team

Thanks for your feedback and for facilitating the meetup last week, Philip!

I agree with you on the regional perspective. This was a point we discussed and have seen implemented very well at the Technovation Competition -- girls from around the world were asked to solve a local issue through coding an application. Focusing on a local perspective definitely allows for a deeper connection to the issues, as they are tangible for those living through them everyday.

Using this local perspective to build the connections you mention makes a lot of sense. Having empathy and experience built into the issues the students are solving makes it a bit easier to get excited and let the creative juices flow! This would presumably work well for the initial pilot phases.

Long term we were hoping to have a large network of these incubators, enabling students to transfer between cultures and teams, giving them an additional global perspective that can't be learned through textbooks or lessons alone.

Thanks again for the thoughtful feedback!

Spam
Photo of Mansi Parikh
Team

Hey Philip,

Thanks for the thoughts. The regional funding is definitely something to think about. However I worry that if it becomes too regional we might see the same funding disparity that we currently see in universities across the different states. In the long term it may put us back into the same situation we're currently trying to solve. We were thinking of segregation more along the lines of what kind of a "portfolio" these incubators may want to have. For eg. Some may want to tackle problems like climate change and others may want to tackle financial services, fintech, etc. What if local govts, agencies, businesses could incentivize incubators to adopt certain "missions" by funding, projects, etc. through funding, resources, projects, etc?

I think existing institutions would be great partners for solving the space issue. I think it would be mutually beneficial for both us and the institutions since they would be able to make some money and get some publicity for their institution while we can get fully equipped spaces at an affordable cost.

Spam
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Great discussion guys! In this challenge, we're particularly keen on solutions that will allow more students afford to graduate with 4 yr bachelor degrees. Although this idea's focus isn't focused on helping students attend traditional universities, it'll be interesting to explore how this incubator model can be applied to reduce the cost of colleges. How might the ABSeed Combinator be integrated with larger higher ed institutions. Just some food for thought. Looking forward to how this will grow!

Spam
Photo of Tatiana Pilon
Team

Hi Joshua! Thank you for your contribution. We have a team of aspiring entrepreneurs here at Brooklyn, NY trying to solve the puzzle of college affordability. I believe your idea is very interesting and I would love to see the future prototype. Also, one of our main concerns is how much enterprises are willing to commit on sponsoring students. I hope you will find the answer!

Spam
Photo of Joshua Lavra
Team

Thanks Tatiana -- I'm sure it's inspiring to work with aspiring entrepreneurs in NY!

You raise an interesting point about how much groups are willing to commit to sponsoring students. Coming from a corporate background, I see ROI (return on investment) being a concern for some contributors. While the financial return of sponsoring a student in the program is difficult to quantify, there are a number of qualitative returns that sponsors could expect -- educating a group to tackle the world's most difficult problems, building a talent pool for future employment, and being the first to nurture this type of alternative education approach.

I imagine the program would have to accommodate a variety of contribution levels. For example, a lower tier could include housing sponsorship (Airbnb) and food for the student (Spring, Munchery) while higher tiers sponsor the actual project based lessons (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to sponsor sanitation/toilet project, Google to sponsor global internet access project, etc.).

I would love to hear your thoughts on sponsorship!