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高科技创业者的青苹果乐园

Alex Konrad 2011年09月14日

GA不仅获得了大牌投资者的青睐,还与通用公司确立了合作伙伴关系。这个新兴的城市网络校园眼下正跃跃欲试,打算大干一场。

创业者之家

    “创业者之家”(General Assembly,简称GA)主要为纽约市高科技行业的创业菜鸟们提供工作场所和培训机会。日前,这家公司获得了一批全明星投资者的青睐:霍华德•舒尔茨旗下的Maveron基金、俄罗斯DST Global投资集团的尤里•米尔纳,以及杰夫•贝佐斯的投资公司Bezos Expeditions。这家初露头角的公司到底有什么东西吸引了他们的注意?虽然提供共享工作空间和Wi-Fi无线网络的孵化器已不是什么新鲜事,但除此之外,GA还提供高级商务与培训课程,改变了传统创业孵化基地的模式。上个月,GA接待了沃顿商学院(University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School)的MBA新生,而且公司新的合作伙伴通用(General Electric)也将派遣约100名员工参加为期一周的数字化新人训练营。

    八月的一天晚上,在GA位于纽约市的园区,十几位学员正在苹果笔记本和iPad上做着笔记,偶尔会向讲师提出一些非常尖锐的问题,并且打破沙锅问到底。GA许多课程的老师都是本地的成功企业家,有时也会请来一些重量级的“大人物”进行“炉边谈话”或专题研讨会,比如红杉资本(Sequoia Capital)合伙人鲁洛夫•博塔。然而,GA非常谨慎,避免这个工作场所受到风投公司的直接影响。

    这些创业者大多是年轻人,他们在下班之后来到这里,利用晚上的时间思考创业计划,这一点未免令人意外。他们都希望能提升自己的关键技能——或者所谓的“必杀技”,但同时也包括产品设计、市场营销、文案、天使投资指南,以及其他一些重要的商务主题。他们只是GA的一小部分会员。GA目前大约有一百名会员,不论什么时候,他们都在进行编程训练、开展头脑风暴。虽然GA也提供高速网络和咖啡,以及共享工作空间,但它并不以孵化器自居。GA广泛关注应用教育与社区,因此它对自己的定位是一种新型城市网络校园。

    GA并未接受风投公司提供的种子基金。尽管如此, GA仅仅依靠纽约市政府的200,000美元拨款,Skype等赞助商提供的工作场所,以及付费会员及时支付的会费,就从今年1月份起顺利运营至今。GA会员的收费标准为每人每月300美元,可无条件使用休闲空间和会议室,还可以享受课程优惠(提供专用办公桌的会员资格需缴纳600美元)。7月底,GA主办了一场名为“改造纽约市政府网站”(Reinvent NYC.gov)的黑客马拉松竞赛,程序员要经过36个小时的编程,重新设计纽约市政府的网站。纽约市市长布隆伯格接见了获胜者,并按预定计划共进了早餐——其中一位获胜者希望能先让他们洗个澡。

    8月,宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院派新生到GA接受为期一天的创业理念速成培训。GA的四位创始人之一杰克•施瓦兹称:“我告诉他们,对于他们的MBA学习过程,最重要的一点就是竭尽全力。”公司创始人的“潮人范”掩盖了他们常春藤盟校(Ivy League)的背景:联合创始人布拉德•哈格里夫斯与马修•布莱墨是耶鲁大学(Yale)同学;施瓦兹在纽黑文度过一段艰难的日子之后,也前往沃顿商学院就读;而亚当•普利茨克则曾就读于哥伦比亚大学(Columbia University)。

    公司四位创始人凭借不懈的努力,最终与通用电气建立了合作伙伴关系。明年,将有一百多位通用员工在GA参加为期一周的数字化新人训练营。施瓦兹表示,在这里,通用的员工将熟悉并了解从组织架构到社交媒体的各个方面。他补充说:“这是对现代初创企业的一次全面总结。”这次合作关系的额外奖励是:如果GA的毕业生们愿意,他们可以参加通用的面试,并有机会获得相关项目中的工作和实习机会,比如数字化营销项目等。

