Opened last February in the heart of the Financial District, Schoolab San Francisco is doing its “grand opening” on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
But why make an inauguration 10 months after the opening of the space? Because Schoolab wanted to share feedback with the audience as explained by Mathieu Aguesse, the CEO of the San Francisco-based subsidiary. He wanted to give the opportunity for the guests and the students who have just completed their program at Berkeley, to interact.
This school, like no other, enjoys the tangible versus the theory.
Mathieu, what is Schoolab?
It is a hybrid model between school and accelerator but also a co-working space, all components revolving around open innovation.
Can you be more specific?
We are a private school that takes its origins in Paris, twelve years ago. In early 2019, we exported to San Francisco our two flagship programs, anxious to verify that our success in France was not just “random” but replicable abroad.
Let’s talk first about the Open Innovation program, the Schoolab’s DNA:
Large companies in need of innovation, entrust a research project to a group of multi-disciplinary students. In San Francisco, we have set up this program with the University of Berkeley, and our cycle allows Berkeley students to earn two credits as part of their studies.
After a semester, the companies leave with a project under their arm, and often discover talents that they will eventually hire.
As for the students, either they have found their first job or they have confirmed their entrepreneurial mindset by structuring their own start-up project. They can also enter the Schoolab Consulting resource pool; having been trained with our methods, our alumni act as outpost consultants with our clients. They have all the assets to replicate our best practices and expand the community.
Schoolab is at the heart of the system, defining the overarching theme of innovation (“Deplastifying the Planet” for this first edition), sourcing large companies, and making sure that the Berkeley students group comes from different backgrounds. For us, it is essential to mix up designers, engineers, and humanities students … so that their projects are well thought through.
This first program around the theme “Deplastifying the Planet” brought together Nestlé, Recology, Method, Faurecia and the Lonely Whale Foundation plus thirty students.
The second program, still on the theme of “Deplastifying the Planet”, will start on January 20, 2020 under the same conditions, with different companies and new students.
Why imposing the theme of innovation?
It’s essential! Schoolab claims its status as a committed company, and wants to choose and advance those specific subjects. This allows us to create a talents’ pool that shares our values, and that solve business problems with this specific approach in mind.
Can you tell us about the second program, The Bridge?
Started in San Francisco in September, The Bridge has been running in Paris for 5 years. It allows students who are most often French or Hispanic, to spend a semester in Berkeley by taking courses on entrepreneurship, then a semester in our premises to put the learning into practice.
Now that we have this Schoolab office in San Francisco, we offer to our students to spend the second semester here or in Paris.
They remain in a dynamic environment and develop their project in an accelerator format, benefiting from our advice and from our eco-system.
Co-working space is a key element of the program as students are immersed with resident companies, and business enablers.
Students who want to become entrepreneurs are allowed to refine their product idea, and to meet the one(s) who will become their co-founder(s) … one rarely starts a start-up alone.
When they integrate Schoolab, they are students with an entrepreneur spirit, when they leave, they have a product and co-founder.
Can you give us some examples of startups that have emerged after The Bridge:
Our alumni have largely contributed to provide the first two promos to the Refiners with Lalilo, Tempow or Snipfeed, did Y Combinator incubator program with Blue Cargo (YC2018) or have started without external help like Doctrine, and Hello Zack.
So, School, Accelerator or Co-working space?
Co-working space because we welcome our students from The Bridge in our space, and accelerator because we help them grow their project by providing with a conducive environment.
But first and foremost, we remain a school. We do not fund our startups, we want to decorrelate the search for funding from their success. Some go on with their own funding … and we do not want to influence their decision. We reveal potentials and make connections if necessary. It stops there.
But what sets Schoolab apart from existing programs?
What initially contributed to our success in France was the fact that we imported the model from Silicon Valley, its innovative methods, such as “design thinking”.
When we came to Silicon Valley, we obviously wondered what we could bring to local businesses.
We do not pretend to transform the world, but we think it is time for companies to address the new generations, the Millennials, with products and services that carry values that make sense to them.
We believe that a company that embraces ethical issues will do better in the future, including from an economic viewpoint, than a company that does not incorporate these values.
Examples of lack of ethics are numerous at this very moment; it’s not without consequences for those businesses and can permanently scorches their image.
We propose to companies that want to play the game, to reflect together, with our talents on major topics such as:
- Deplastifying the Planet (current topic of the program)
- Artificial Intelligence and Ethics (potential subject for the cycle that will start in September 2020)
- Redefining what makes Success (not definitive)
- And the Future of Food.
We also organized conferences around food with JustEgg, Impossible Foods and we have more to come for 2020.
We believe that we need to help businesses reconcile with the millenials and thus question the codes of the older generations.
Thank you Mathieu Aguesse