Crowdfunding Brooklyn Castle

I blogged about this a couple weeks ago so this topic will be fresh in the minds of the AVC crowd. I am super excited about this.

There is a documentary about a chess team in the IS 318 middle school in Brooklyn. The film is called Brooklyn Castle and here's the trailer. Please take 2 1/2 mins to watch this right now.

Brooklyn Castle Trailer from BrooklynCastle on Vimeo.

I'd actually suggest taking an evening and watching the movie. You can stream it on Netflix.

So here's the deal. This chess program at IS 318 takes three big trips a year to state and national tournaments, they have a full time faculty advisor, they study at the Marshall Chess Club, and they have a bunch of training materials they use every year. It's an expensive operation but it produces results. They are the NY Yankees of middle school chess teams. They turn kids from the streets of NYC into chess masters. And I do not think you can put a price on that.

The program was at one time funded by the school system. But budget cuts in the past five years have cut away that funding and the program has been kept alive in recent years by the generosity of a few big donors.

I saw the movie and read about the cuts and thought "this is what crowdfunding was made for" and through my friend Maureen contacted John Galvin, the Assistant Principal of IS 318 and a central figure in the film. I suggested to John that we do a DonorsChoose project to crowdfund Brooklyn Castle. He agreed, and so we went to the awesome DonorsChoose team who got to work and got the project up at the end of last week.

The project page is live here. It outlines exactly what we are funding. DonorsChoose's systems and processes make sure that the funds we raise will go to exactly these things. That is one of the many awesome things about DonorsChoose.

The Gotham Gal and I are doing a match for the first $10,000 of donations that come from the AVC community. If you want us to match your donation, please use this link to make it.

In addition to the AVC community, I have lined up a number of well known supporters who either have or are going to get behind this project. I am very confident we will get Brooklyn Castle funded on DonorsChoose. But I would very much like to see the AVC community get behind this project along with me and the Gotham Gal.

#crowdfunding#hacking education#NYC

Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    Fantastic. It looks like I’m good to go to link my project to yours, and I’ll be up and running in the next day or two.Thanks, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      awesome. thanks so much.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Your adventure sounds great, Anne! Signing up. I like adventure. 😉

      1. Anne Libby

        Thanks so much, Donna. Stay tuned…

  2. LIAD

    Amp things up.Crowdfund the purchase of this abandoned island in the middle of NYC.Could do so many cool things there.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. i have lived in NYC for 30 years (came in aug ’83) and have never even heard of this islandvery cool.

    2. jason wright

      the island is a protected bird sanctuary, but mapbox shows no twitter activity.

    3. LE

      I saw that on HN yesterday as well. Googled it and found essentially the same info (and many more pictures).I’m sure there a story behind why that has never been sold or used further.Maybe a toxic nightmare.Maybe some deed restriction on the land. Maybe it’s just kept as land in case there is a need in the city going forward. After all selling it wouldn’t bring in that much relative to the NYC budget (or state or whoever controls it). Makes more sense to just keep around. Like the spare laptop in the office.That said if it was salable a private investor would totally outdo any crowdfunding effort. Crowdfunding is more for things that don’t work through regular channels value wise. If someone in Hollywood really liked Zach Braff’s movie after seeing it on kickstarter they would come in and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he would stop the campaign (even if he had to cover any of the things he had promised as part of the deal).

    4. takingpitches

      buy it and declare a Romer charter island!

    5. Matt A. Myers

      The AVC Accelerator – You can’t leave the island until you get to a pay window.

  3. Cam MacRae

    You’re a man of action!

  4. Richard

    “the Yankees of”, like it. I’m in.

    1. JimHirshfield

      It takes a lot (!!!) for a Mets fan to say that.

  5. laurie kalmanson

    #becauseawesomeDonation done

  6. Dave Pinsen

    There’s a typo in John Galvin’s title.

  7. jason savage

    saw the makers of this film speak at my ad agency. truly inspirational stuff.

  8. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Done.P.S. Why donors choose don’t accept from other countries….everytime I have to give my old (decade-old) Philadelphia zip code…

    1. William Mougayar

      I know. I use a NY zipcode. 12345 is a valid one.

  9. Mike

    I hope there is a way we will be able to follow their fortunes next year.

  10. David Semeria

    In this school the geeks are the real athletesClassic quote.

  11. William Mougayar

    Will do.I didn’t realize chess clocks were that expensive. $43 ea.

