Though no classroom can truly prepare you for the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, you’re not completely on your own.
A new breed of start-up-focused schools, taught by entrepreneurs, has emerged to help aspiring founders fix their weak spots--whether it’s being clueless about coding, flummoxed by branding, or untutored in financial models. The courses vary in terms of cost, focus, and time commitment, so here’s a quick rundown of three schools to help you choose one that fits.
Best for: Time-strapped entrepreneurs within traveling distance of Boston.
Intelligent.ly offers 90-minute workshops for start-up execs taught by local seasoned entrepreneurs and investors in a funky office in Boston’s South End. Sessions cover the fundamentals of building a business, including brand positioning, legal advice, and financial modeling.
In-class exercises help students hone their skills on the spot and force busy CEOs to stop and map out a long-term strategy. “It’s about taking a step back and getting out of the day-to-day calls and emails, and reflecting on where we are and where we need to go,” says Brent Grinna, CEO of the Boston-based software start-up Evertrue, who enrolled in a class on setting business objectives. In its first year, Intelligent.ly has offered 106 classes and drawn 3,000 students.
Most Popular Classes:
• Legal Land Mines: What to Know When Starting Your Start-up
• Building a Financial Model You'll Actually Use
Cost: $25 to $35 for a 90-minute class.
Best for: With online classes available, a good option for start-up founders anywhere.
Backed by $14 million from investors, General Assembly has taught 55,000 students since its start in 2011. Classes are held both online and at physical campuses in eight cities--including Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and New York.
Sign up for a 60- to 90-minute class on topics like monetizing mobile apps, or dig deeper with a two-day workshop or an eight-week session of night classes on Web design.
General Assembly instructors mingle with students, sharing ideas and offering advice on their businesses. “This isn’t just a class,” says Roman Gun, founder of the crowdfunding start-up GivingBell. “It’s a community.” He enrolled in a 12-week immersive Web development course in New York City.
Most Popular Classes:
• Seed Funding Workshop
• User Acquisition and Growth
• Hacking for Start-ups
Cost: $30 per class; $75 to $400 for a two-day workshop; $3,000 to $12,000 for eight- to 16-week sessions.
Best for: Aspiring tech entrepreneurs with little coding experience.
Starter League opened in Chicago in 2011 to teach aspiring entrepreneurs to develop prototype apps. An 11-week course promises to give you the know-how to build a prototype, understand your project’s feasibility, and talk developer lingo--no computer-science degree necessary.
The school recently introduced workshops to teach broader entrepreneurship issues, such as how to hire well. An intensive coding session taught Tom Brown how to build his own site to search real estate listings by school district. He estimates the course saved him at least $50,000 in developer costs. “You get to learn how some of the best minds in the business build websites,” he says. “It put something in my tool belt as an entrepreneur.”
Most popular Classes:
• Web App Development for Beginners
• Visual Design
Cost: $200 to $1,000 for two-day workshops; $2,000 to $8,000 for 11-week sessions.