    有了新的投资者加盟,GA便可以在全球市场和网络世界大展拳脚。米尔纳的DST公司可以帮助创业者进军海外市场,而亚马逊公司(Amazon.com)的贝佐斯对于规模化经营轻车熟路。领投投资公司Maveron主要投资教育项目,它认为GA在提供在线课程方面大有潜力可挖。

    与此同时,大批创业者正等着参加GA的课程。参加课程非常简单——GA的首要任务是要进行在线扩张,所以,普利茨克自己也需要“充充电”,因此他正计划参加GA关于前端网页开发的60小时强化课程。

    翻译:刘进龙/汪皓

    General Assembly, which provides workspace and training for budding, high-tech entrepreneurs in New York City, has just attracted an all-star list of investors: Howard Schultz's Maveron fund, Yuri Milner of DST Global, and Jeff Bezos's Bezos Expeditions. What do they see in this fledgling company? Incubators that offer shared workspace and Wi-Fi are nothing new, but GA has morphed that model by offering sophisticated courses in business and design. Last month GA hosted Wharton's incoming MBAs, and its new partner GE will send about 100 employees for weeklong digital boot camps.

    At GA's New York City campus one night in August, a dozen students took notes on Macbooks and iPads, while occasionally asking their instructor incisive and persistent questions. GA uses successful, local entrepreneurs to teach many of the classes, but also brings in heavy-hitters such as Sequoia Capital partner Roelof Botha for "fireside chats" and workshops. GA is careful, however, to provide a workspace insulated from direct venture capital influence.

    These mostly young entrepreneurs have come here from work and, considering the evening hour, their focus might seem surprising. Yet all are eager to hone their critical skills -- "Closing Tactics" in this case, but also product design, marketing, copywriting, a guide to angel investing and other crucial business topics. They are just a few of the one hundred or so GA members coding and brainstorming away at any given time. Even though GA provides the high-speed connection and coffee expected of a shared workspace, it doesn't see itself as an incubator. Because of its broader focus on applied education and community, GA sees itself more as a new kind of urban networking campus.

    Eschewing seed money from venture capital, GA has operated since January on the strength of a $200,000 grant from the city, sponsors such as Skype for its workspace, and an immediate, paying member base -- $300 per person, per month gets you unlimited use of the lounge spaces, conference rooms, and discounts on classes (a membership providing your own work desk costs $600). At the end of July, GA hosted a hackathon competition called Reinvent NYC.gov, where programmers competed in a 36-hour programming binge to redesign the city government's website. Mayor Bloomberg met with the winners for a planning breakfast -- one hopes after they'd gotten a shower.

    In August, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School sent its incoming class on a daylong crash course in entrepreneurial concepts. "I told them hustle is the most important thing they can bring to their MBA experience," says Jake Schwarz, one of four co-founders of GA. The founders' downtown, vaguely hipster vibe belies their Ivy League background: co-founders Brad Hargreaves and Matthew Brimer were classmates at Yale; Schwartz also did hard time in New Haven before attending Wharton for business school; Adam Pritzker attended Columbia.

    The foursome's own hustle helped land a partnership with General Electric (GE). More than one hundred GE employees will spend a week at GA over the next year in a sort of digital boot camp. Schwartz says the GE employees will get up to speed on everything from organizational structures to social media. "It's really an overview survey of the modern startup," he adds. A bonus of the partnership: GA grads get to interview with GE, should they choose, for jobs and internships in programs such as digital marketing.

    With its new investors, GA has the backing to expand globally and online. Milner's DST can help with reaching entrepreneurs outside the U.S., while Amazon.com's (AMZN) Bezos knows a thing or two about scale. Lead investor Maveron, which invests in education projects, says it sees great potential in GA offering online programs.

    In the meantime, there's a long waitlist to get space at GA. Classes are easier to join -- and with online expansion first on the to-do list, Pritzker has his own brushing up to do, and plans to take GA's 60-hour intensive program in front-end web development.

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