    1. jason wright

      speed chess. they get hammered.

    2. kidmercury

      c’mon now. the app is free.

  12. jason wright

    are their educational scholarships dependent upon their success as a chess team?The video’s editing style is very in vogue. Cutting so fast from one shot to the next. It’s a bit too blipvert for my brain speed.

  13. ShanaC

    of course (later today, not by my wallet.)That said – Assistant in Assistant Principal has a typo

  14. Scott Barnett

    Just donated. Great cause, thanks for doing this Fred.

  15. Tereza

    {Sniffle.}Donating, sharing.Next Q: how do we build something like this at our school?

  16. Mark Essel

    Count me in.Darn.503 Service UnavailableNo server is available to handle this request.Will hit it again in a few minutes.Sweet, got through, then made it past the pitfalls of getting stuck in paypal.

  17. Donna Brewington White

    Tears in the middle of the work day do not support my tiger woman persona. Grrr…But, thanks. Great trailer. Great project.

  18. Youssef Rahoui

    I love chess. Chess taught me how to think. I visit everyday and, replaying grandmaster games and marvelling at the genius of Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, etc.: that’s my daily dose of inspiration and beauty.

  19. pointsnfigures

    Education has to get innovated around. I went to a meeting in Chicago last night. The challenges are many. I asked a bunch of questions in my blogpost today that I don’t have answers to. This effort is but one way. We have to find a scalable way to disintermediate the government bureaucracies and teachers unions that govern education with an iron fist.

  20. Maureen Reedy

    Hi there, I wanted to jump in with a huge thanks to your AVC Community for your outpouring of support to help keep the Brooklyn Chess Champs program alive.My name is Maureen Reedy and I am the teacher friend from Ohio who reached out to Fred about the incredible story and challenges of these amazing kids and their teachers in Brooklyn.Here is a blog post link of thanks to AVC folks and an homage of sorts to Fred Wilson… Summary below… (post is a little long)…Great news! The national championship chess team of I.S. 318, a public school with a high poverty rate in NYC, will live on!Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in NYC, who supports public schools, has reached out in his blog to his AVC community, offered a $10,000 match, and the contributions and good wishes from AVC folks started pouring in. Fred is just an amazing guy! He becomes very fired up about opening up avenues to provide the resources for programs that help kids reach their potential by pursuing their passions and interests.Believe me, it is a thrill, as a public school teacher of 30 years, to open up the site and read over 100 encouraging notes from the folks in the AVC community and beyond, cheering these students and their teachers on.Just a few short weeks ago, 70 kids and their teachers, who together have devoted months and years, of after school and summer hours to studying and mastering the game of chess, thought they had played their last match.Fred gets that this isn’t “just a funding project.” He understands that what he and his AVC community are supporting is a program that is a source of identity, pride, passion and purpose for these kids and their entire community; he understands that this is how a public school can be the glue that holds a community together.Here are Fred’s words for the teachers and kids of I.S. 318… “They are the NY Yankees of middle school chess teams. They turn kids from the streets of NYC into chess masters. And I do not think you can put a price on that.”Thank you Fred and thank you to your AVC community for joining together with all of us, so that we can bring the great news to the kids, teachers and parents of I.S. 318, that their chess program will not just survive, but will have the resources to thrive for a number of years.Your Friend,Maureen Reedy

  21. zwagediat

    Alle Zwei Tage Diät Erfahrungen

  22. Jason Clements

    Are their educational scholarships dependent upon their success as just a chess team? The video’s editing style is very in vogue. Cutting so fast from one shot to the next. It’s a bit too blipvert for my brain speed. -Jason, editor for

  23. jason wright

    virtual chess tournaments would cut down on travel costs. end-to-end digital.

  24. LE

    “repeatable, sustainable”(Note: I did make a donation to this campaign.)Around here they always have (I’m sure it’s the same in Lancaster) Penn State kids (not UofP but Penn state) collecting for cancer. While noble I personally think it’s really lame and shows no creativity at all to stand on corners every year (and in front of the Starbucks) with the tin. I mean these are college kids. They should get together and provide something of value to try and raise the money.In general I always feel the same about things like this (even girl scout cookies [1]). I don’t think kids gain much by just trying to collect money in this way. I think it’s the opposite they learn the wrong thing.That said I did donate to this campaign of course but really agree with what you are saying.[1] While girl scout cookies might seem to fit “something of value” it’s not because it’s implied that you are buying even if you don’t need the cookies or because someone’s mom asked at the office. That’s not real life.

