Ted Leonsis loves to argue that Georgetown could be the Stanford University of the East Coast one day.
From his perspective, it makes sense. Georgetown has a growing number of entrepreneurial students, and while most top-name universities still mostly prepare students for corporate jobs, Georgetown has the makings to change that.
“You go on the campus of Stanford, and everyone is thinking about what business they should start, who they should be partnering with, [and] the most popular classes are the ones taught by adjuncts who started their careers at Google and the like,” Leonsis, who is also the CEO of Monumental Sports, said in an interview.
“Looking at the world a little differently is important for our local schools because a lot of businesses will be started on campus.”
That’s why each year Leonsis, a Georgetown alumnus, funds and judges the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize for up-and-coming startups run by Georgetown students.
The 2018 competition, called “Bark Tank” and which took place on Jan. 16, was different, Leonsis said.
“What was palpable and noticeable was the amount of women entrepreneurs who were either teamed with a male partner but they were clearly the lead or that it was a multiple female-led company,” Leonsis said in an interview. “That was the first time, and I’ve been doing a competition like this in-and-around Georgetown for four years. It didn’t feel forced.”
And Hatch, a D.C. co-working and child care startup, was no exception. Launched by Georgetown MBA students Kelsey Lents and JP Coakley, Hatch runs a workplace, much like a WeWork or cove, but with both a full-time and part-time childcare option. The startup won the $30,000 grand prize on Tuesday.
“It’s a real validation to be able to pitch in front of people with that type of experience and be able to see how the idea really resonates with them,” Lents said in an interview.
Hatch plans to open its first location in fall 2018, and they’re currently finalizing a lease in the Tenleytown and Spring Valley areas. Their center is catered to working parents who work the types of jobs that WeWork and other co-working customers do. As Lents says, it’s already difficult to find childcare as it is, let alone when you’re self-employed or telecommuting.
“There was a combination of feeling like there was a real shortage of childcare — How in the world am I going to find a center that my unborn child is going to be apart of?” Lents said. “Added to that, every time I started looking around online at parent communities and mom blogs, there wasn’t a formalized community around people who are working outside a traditional office structure.”
Hatch was born out of those frustrations. Both Lents and Coakley, who met at Georgetown, are new parents, and for Lents, especially, trying to find childcare was a daunting process from Day 1. That, and it was also difficult to find a formalized community of parents dealing with their same difficulties.
“I remember vividly. I went to the very first childcare that we were looking at when I was eight-weeks pregnant, and they told me that I was late to the game,” Lents said. “The waitlist was already so long, and it was unlikely I would get in before my kid was one, and that just completely blew my mind.”
The two co-founders started working on Hatch in March, and they’re planning to close their first round of funding — a family, friends and angel round — in February. In the meantime, they’ve been garnering as much interest in their upcoming location as possible and interviewing as many parents as possible. Their waitlist sits at around 70, and when they open, they’ll have about 130 daycare spots.
Given their targeted clientele, Hatch is able to offer flexible daycare options. If a parent only needs full-time care on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, paired with a half-day schedule on Thursdays, Hatch can accommodate that. So, with those flexible scheduling options, Lents says they will be able to have more than 130 total kids.
It’s that community that Lents says will set them apart in the ever-turbulent D.C. co-working landscape.
“There are a lot of co-working spaces that have cropped up nationally, and for us, the co-working is what allows us to create a viable solution for parents to put their child in childcare without losing that child-parent relationship,” Lents said.
“We recognize that it’s pretty easy to walk down the street to one co-working spot versus another co-working spot, and we want our spot to fill all of the professional needs you have, but what we’re really trying to give our parents is that connection back with their kids.”
Moving forward, the Hatch team is looking at finalizing both their lease and their funding round. After that? They’re looking at more locations, and they’re chatting with bigger companies about potential partnerships to allow parents who are out on new parental leave to use Hatch as a transition spot. Instead of opting to be out of work for a longer amount of time, the parents can work at Hatch for a short period and have the added bonus of nearby childcare.
“It’s been really great to start it in the D.C. and DMV area. The problem is so endemic here and it’s so representative of what’s happening nationally,” Lents said. “For us, it’s been really rewarding to feel like we’re tackling it at the heart and expand outward from there.”