Promising Ventures Fellowship FAQ

We encourage you to check out this video with Promise Partner Michael Dougherty who tells you everything you need to know about the Fellowship in 4 short minutes.

The application for the summer 2019 Promising Ventures Fellowship is now closed.

Who should apply to the Promising Ventures Fellowship?

We are seeking social entrepreneurs working in the U.S. early childhood space. We define early childhood as prenatal to age 5, inclusive of the adults who care for children and influence their environments. That can include parents, caregivers, educators, pediatricians, social workers, advocates, and more.

We invite applications from:

  • ventures focused on early education, early health, social services, child care, parental support / education, supportive technology, or any other adjacent field

  • ventures at any stage (idea, early, growth, mature) on a path to scaled impact

  • nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies

What are your selection criteria for the Promising Ventures Fellowship?

Social impact potential: We are looking for ventures that purposefully seek to positively influence the lives of the most disadvantaged children and families, and that are driven to deeply understand and increase the effectiveness of their products and services for those populations.

Growth potential: We are looking for ventures that have the potential (now or in the future) to scale their solutions to reach the millions of disadvantaged children in the U.S. and / or their families and caregivers.

Program fit: We will select ventures that have the vision, the team, and the stability to allow them to focus on and make meaningful strides on high priority social impact and growth goals during the Fellowship program (with Promise’s help). We expect key team members to be committed full-time to their venture.

What happens during the Fellowship Program?

In the first week, we’ll first partner with you to further understand your biggest social impact and growth goals (that you articulated in your application).

Throughout the rest of the program, you’ll aggressively pursue those two goals with our full support. You shouldn’t think of this as extra work, rather the opposite, as it should fit naturally within existing priorities (or will help sharpen them).

The Promise team will spend 1-2 hours per week with you, working shoulder-to-shoulder to support you.

Specifically, you can expect:

  • Weekly check-ins with a Promise goal coach who will help track progress, advise, and secure the connections and resources you need.

  • Every-other-week meetings with a Promise senior advisor for strategic thought partnership, expert support, and leadership mentoring to nurture and build your capacity as an entrepreneur and leader.

  • Every-other-week cohort huddles for group learning experiences with outside experts and deep-dive peer support around specific challenges.

  • Strategic introductions to experts, funders, practitioners, and other potential partners.

  • Ongoing learning, sharing, and community building with peers and the Promise team in a private Slack forum.

  • Bespoke advising and consultation on impact goal execution from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

  • A series of optional workshops and guest speakers.(Promise can help identify the opportunities most relevant to your goals.)

  • All program components will be conducted virtually over Zoom.

What types of goals will Fellowship teams work on?

We will ask each venture to define and focus on two high priority goals: 1) a social impact goal and 2) a growth goal. Here are some examples of each:

Example social impact goals:

  • Design, prototype, and /or pilot an adaptation of your product for a disadvantaged population

  • Design, prototype, and /or pilot an adaptation of your product to increase alignment with the science of ECD

  • Strengthen your impact value proposition and close a sale to a new, impact-focused customer

  • Design an impact measurement and evaluation framework and begin data collection

Example growth goals:

  • Increase weekly user growth from X% to Y%

  • Reach profitability / sustainability by closing $Z in sales

  • Prove a repeatable partnership model by securing three new partnership deals

  • Develop a plan for scaling operations to new strategic markets / user segments

What do you mean when you talk about social impact in ECD?

ECD social impact is the positive change that you make against a problem that exists for young children and their families which is preventing them from reaching their best potential. We regularly emphasize three dimensions of impact:

  1. A target population that is most acutely affected or uniquely disadvantaged by the problem you’re solving

  2. The specific outcomes achieved that result from your product / service / intervention, and the magnitude of their change compared to the current status quo

  3. The reach of those outcomes both in quantity and intensity for the target populations identified

We will meet you where you are on the problem you’re trying to solve and connect you with support and tools to better define, measure, improve, and grow your social impact.

As a mission-driven organization, we care deeply about finding organizations that can serve the most disadvantaged populations with the potential to address the pressing and persistent problems across ECD (e.g., improving prenatal / postpartum health, decreasing sources of stress in families’ lives, reducing adverse childhood experiences, interrupting multigenerational poverty, increasing access to high quality early care and education, strengthening core life skills, increasing caregiver / educator training, achieving school readiness, etc.).

Who from my team can participate in the program?

Up to two senior leaders from each venture may participate in all programming. At least one participant must be a founder, Executive Director, or CEO. Ideally, these two leaders are equally engaged and can leverage each other on goal achievement.

Do I need to travel to participate in the program?

Just once. The program is entirely virtual, except for an in-person gathering tentatively scheduled for June 12-13 at our headquarters in Silicon Valley, CA.

We’ve intentionally planned for you to meet in person at the onset of the program, as you’ll be supporting and learning from each other throughout the three months.

Does the Fellowship include funding?

Fellowship ventures will not receive funding from Promise. Our partner, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC), will selectively offer non-dilutive grant funding to ventures for their impact goals. Ventures will be eligible for this funding after the Fellowship, pending a separate brief application process.

How much HCDC funding is available for ventures, and what are the criteria for receiving HCDC grants?

HCDC expects to make 4-8 grants available in the range of $25,000-$50,000 to focus on further development and implementation of projects related to a venture’s impact goals. The eligibility and selection process for these grants will be made known to teams after acceptance into the Fellowship.

How much does the Fellowship cost for ventures?

Promise is backed by generous partners who enable us to offer the Fellowship program to ventures at no cost.

Fellows will need to cover their own travel and lodging expenses for our June gathering in Silicon Valley. We will help to coordinate more affordable options for accommodations in the area, for those who would like them.

How do I apply?

Create an account and complete a Venture Profile with details about your venture’s history and progress. (The Venture Profile is also your entry point to the Promise Venture Network.) At the end of the Profile section, select the option to “Continue to Fellowship Application” and tell us about the goals you would pursue as a Promising Ventures Fellow. Be sure to submit your final application by the April 30 deadline.

Before submitting, you can save your progress at any time, then use your account login details to return to your application and continue entering your information. After submitting, you can still log back in to make changes to your information, but please be sure to notify us at so we can check for your updated submission.

When does the application close?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PDT

How many teams will be chosen?

8-12 teams

When will you announce decisions?

We will announce decisions in mid-May, 2019.

When does the program start and end?

The Fellowship will run from May 28 to August 29, 2019. We will have one in-person gathering in Silicon Valley in early June.

What happens after the Fellowship?

All Fellows automatically become members of the Promise Venture Network. As such, throughout and after the Fellowship, you will have access to the full range of programming and support offered exclusively to the Network.

As a Fellow, you also earn a guaranteed slot at our Fall 2019 Early Childhood Demo Week that will connect 75+ of the most promising ventures and organizations in ECD (i.e. you) with hundreds of investors, funders, partners, practitioners, and customers.

In addition, we expect that as our inaugural Promising Ventures Fellowship Alumni class, you’ll come away with a very close, tight-knit cohort of peers on whom you can regularly rely for support.

Have further questions?

Check out this short video or email us.