Know-how and Networking: Insight from a General Assembly Course

As New York City continues to attract a competitive stream of innovators, investors and techies, all hoping to slice a piece of the big apple startup pie, it can seem a daunting and difficult task for novices to gain steady ground.

Thankfully for New York startup newbies, the city provides almost as many resources for those looking to start up as startups themselves.

Startup courses and workshops abound in the city, covering topics that range from growing an idea and honing your skills to securing financing and managing a staff.  And these educational offerings are not just for listening to lectures, they also provide an exceptional opportunity for networking with the like-minded.

Hosted Friday, September 13, 2013 by General Assembly (GA) in Manhattan and presented by Liz Vollman, Classes and Workshops Producer at GA, “Introduction to the New York Startup Community” provided a thorough and interactive discussion of how to maneuver in the city’s entrepreneurial environment whether you are looking to find an idea to develop or already have one.

Vollman kicked off the course with wise words from well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and New York native, Steve Blank, “‘A startup is not a smaller version of a large company.  It’s a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable business model.’”  The statement exhibits the essential elements of planning, evolution and individualization as they relate to building a brand, a business—a startup.

While startups, even those sharing the same industry, may be as unique and different as fingerprints, they share the same revolutionary spirit.  Vollman spoke to the importance, particularly in New York, of past startups possessing the ability to “pave the way” for present and future endeavors.  This support, she continued, is a large reason the city promotes and is “very healthy” for startups.

Those within the startup community also assist each other through offering extensive opportunities for productive socializing (group or one-on-one) where experiences are shared and contacts are networked.  Vollman listed “mentors” as one of the groups that “defines an ecosystem.”

So, how do you build your network when you’re looking to get started?  There are many ways to “get involved in the community” as discussed by Vollman, including to “sign up for newsletters, attend meetups, happy hours, and demo days, participate in hackathons and Startup Weekends, and blog about your experiences, adventures, and learnings.”

Those starting up in New York need networking and they need know-how.  Blending the two in a vast array of informational gatherings brings hosts, instructors and students together to interactively expand their realm of possibilities.  GA and Vollman provide such opportunities on a regular basis, many which are free of charge and open to the public.  Further details on GA can be found at https://generalassemb.ly/.

Putting Your Startup to Work or Putting Yourself to Work in a Startup: General Assembly Presents Ways to Accelerate Your Career

With economic conditions uncertain, and millions of people remaining either unemployed or underemployed, it may seem difficult or even impossible to stray from the norm into the ever more volatile arena of startups. However, innovative spirits may be surprised to learn just how many directions are available in terms of developing a startup or securing work with one.

The General Assembly course, “Introduction to the New York Startup Community,” presented Friday, September 13, 2013 by Liz Vollman, Classes and Workshops Producer, not only provided an interactive discussion of resources for those just getting started, but also a forum for tools to put your startup to work or yourself to work in a startup.

There are many areas of interest, expertise and development when it comes to startups, and Vollman noted a few of these differing industries as retail, fashion, finance and film, among others. She continued in stating the underlying similarity to be technology and its use, which she described as, “entrepreneurs trying to figure out how to move these industries forward.”

For those that have advanced an idea from their selected industry or industries into the beginning stages of work or operation, there exists support—while you may be a visionary, you are not alone!

One such resource available throughout NYC, according to Vollman is co-working space. These spaces are available with numerous organizations throughout the city, and most provide office space, technology, and opportunities to present what you’re working on and network for financing. In terms of selecting a co-working space, Vollman said, “Try it on; see if you like the community.” She continued in providing information for a number of these spaces, a few to include, WeWork (wework.com), Green Desk (green-desk.com) and GA themselves (generalassemb.ly/).

Accelerators and incubators, as next mentioned by Vollman, take their support of startups steps further. Many, though not all, actually provide investment in addition to advanced resources of getting a startup to the next level at a much faster pace. She listed TechStars (techstars.com) as a top New York organization of this kind, along with NYC Seed (nycseed.com) and DreamIt Ventures (dreamitventures.com), though emphasized the competitive nature of securing this kind of support.

If you’re not quite ready to put everything you’ve got into building a startup of your own or if you’re looking for a job, perhaps even a career change, you may be more of a match for startup employment than you think. According to Vollman, startups are not simply looking for techies and engineers, and one common misconception as noted in the presentation is that “only developers get a good job at startups.” While these types of positions are obviously important to most startups, there is just more to it than that.

Sales, marketing, social media and particularly, customer service, as explained by Vollman, are all areas that startups aim to hire qualified applicants for. She continued in giving the example of Zappos, a startup that boasts top notch customer service and stands apart based on this. Startups, just like any other business, want to attract and retain employees that help create value for their organization.

If you are interested in exploring employment opportunities with New York startups, several resources given by Vollman include, rapportive (rapportive.com), The Muse (themuse.com) and Path.to (path.to/jobs).

A first step in deciding whether the NYC startup work realm is right for you may be to further explore the available support; and of course, if you need more time—take it. Jumping into building a startup or transitioning into a non-traditional workspace may take a leap of faith, but if you utilize the resources available to you, you may just land on your feet and take off.

Further information on GA can be found at https://generalassemb.ly/.