Game Over for Co.lab Accelerator


Game Over for Co.lab Accelerator

By Blake Montgomery     May 29, 2016

Game Over for Co.lab Accelerator

Esteban Sosnik, founder of co.lab, quotes L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in a his farewell: "Everything has to come to an end, sometime." For co.lab, that sometime is now. The road workers have run out of yellow bricks.

As its fifth cohort graduates, co.lab, a nonprofit game design accelerator in San Francisco, will shut its doors. Started in September 2013 as a partnership between Zynga and NewSchools Venture Fund, co.lab offered a four-month program at its offices, $50,000 and a mentor network to early-stage educational gaming startups. Sosnik will begin work as a partner at Reach Capital after co.lab shutters. He did not cite a reason for co.lab's demise, though one of co.lab's major partners, Zygna, has suffered from poor earnings and a recent leadership shuffle.

In a blog post titled “The end of the yellow brick road,” Sosnik writes that he believed that co.lab served a needed market niche. According to the post, the four co.lab cohorts have raised $57 million in capital since graduating, received critical acclaim and reached 50 million students. Each cohort consists of five to seven companies, and co.lab has worked with 29 companies in total, among them Nearpod, Pixel Press, Edmodo, EdCast, WriteLab and BrainQuake.

The goal of the accelerator was twofold: to improve the educational gaming ecosystem and help startups. On its website, co.lab claimed, "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."

Sosnik included a few market trends he observed from his time at co.lab in his post. He writes, “The education software industry is experiencing a revolution led by companies that disrupt the market from the ‘bottom up.’” That disruption, according to Sosnik, is happening in design. He believes educational games are beginning to emulate consumer-focused software instead of district mandates and specifications. He predicts educational games will continue to respond to the needs and enjoyment of teachers and students rather than district regulations.

Sosnik’s other lessons are a bit more bitter: he titles two sections of his post “Parents value free over quality” and “High barriers to meet K12 needs,” but he ends on a hopeful note. He encourages entrepreneurs to pursue innovative business models, as the formula for sustainable revenue and success in the educational games industry is still a mystery.

Editor’s note: Reach Capital, a supporter of Co.Lab, is an investor in EdSurge.

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