Josh Collins’ idea for Quarter Zero came out of his desire to spend more time with his little brother, who, while still in high school, had an idea to start his own business. His brother quickly became frustrated over the scarcity of resources available to him as a high schooler. An entrepreneur himself, Josh knew that a business incubator program, a company designed specifically to help new startups get off the ground, would benefit his little bro. So, Josh came up with the idea for Catapult Incubator, the flagship program of what would later become Quarter Zero.
Catapult Incubator is a 6-week program exclusively for high school students to give their venture ideas a real shot. Students can apply to the incubator program either as a “founder”—already having a venture idea, or as a “free agent”—someone hoping to gain the skills needed to build their own startup but without their own idea. The program is meant to give students a 100% real-life experience into what it looks like to grow a startup. Students team up and develop a real business venture while traveling to three different locations deemed “innovation hubs”—Silicon Valley, Chicago, and New York. Industry specialists lead “masterclasses” on various stages of growing a startup, from ideation to the final pitch. They even have pro bono designers to create a logo for each venture, and pro bono lawyers to provide legal assistance! The program wraps up with “demo day,” where each team presents their venture to an audience of peers and professionals.
For students who want to squeeze every ounce of fun out of their summer, there is now a sort of “incubator lite” in the Quarter Zero Startup Camps. Brand new in 2019, the QØ Startup Camp is a 5-day crash course in entrepreneurship that includes some of the same masterclasses featured in the Catapult Incubator program. Sprinkled in with the classes are a plethora of adventure activities tailored to the camp’s location—either Santa Barbara,Buena Vista, Colorado, or New York City. The Startup Camps offer an experience akin to a traditional summer camp, but with the added benefit of valuable career skills and a lasting network.
To prove they’re not just after what the students’ society deems as smart or successful, Quarter Zero doesn’t even consider an applicant’s GPA, and they offer scholarships for students who cannot afford the full tuition cost. “We just want to find the right people who have integrity, intelligence—whether social or emotional—and have the humility to work with others,” says Josh. In a field where men outnumber women in leadership, Josh is also making an effort to enroll more young women into the programs. “We are actively trying to change the thinking that business is for boys,” Josh added.
A summer with Quarter Zero will certainly provide a leg up on college applications. Participants have gone on to attend top universities, and over 70 companies have been started by Quarter Zero alumni. The testimonials speak for themselves: a summer program collaborating with peers, learning from the experts, and gaining real-world experience isn’t nerdy—it’s smart.
Even though Josh’s heart is on the ground mentoring students, he is learning to balance the role of both CEO and founder. He’s willing to try and fail alongside his students if it means it will make him a better mentor. All while tackling his next challenge of balance, Josh admits he has his dream job. With the right inspiration, motivation and fearless action, Josh realigned his own trajectory in order to reinvigorate the futures of young people.