Where Entrepreneurs Teach & Students Learn Skills
Technology and design are often tough subjects for colleges and universities, since curriculum is frequently outdated. The founders of General Assembly, Adam Pritzker, Matthew Brimer, Brad Hargreaves, and Jake Schwartz (who is 33), are seeking to fill that education gap by each month offering 40 to 50 classes and workshops focused largely on technology, design, and business--the in-demand skills that help students get jobs. To date, more than 10,000 students have taken classes at General Assembly.
"The reality is that technology and design is moving so quickly that it's hard for schools to teach programs that are up-to-date," says Adam Pritzker.
General Assembly's campus sits in 20,000 square feet in built out loft space in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, smack in the middle of one of the hottest start-up scenes in the United States today. Early last year, the company received a $200,000 grant from the not-for-profit New York City Economic Development Corporation to build the campus. "We built the community before we built the space," says Pritzker. "Matt brought 200 to 500 people through open loft space and said, 'What do you want to see here? What kind of community do you want to be a part of?'"
The end goal, says Pritzker (whose extended family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain), is to help budding entrepreneurs launch companies and to make new grads more attractive to employers. When the founding team members noticed an increasing number of class registrants from big companies, they became aware of an unexpected market opportunity. Now, companies such as American Express and General Electric partner with General Assembly to provide education and training to employees. Says Hargreaves: "We're really looking to build a network of hiring partners. Pepsi is now offering a scholarship toward an online marketing program we're offering."
In September, General Assembly announced $4.25 million in funding from Howard Schultz's Maveron, Jeff Bezos, Yuri Milner, and Alexis Ohanian (a 30-Under-30 alum), among others. That will allow the company to spread its wings beyond New York. General Assembly has already partnered with the British government to open a London campus at the end of June; through a partnership with Deutsche Telekom, a Berlin campus is also in the works.
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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