Mebane Foundation + 4.0 Schools = Opportunities for Educational Entrepreneurs


by Jeanna White

What is the future of school like? What is school for?  How can we help every student maximize their potential?

These are the questions innovators in education are asking and the questions that 4.0 Schools and the Mebane Foundation are trying to answer.

Redefining “School” 
Launched in New Orleans in 2010, 4.0 Schools is an early-stage education incubator that brings educators, entrepreneurs and technologists together to launch ventures that redefine school. To date, 4.0 has launched more than 20 ventures and trained more than 400 in its approach to innovation in education. An average of 10-15 new businesses and schools are started every year.

4.0 Schools

“The world has changed but school hasn’t,” said 4.0 Schools’ Founder, Matt Candler. “At 4.0 we help find the most promising innovators in our country – parents, kids, techies, teachers – and we help them design vital experiments that teach us about what the future of school in our country can be.”

4.0 Schools Fellowships

“4.0 Schools finds, trains, and invests in passionate people solving the most important challenges in education,” he added. “We help build communities around entrepreneurs and their ventures to help them grow their ideas into successful, sustainable organizations.”

Looking for Ideas on the “Credible Fringe”
The organization’s passion for the future of education attracted the attention of the Mebane Foundation, which strives to be a catalyst for literacy innovation in North Carolina and beyond.

“Mrs. Mebane and I visited 4.0 Schools about 5 years ago and we were impressed with the program and the people who were participating,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “But at that point, they were really focused on charter schools and developing different school models while the Foundation was looking at public schools.”

“When they expanded their focus, we decided to take another look,” he added. For Colbourne, that second look involved attending a 4.0 Schools “Community Summit,” a meeting with leaders piloting breakthrough schools, learning spaces, and tools from across the country.

He was impressed with what he found. “The 4.0 Community brings together a community of educational thought leaders that want to improve the way we think about how we educate our children,” Colbourne said. “Here at Mebane Charitable Foundation we like to refer to these great ideas as those on the “credible fringe,” he added. “We want to engage with these innovators because we are always looking for new and exciting ways to support our families and our students.”

To create this engagement, the Mebane Foundation recently gave 4.0 Schools a two-year, $200,000 grant to support Essentials Fellowships, Tiny Fellowships, and to offer start-up funds for promising ventures. Essentials Fellowships assist innovators in delving deeper into the problem they hope to solve by offering training and the feedback needed to help make the venture a success while Tiny Fellowships provide funding to innovators who have received early-stage validation continue to test their ideas.

4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowships

“Funding 4.0 Schools offers us a national platform and gives us access to great educational thinkers across the country,” Colbourne said. “Our goal is to find  entrepreneurs with ideas that align with our mission so that we can become a larger downstream funder in the future. Ultimately, we would like to bring an idea to scale and then bring it back to North Carolina and Davie County.”

“I encourage anyone with a promising idea to look into 4.0 Schools and to consider applying for an Essentials or Tiny Fellowship,” he added. “4.0 Schools is hosting webinars about the programs on May 8th and applications are due by May 14th.”