Let’s get one thing cleared up right away. TeachStreet founder Dave Schappell’s investment in General Assembly does not indicate that the New York City-based startup incubator, co-working space and technology education firm is planning a Seattle branch campus. At least, not anytime in the near future.
But, would Schappell, who joined with the likes of Maveron and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos in General Assembly’s recent $4.25 million venture round, like to have the outfit spreading their community-based education efforts in Seattle?
“Hell yeah,” he says without hesitation.
I chatted with Schappell — one of Seattle’s most outspoken startup community leaders — to find out what makes General Assembly tick. We also discussed what it would take for Seattle’s entrepreneurial community to jumpstart a similar project.
Of course, Seattle already has efforts underway that mirror some of what General Assembly offers. Organizations such as TechStars and Startup Weekend are hoping to give entrepreneurs the skills they need to build successful companies.
But General Assembly is a bit different.
Schappell doesn’t think of it as a tech incubator, saying it is much more of an educational company. The power of the model, however, is that it is very much rooted in community with guest lecturers like venture capitalist Fred Wilson or PR guru Brooke Hammerling sharing practical, real-world advice.
“The quality of the content that they are teaching and the relevance of the content is off the charts,” said Schappell. “It is very practical education, priced fairly. And they do charge for it all, but with awesome community. By vetting the startups and lecturers and charging for the classes, you just collectively get a very serious, qualified community of people, which makes for a great petri dish for entrepreneurship in New York, specifically.”
That contrasts with more traditional higher education institutions, which Schappell said don’t deliver practical training; are drastically overpriced; and take far too long to complete programs. (More on that from GeekWire columnist Frank Catalano).
Schappell said he’d love it if General Assembly established a branch in Seattle, since it fits his passion of bringing together community around practical education. (Schappell’s TeachStreet also is trying to serve this goal).
Members of the Seattle tech community have been engaged in an active discussion about how to improve the local startup scene. And some think that additional support systems — including the courses provided by General Assembly — would help do the trick.
Schappell, for one, agrees.
“I’d love to see it. There just hasn’t been any talk about it. If they committed to it, I’d be totally psyched to help make it happen,” said Schappell. “We already have elements of (General Assembly) with what Founder’s Co-op and TechStars are doing, and with what Jennifer (Cabala) is thinking about doing and what startups that rent desks are doing.”
Schappell, who frequently works from the General Assembly space in New York, said he often brainstorms about the idea.
“It is just impossible to do when you have your own startup. It is more than a full-time job,” he said