Starting Schools with Jacob Allen


In this fellow highlight series, Camelback Ventures shares quick snapshots of our entrepreneurs' work and perspectives.

When Jacob Allen joined the 2015 Camelback Fellow cohort, he knew that he was ready to build a school guided by a very certain ideology. pilotED Schools empowers Chicago’s urban students through transformational academic and identity mindsets ensuring that they will be on-track for future academic gains, forever interrupting generational cycles of poverty. Since completing the Camelback Fellowship, Jacob and pilotEd have gone on to be welcomed by The Aspen Institute and Echoing Green, and are opening their first full-time identity-based charter school this upcoming year!

Update: Since this was posted, Jacob, along with Fellows Jessica Santana and Nicole Cardoza (2016), was named in the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education List. 

What is the best advice you’d offer an entrepreneur at the beginning of a new venture?
Build that vision and execute at every chance you get.

What has been most surprising about your entrepreneurial journey?
The amount of people who are willing to lend a helping hand or offer a piece of advice.

How has the Camelback Fellowship program most impacted your progress?
Connections! So many people come up and say, "Oh, you were a Camelback Fellow!"

Tell us about a powerful experience that confirmed your organization is making an impact on your community.
Our students and families were recently filmed by NBC to do a short documentary about our venture. Hearing the impact that pilotED has had on the lives of families was something that hit me hard.

Who is your go to source for inspiration?
My mother.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced as underrepresented entrepreneur?
Funding— I am constantly seeing checks being written for other entrepreneurs who are further behind and have less traction than our model.
Camelback Note: As a reference, Digital Undivided recently reported that black women, on average, receive $36,000 from VCs, while white men with prior failed startups received $1.3 million. For further reading, check out this Forbes piece on the racial wealth gap and this one from Entrepreneur specifically about black startup founders.

PS: What’s at the top of your recommended reading list?
Definitely The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

To learn more about Jacob, his venture, and his experience with the Camelback Fellowship, click here.