January 26, 2016

EVENT: The Camelback-Lumina Challenge

Camelback Ventures is an incubator for entrepreneurs of color in the higher education space. The Camelback Fellowship provides coaching, connections and capital to ensure that these ventures are investment-ready.

I recently got a chance to sit down with Aaron to discuss Camelback Ventures and the Camelback-Lumina Challenge happening January 26th, 6pm EST at Wix Lounge, NYC.

Hear from some of the top minds in the higher education space and RSVP (for free) here!


So the Lumina Foundation has partnered with organizations like The Economist for events in the past. How did you end up connecting with them?

They actually reached out to me. It was one of those fortunate situations because one of the folks on their executive team, Kiko Suarez, is passionate about entrepreneurs of color and trying to get more equity into the social entrepreneurship space.

While he was working with an entrepreneur named Chris Gray who was starting something called Track Ahead, Chris applied to our fellowship last January and mentioned some things about Camelback. Kiko then reached out and we struck up a conversation about this mutual interest that we had in education. We started talking about things we could do together and one of those was a challenge.

Lumina partners with Innocentive, which is sort of a crowdsourcing platform, and they had done a challenge before with the Economist and reached out to suggest that we do a future challenge with them focusing on higher education. So it took us four months to put the idea together but it finally came out. We invited people from around the country to apply and actually got a few submissions internationally from South Africa and a few other places.

We asked: if they could reimagine higher education in the same way we imagine k-12—student-centered, leveraging where students are at, not just from an academic standpoint, but from a physical standpoint—and include all the different constituencies that come into higher education beyond the traditional student, what would that system look like?


Are there any other partners we should know about?

It’s sort of a three-organization team: Camelback, Lumina and Innocentive. We’re hosting the event in NYC with Wix.


Can you tell us a little bit about the Challenge?

Sure, Lumina is super-focused on 2025. They decided 10 years ago that they wanted the whole purpose of their organization to center around post-secondary attainment.

So essentially, how do we get 60% of Americans to have a post-secondary credential? Whether that’s a four-year degree, a two-year degree or some other certification that would lead them to a high wage job.

So right now they’re thinking: what are some big bets we can make over the next ten years that could help us get to that goal? Right now, the figures are at about 47% or 48% so they’re about 12% away from that goal.

One of the realizations that came out of their work was to do a challenge or test what some of these ideas would look like in action. That’s sort of where the challenge comes in.

For Camelback, we sort of understand two things. One is our interest in underrepresented populations and 1st generation students when it comes to college. We know how important it is to incubate within the higher education space, so we can get more of our students not just to college but through four-year and two-year institutions that can lead to high-growth positions.

The other is that at the end of the day, we’re interested in the financial freedom these certificates offer and we are trying to find the best way to get folks in a position to attain them.

The challenge itself is a call for people to put up the best ideas that would help us do that.


Is it too late to submit proposals?

Well, we narrowed it down from 300 to 50 to now, the three that will be presenting at the event.


When and where is the event?

So the event is January 26th at 6pm at Wix (235 W 23rd St. New York, NY)


What’s new with Camelback Ventures this year, can entrepreneurs still apply to become 2016 fellows?

We just admitted our 2016 class this week, we made offers to ten entrepreneurs and we’re going to make a public announcement in the beginning of February. One of the perks of the winner of the Camelback-Lumina challenge is they’ll have a chance to become a 2016 Camelback Fellow, so we’re sort of waiting for that event to happen before we announce our 2016 class.


How can we learn more about future challenges and new things going on at Camelback Ventures?

We’re going to have an announcement on our blog pretty soon about our 2016 class. That will kick off a whole series of blogs and microblogs about the experience here at Camelback Ventures. Keep looking out on our site and follow us on medium as well.

We’ll also be at the Teach For America summit in Washington DC, February 5th and 6th as part of their social entrepreneurship track, leading a couple workshops and participating in a few of the events going on there.


We’re also partnered with SXSWedu this year, so we have one of our fellows that’s going to be pitching in our Launch Edu competition, Smart Coos, and one of our new 2016 folks will be pitching as well. So Camelback will be featured at the pitch competition but we’ll also be mentors at the conference.


Anything else you like to let us know?

Well, we’re already thinking about who’s going to be in the Camelback Class of 2017 so if you’re an entrepreneur who you think we should be working with, definitely get in touch. On our website, we also have a page called ‘nominate’, and you can nominate anyone just send us their name and email.

We’re just excited about what 2016 holds. We just found out three weeks ago that Jerelyn Rodriguez of Knowledge House and two other past fellows have been named in the Forbes 30 under 30, so that’s exciting. Part of the vision we had when we began was really changing the face of social innovation.

I always lamented when I opened up the 30 under 30 and never saw as many folks of color as I thought should be there. So to have three of our fellows in our first year year of the fellowship make it in was an exciting a motivating experience. So we’re excited about what the future holds.

If you’re in New York City. Stop by the Camelback-Lumina Challenge and say hello.


Bradley Miles

Student at Columbia University. Co-founder of Columbia Venture Partners.

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