Z Combinator Fellowship
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Apply to Z Combinator
Please note that you must be opening a school in Fall 2024 to be eligible for the 2023-24 Fellowship.
Z Combinator is a charter startup school and growth engine for schools of the future designed to accelerate the growth of high-quality charter seats across the nation. We empower charter founders, leaders, and educators with the resources, tools, and expertise to build world-class schools.
Z Combinator is a fully-funded seven-month Fellowship program, running from July to January and offered at no cost to participants. It is operated through Zeta Charter Schools in pursuit of our mission to ensure that every child in America has access to the highest-quality, free education from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Why Z Combinator
Too many aspiring charter school founders do not make it to day one.
Charters are often founded by leaders with strong academic or day-to-day school operational experience but who may otherwise not yet be equipped to tackle the massive business, operational, legal, and political challenges facing early-stage charter startups. These challenges often divert founder-leaders from focusing on what is important and usually in their wheelhouse– delivering high-quality education—and may even create obstacles that prevent a school’s launch.
Venturing down the founder’s path, new charter founders often find that the path is not only incredibly challenging but also lonely, as the founder-leader uniquely bears responsibility for every aspect of a charter startup’s success (or failure).
Z Combinator empowers charter founders with the mentoring, resources, tools, and expertise to build world-class schools and the knowledge they need to launch strong. We support you through your pre-launch year, helping you deeply connect with other charter founders nationwide going through the same experience, and preparing you with timely expert advice and coaching from individuals who have successfully launched and scaled world-class schools.
Z Combinator equips you to launch strong on day one, while making incredible connections with other charter founders.
What Happens at Z Combinator
4 In-Person and 2 Virtual Sessions: Z Combinator Fellows spend 25 days across 4 sessions in New York City at Zeta Charter Schools for intensive, hands-on learning. During these sessions, Fellows embed with Zeta leaders and teachers for interactive workshops during Zeta’s summer training and professional learning program; observe Zeta’s schools in action including classroom visits, leader-teacher coaching sessions, and operational walkthroughs to observe how Zeta approaches processes like student arrival; engage in facilitated school launch planning from vision-setting to forming your tactical check-list leading up to Day 1; and join Zeta’s network leaders for business and operations sessions (e.g., People Operations, Budgeting, Family Outreach). We balance our intensive, hands-on sessions during the day with opportunities to connect and rejuvenate with Z Combinator Fellows in our beautiful city in the evening.
Cohort Experience: Z Combinator creates a close-knit cohort experience, including an online community forum for real-time conversation and requests for support. Z Combinator Fellows make connections and relationships with each other that last beyond the program.
School Launch Resource Creation: Through workshops, coaching, and individualized support, Fellows leave Z Combinator with a wide variety of exemplar Zeta resources and customized school launch deliverables, which include: a personal development plan, a polished fundraising pitch deck, a school launch project plan, an academic scope & sequence, a Year One budget, an organizational hiring/staffing plan, and so much more!
Small-Group Mentorship: We understand the difference a mentor can make in taking our thinking from good to exceptional (just look at the impact of excellent teachers on their students). Z Combinator Fellows are paired with a mentor who will check in with them during in-person sessions, as well as during scheduled time throughout Z Combinator. This mentorship is intended to provide individualized support for Z Combinator Fellows, including answering questions, advising on challenges, and providing crucial feedback.
Office Hours: Connecting is a crucial part of Z Combinator. We offer optional and as-needed virtual office hours with Zeta leaders in between in-person sessions to dive deeper on topics raised during workshops and to provide additional, timely support on school launch resource creation. This might look like small-group virtual pitch practice before an upcoming donor meeting, a 1:1 feedback session on your school launch plan with a Zeta leader, a group problem-solving session on your enrollment tactics, or other meetings to address questions that arise throughout your experience.
Alumni Community: Z Combinator is all about creating communities of continuous learners. We provide virtual opportunities to keep learning (like open access to some of our in-house professional learning opportunities) and are already working on ways to keep our first cohort on their path to success. Our network of Z Combinator Fellow Alumni is crucial to our mission of ensuring every child in America has access to free, high-quality public education, pre-K to 12th grade.
The New York Experience: We want you to have a wonderful experience while you visit and learn in the Big Apple! Fellows receive Z Combinator swag and participate in cohort outings to classic NYC experiences. (Past outings have included Broadway hits Hamilton and Lion King and a Mets baseball game. Future outings may vary.) Z Combinator also covers the cost of lodging, food, and transportation throughout your stay.
Stage 1: Z Combinator accepts applications for the 2023-24 Fellowship Program starting February 24, 2023 on a rolling basis. Our application window closes once all openings are filled.
Stage 2: Z Combinator invites select Fellow candidates to complete a brief video interview.
Stage 3: Z Combinator invites finalists to a virtual 30-45 min live interview held on either April 28 (between 9:30am- 12:30 pm EST) or June 5 (between 9:00am- 12:00 pm EST). Please ensure your availability for those days when applying.
Stage 4: XRef Reference Checks are completed after virtual interviews.
Stage 5: Fellowship invitations sent on a rolling basis.
Stage 6: Fellowship begins on Mon., July 17, 2023. Please ensure your availability for these days when applying; you must attend all days to participate in Z Combinator. Session dates are as follows:
Session I: Mon., July 17, 2023 – Fri., July 28, 2023 (including travel to/from NYC)
Session II: Mon., September 11, 2023 – Fri., September 15, 2023 (including travel to/from NYC)
Session III: Mon., October 23, 2023 – Fri., October 27, 2023 (including travel to/from NYC)
Virtual 1-hour Session: Tue., Nov., 14, 2023 (Zoom meeting)
Virtual 1-hour Session: Tue., Dec. 12, 2023 (Zoom meeting)
Session IV: Mon., Jan. 8, 2024 – Fri., Jan. 12, 2024 (including travel to/from NYC)
Z Combinator has a strong commitment to diversity. Candidates of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.