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Tom Vander Ark

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Start Making: General Assembly Launches Online

Posted: 03/13/2012 11:36 am

America is the startup capital of the world. A unique mixture of great universities, efficient capital markets, relatively business friendly policies, and a culture of striving makes a handful of urban centers in the U.S. as good a place to start a business as anywhere on the planet.

American's startup success is not because MBA programs teach this stuff. I got an MBA (a long time ago), started a business and found the two experiences largely unrelated. A few MBA programs like Eccles at Utah teach entrepreneurship pretty well, but most continue to prepare students for careers in banking and consulting.

On some MBA campuses you may be able to find Essentials of Startup Law in a forward-learning MBA, possibly Introduction to Developing Entrepreneurial Ideas, Turning Your Brand Into a Competitive Advantage, but what about Digital M&A Secrets, Intro to SEO, Getting Your Startup in Top Tier Tech News, How to Read a Cap Table, How to Hire and Retain Developers, Make Life Easy with Algorithms?

These are just a few of the classes offered last week at General Assembly, a New York City startup campus featuring courses relevant to internet startups. Just look at events next week -- most MBA professors wouldn't recognize any of these topics: Leancamp, Daily Deals, Startup Grind, Gaming Meetup, Photo Hack Day, Hand Made, Web Development with HTML, CSS, and Wordpress.

Instructors need to bring their "A game." Attendees are bright, serious, connected, and don't suffer fools well. Some participants attended a business school but feel unprepared for serious entrepreneurial undertaking.

Classes are not inexpensive, but most are oversubscribed because the mixture of learning opportunities in technology, design, and entrepreneurship is unique. The quality of instructors is unusually high and the subjects are extraordinarily relevant. The connection to a startup campus and culture is very unusual creating rich peer learning opportunities.

Last week General Assembly launched StartMaking.com, a series of short videos about people building companies. The series of 16 videos includes Mario Batali on the rush of the restaurant business, Michael Bloomberg on pricing and user-centered design, and David Kelley (the founder of IDEO) on building a prototype as your pitch.

These inspirational shorts are intended to encourage and empower people to educate themselves, while introducing General Assembly's unique program of online learning covering the Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship -- like how to form an entity, business models, and human-centered design and raising your first million. Like the onsite courses, the online programs are very social. Participants connect, comment, share, and learn together.

Flexible entry points allow online learners to get what they need and start making. Busy entrepreneurs have the ability to come back to the content, move backwards and forwards, and learn what they want, when they need it.

Heading up the expansion of online learning opportunities is Adam Pritzker. "It's a really exciting opportunity to be able to extend our pedagogical perspective online. Our programs, whether onsite or online, are all social, application based, goal oriented, and taught by top practitioners. By the end of one of our courses, you won't necessarily take a test, but there will be an outcome, in this case, challenges that lead to starting a business."

General Assembly online is an MBA killer. Unless a young person thinks they need a credential to get a job at Morgan Stanley or McKinsey, they'd be much better off in a startup, learning on the job, and accessing the extraordinary offerings at General Assembly when they need it -- just right, just-in-time beats a $50,000 just-in-case degree program.

Big companies that have been paying tuition reimbursement for low value classes and degrees will also find General Assembly to be a big boost in their educational investment.
Check out the GeneralAssemb.ly web application online today, and StartMaking.

General Assembly is a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

 

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