Local efforts to inject innovation into education received a boost Friday as The Lean Lab announced fellows in its incubator program will earn seed capital for their projects aimed at disrupting traditional learning.
Founded in 2013, The Lean Lab welcomed five new teams of fellows from around the nation for its incubator, which develops education entrepreneurs’ ideas to improve education. The month-long program connects educators with Kansas City schools and mentors to solve specific problems.
Lean Lab co-founder Katie Boody described the new teams — largely focused in technology — as gritty, bold and mature.
“This helps put Kansas City on the map as a destination to build something.” – Katie Boody
“We’re really thrilled and ecstatic to be working with the caliber of entrepreneurs we have this year,” Boody said. “They’re all wonderful people that have creative and innovative solutions. They’re really mission-aligned and value-align to helping Kansas City kids, teachers and families.”
The Lean Lab will award fellows in the program up to $10,000 in seed funding and an additional $25,000 for the top two teams. The $50,000 in funds is thanks in part to the program’s partnership with Village Capital, the KC Social Innovation Center, and the City of Kansas City, Mo. The goal is to fuel projects and ideas that will close achievement gaps and build a better future for public-school students.
Boody said her organization’s ability to offer seed funding to education entrepreneurs not only accelerates their projects but also attracts top innovators.
“In the industry of early stage education entrepreneurship there aren’t a lot of resources out there nationally,” she said. “This helps put Kansas City on the map as a destination to build something. Because there aren’t many resources for education entrepreneurs at large, we’ve really got a unique opportunity to take advantage of that to grow our presence as an innovative education city and attract really talented people looking to come to Kansas City.”
Boody said that The Lean Lab opened its fellowship program to educators around the world, garnering applications from five countries, 17 states and 26 cities. She added the diversity of applicants made for a particularly strong class, which features fellows from St. Louis; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; Philadelphia; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Lean Lab also partners with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and 4.0 Schools, a New Orleans-based organization that helps education entrepreneurs test and launch their ideas. Two 4.0 Schools programs — Startup Weekend EDU and “Essentials” — are now in Kansas City. The Kauffman Foundation has given 4.0 Schools a $2.3 million grant to expand its programming nationwide and to partner with The Lean Lab in Kansas City.
Boody said Kansas Citians can expect a big year for The Lean Lab and Kansas City education as a whole.
“We’re continuing to make meaningful strides in education innovation,” Boody said. “This is just an additional data point to suggest that we’re on the up and up.”