Free uni opened for Tech City hipsters

Startup upstarts go back to school

A free university with hot-desking space for tech startup types is setting up shop in London, joining Google and TechHub in the cluster of technology companies around the East End.

The General Assembly started as a New York project, but will branch out to a 2,000ft2 Clerkenwell campus in spring 2012, aiming to train and support entrepreneurs while providing them with a cheap place to work.

By promising bargain-rate rents lower than the average for London's Silicon Roundabout area (though as yet unconfirmed) and free courses in things like "iPhone app development", the GA hopes to invigorate the UK's tech scene.

Adam Pritzer, one of the four co-founders of General Assembly, told the FT: “That environment of intense collaboration and camaraderie and community within the setting of a more formal educational environment creates a kind of alchemy. That is what we seek to do.”

The New York version of the General Assembly – located on Broadway – includes work areas, a library, a lounge and seminar rooms to facilitate what the website describes as "a mixed-use space designed to provide entrepreneurs with a range of contexts suitable for realising their ideas".

It will fit in with places such as TechHub, which mix "social space" with work areas, meeting rooms and facilities.

General Assembly is fresh from a financial round that brought in $4.5m (£2.8m) including an undisclosed amount from Russian investor Yuri Milner.

“Institutions like schools and organisations are not teaching students to thrive in the 21st century workforce,” said Pritzker. ®

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