Sparking Innovation in Early Childhood

About Uncharted

Uncharted is a 21st-century problem-solving organization that uses the power of an entrepreneurial accelerator to tackle the world’s biggest social and environmental issues. In January 2016, GCI and Uncharted partnered to host the first-ever early childhood accelerator.

We proved that the accelerator process works for early childhood, and the experience helped inspire the school readiness innovation strategies GCI is currently pursuing.” — Steffanie Clothier, Early Childhood Development Investment Director, Gary Community Investments

Purpose of Funding

The accelerator brought together entrepreneurs, funders and world-class mentors to test new ideas and develop solutions focused on improving the lives of low-income children, ages zero to five, in the United States. More than 100 entrepreneurs applied to attend the event, with 13 selected to spend five days learning from mentors, practicing prototyping and collaborating with their peers. Participants were focused on a range of solutions, targeting issues such as early childhood workforce retention; improving quality, affordability and access; navigating funding streams; and scaling
technology-driven solutions.

Amount Funded


Funding Period

2015 - 2016

Outcome Area

School Readiness

Lessons Learned

Through the accelerator experience, it became clear that innovative, out-of-the-box thinking, combined with collaboration across sectors, has the power to solve some of the biggest challenges facing Colorado families. The following is a recap of what we learned after an entire week focused on early childhood innovation.


01Healthy Tension Exists Between For-Profits & Nonprofits

The accelerator brought together nonprofits and for-profits in a new way that was sometimes uncomfortable. But, it created the opportunity to think differently about problems and view solutions from different perspectives. Whether they came from the for-profit or nonprofit sectors, all participants had the same thing in common: they are high-energy problem-solvers committed to channeling their passion toward early childhood innovation.

02Meaningful Relationships Matter

We had the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships that led to future collaboration. We built stronger partnerships with early childhood leaders, including Omidyar Network, Sesame Ventures and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, that are committed to championing innovation in early childhood. Also, the accelerator helped us find new ventures working in the early childhood sector, and many of them went on to participate in our Early Childhood Innovation Prize.

03More Early Childhood Innovation is Needed

The experience created excitement and confidence within GCI about the potential of innovation strategies to create transformative impact in early childhood. After the experience, we made a formal commitment to catalyzing early childhood innovation, and we have been executing on a set of school readiness innovation strategies that are building a more robust pipeline of innovative solutions, providing early supports and capital advance new ideas, and growing and scaling effective solutions.

Impact & Results

Growing & Scaling Early Childhood Ventures

After the accelerator, Uncharted surveyed participants’ satisfaction with the experience, and it continues to measure how the participating ventures are growing and scaling through a multi-year impact assessment that tracks a variety of metrics, including funding, revenue and team size. All entrepreneurs reported receiving tremendous value from the accelerator, and, in the past year, many made significant strides toward scale while adopting new practices, like rapid prototyping, that have helped shape their businesses. The following data emerged from entrepreneurs after the first-year assessment.


Percent felt the experience was valuable to them as an entrepreneur


Percent of entrepreneurs built relationships with valuable mentors


Percent feel like part of a community that supports their work


Percent of ventures experienced revenue growth


Percent of ventures experienced growth in full-time employees


Percent of ventures significantly advanced in stage

In such a short period of time, Uncharted facilitated incredible connections—people who really believe in each other and really want to help each other out.

– Ami Shah, Co-Founder & CEO, Peekapak

The accelerator proved the value of investing at the intersection of for-profits, nonprofits and social ventures. The random collaborations, strategically designed to take place between social entrepreneurs, mentors and funders, yielded some amazing collaboration projects.

– Nim Patel, Chief Innovation Officer, Bright by Text