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Bringing start-ups together / helping them learn

General Assembly is a New York based start-up campus, combining meeting and work places for start-ups with inspirational and practical advice in seminars and events.

Photo of Amy Bonsall
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General Assembly is a campus for start-ups in New York. It provides both space for start-ups to work in (they can rent desks) and a wealth of knowledge about everything from branding to start-up law, through the seminars it offers on a daily basis. In this way, entrepreneurs learn not only from experts in various fields, but also from each other.

On their site, they note: “When great companies fail, they’re gone forever. When great people fail, they learn from their experiences and go on to pursue new ventures with greater chance of success.” This sums up well their emphasis around learning.

For our challenge, this leads to a few interesting questions. How might we create a space (either physical or virtual) where start-ups can learn from experts and each other? What are the adjustments we would need to make to such a space to make it work in the European landscape? Where they already exist, how might we connect such educational centres together across Europe?

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Photo of Meena Kadri

I think the space issue is especially interesting. Many start-ups feel isolated and shared space certainly helps connect folks to also share challenges, skills, expertise, expenses, networks, suppliers, etc.

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Photo of Louise Wilson

Agree, Meena. It's too easy to sit at home in front of a computer and work 24/7 to get a company off the ground but it's very isolating. People need to be encouraged to work in creative, innovative environements. The Hub Westminster in London http://hubwestminster.net/ is a great example of this.

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Photo of James McBennett

I haven't been to their new London GA, but I think they have started there Monday Burger Night.

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Photo of Avi Solomon

THE NYC GA has a great atmosphere and location and the combination of workspaces with seminars is simply brilliant!

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I believe that they are working on an online classroom environment, as well, which would be great for people like myself who follow what they do, but geographically cannot make it to one of their courses.

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Photo of Amy Bonsall

Glad to hear this one resonates. Great point Duncan about making it virtual so that many others can join in. What do you think are the key things one needs in a virtual element? So much of what I get from working with others is the easy banter across the table and the chats by the coffee machine. Anyone seen great sites that enable that kind of connection?

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Photo of Amy Bonsall

Avi, curious how you got involved in GA NY? Can anyone join in? What do you guys think needs to be different about such a set-up in Europe, if anything?

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Photo of Avi Solomon

Amy, I attended one of the GA NYC Demo events (anyone can come by registering via eventbrite) and took a day-long course on Game Design.
IMHO nothing needs to be that different for an European operation but locating such a set-up near a major transport and cultural hub is critical. For example, one of my considerations in signing up for the GA course was that I could walk over to the Strand bookstore near Union square afterwards:)

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Photo of Amy Bonsall

Thanks Avi. Great point - location is everything!

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Photo of James McBennett

I think the 'flipped classroom' comes back to this, where learning is done online, and meeting up in person becomes collaborative and deeper, personalised learning and sharing.

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Photo of James McBennett

Meetup I go in Dublin. Archie Talks, I was interviewed and mentioned similar thing at the end when asked, what do you like most about coming to these events. http://youtu.be/mRccVNkAz7M

Last night even, a friend who is very close to launching a social commerce fashion site was telling me about UK tax exemptions for Angel Investors, hardly general knowledge. He also gave advice to find angel investors who know one's field over VC firms who ask for lots of your time to bring them up to speed with a much lower rate of investing than angels in the field. Meetups are great!

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Photo of Paul van Zoggel

144 inspirations... I am 'shocked' how many initiatives there are already everywhere. More is always welcome!

The question in my mind reading the comments. 144 inspirations thusfar; most have a similar formula; young passionate people with fresh ideas are helped forward to go global. physical mashed with digital. great.

What other 'type of webentrepeneur incubators do we need'?

Are there types? types of needed web startups on Europa?

Or is just because we can technically enough for now?

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Photo of Amy Bonsall

Great provocation, Paul. There's something in James' comment about things that aren't general knowledge that makes me wonder what is the next step up from desk sharing and informal meetups.

I think it is a lot harder in Europe to find info / the right connections / funding than it is in places like SV. And yet I think the fact that we don't have a well-oiled machine like SV offers interesting advantages - we can build up an ecosystem that works well for all parties - from new entrepreneurs and investors to seasoned ones.

Wondering what other industries we could learn from that started out very grass-roots and got more structured?

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Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Next step up after arousal and sharing... 7 habits of covey probably works. (before the business canvas post-its)

I totally agree on the good off not having a well oiled machine. Also because we shouldn't have that analogy! We need organic ecosystem analogy, not a factory line in our head, the EC tried that enough in FP5-6-7

There also I get the feeling there are no other 'industries' to be inspired from. I think we are really at the moment Paul Hawken said some time ago; "This generation get's to completely redesign the world... "

Now where to start redesigning the Europa continent with webentrepreneuring in mind? Where is the general knowledge for that?

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Photo of James McBennett

"Common knowledge is not so common." Voltaire.

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

this is a great conversation. I'd like to follow up on Louise's point on how working in a start up or small business can be a very lonely experience. It reminded me a case study I read a few days ago on DOT (organized by the design council) on the future of work: http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/our-work/challenges/Communities/Dott-07/Dott-07-case-studies/New-Work/
They did a project with designers and 6 entrepreneurs in the North East of the UK. Some common themes emerged which resonate with some I read in this thread and in other inspirations:

- Working from home might not involve lengthy or costly travel to an office every day but people can feel isolated working alone
- The potential to share skills and expertise with colleagues is limited when you work in a very small group
- Offices are too small to hold meetings, and cafés or restaurants are often too noisy to hold serious business meetings.

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