  25. FlavioGomes

    Online scoreboard,player rankings/featured profiles (develop the background story), tournament schedules, video clips of highlights…essentially fresh high quality content to attract corporate sponsors. Coupled with the merchandising you speak of.Develop the entrepreneur’s in the chess group and allow them to manage, organize and run the show.

  26. Scott Barnett

    Chess can/should be a spectator sport! Frankly, so should education in general – let’s get sponsors, setup gamification – that seems to be what people willingly spend money on these days….

  27. fredwilson

    great question Charlie. i’ve encouraged DonorsChoose to create the concept of a renewable campaign. the idea would be that donors this time around could check a box. choices would be 1) renew this donation in future campaigns or 2) alert me to all future campaigns so i can continue to support this class/project. that is my idea. i am sure it would have to evolve as they think about how to integrate it into their platform, if they choose to do so

  28. William Mougayar

    Having same issue. It stalls before the last Confirm screen. Hmm.

  29. William Mougayar

    Paypal just worked. yeah!

  30. Matt A. Myers

    Sharing economy with public transportation being fully subsidized (no barrier to movement), and where people with free rooms allow temporary guests for free because they like chess, chess players, students / learning, etc..

  31. jason wright

    cost probably already excludes a lot of kids from chess tournaments. virtual chess could widen their opportunity to play against better players. Goldman Morgan ought to sponsor.

  32. kidmercury

    sell sponsorship. how many people would pay to have fred plug their brand as a sponsor when blogging about this? i’m a big fan of that type of advertising. these kids are in a documentary, if they get more press coverage they have more ad dollar potential.

  33. FlavioGomes

    Thank-you. For some, chess *might* put food on the table, but combining this compelling story with the development of entrepreneurial skills is what excites me most.Get the kids to run with making it a self sustaining and growing enterprise.Now’s the time…the movie will give them a powerful tail wind!”U.S. is probably the best in the world at encouraging and fostering entrepreneurship. But it’s still not systematically built into our culture the way innovation, or intellectual development, is.”The U.S. has no peer at high-level intellectual development. The country has many of the best universities in the world. And the best of America’s private and public K-12 schools do a marvelous job at intellectual development, which is nurtured systematically and intentionally. But entrepreneurial development is completely left to chance. Right now, if you’re a 12th-grader blessed with an unusually high IQ — perhaps even in an inner-city neighborhood like California’s Compton or Watts — testing will find you. And if you’re really brilliant, you’ll get extra special treatment and possibly scholarships to the best schools in the country. You may even get financial help all the way to a Ph.D. at MIT, then go off to NASA, the National Institutes of Health, or the like. If you’re blessed with real talent to think and learn, the system likely will find you.However, if you were born with rare entrepreneurial talent — unusual determination, optimism, and problem-solving skills — the system has no way of finding you, certainly not in Compton or Watts. Nothing finds you. There is no formal identification system. There are no formal special classes, no colleges bidding for you, no evening classes with the best teachers, and nothing sent to your parents that identifies you as gifted. Colleges and universities place tremendous weight on SAT or ACT scores. But nobody asks about the applicant’s ability to start a company, build an organization, or create millions of customers. America leaves that to chance.”http://businessjournal.gall…

  34. BillMcNeely

    Seems like a no brainer for IBM’s Watson project to back a chess team and include them in commercials

  35. Matt A. Myers

    I guess via Fred’s recurring model, people who care or see the value in an area – specifically chess in this example – and who have disposable income are paying an added ‘tax’ to fund this so it becomes available.

  36. Donna Brewington White

    Wasn’t the checkout message about donors choose projects in general rather than this particular one?More effective if it’s about the particular project.So do I have to donate again to find out? 😉

  37. Matt A. Myers

    And then the students will also be in a local community garden program, so their food will be taken care of. 😉

  38. Donna Brewington White

    of coursebut I have my amazon checkout linked to paypal… best of both worlds

  39. Jeff

    the answer seems easy – fund the program out of the proceeds of the current robust administrator and teacher pensions after you switch all new employees to 401ks like every other company employee. leave the current teachers and administrators alone but no new teacher or administrator should ever become entitled to a pension.

  40. laurie kalmanson

    The gas station change jars for someone’s healthcare needs are a tragedy and a disgraceThat people have to beg for healthcare is so very wrong

  41. laurie kalmanson

    Sponsorships is a great ideaAVC team shirts