Earlier this week the NYC-based co-working space General Assembly announced a $4.25 million round of funding, with investors like Yuri Milner and Jeff Bezos participating in the round.
I think of this as the first real shot fired in what is going to become a huge wave of disruption around the world: the disruption of higher education by co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators.
This space is so ripe for disruption. It is like the hotel/motel/rental industry before AirBnB came along – but times a million.
Think about this: going to one of the several new media graduate programs here in NYC for a two-year degree without a scholarship would cost you in the neighborhood of $60,000 (plus living expenses of course). Out of that you get: two years of hard work, access to the top thinkers in your field, feedback and instruction, and a community of like-minded people working alongside you. Coming out you get a great professional network, and a (useless) degree to hang on your wall. If you’ve applied yourself, your work is much stronger as a result, and better career options await you.
Now think about a co-working space / accelerator such as General Assembly: the cost for “going” there is an order of magnitude smaller than $60k. Out of that you get: access to the top thinkers in your field, feedback and instruction, a community of like-minded people working alongside you. Coming out you get a professional network. You don’t get a useless degree to hang on your wall (yet). If you’ve applied yourself, your work is much stronger as a result and better career options await you.
There are lots of little and mid-sized differences between the two of course, but the only BIG difference, if the accelerator is top-notch, is the $60,000 and the useless degree. (And to tell you the truth, I never even bothered to pick mine up from NYU when I graduated.)
I think money is going to pile into this. And I think we will see a giant wave of “new learning” spaces around the world. Some will be great. Some will be awful. But traditional, institutional graduate programs, at least the ones that give you a degree that isn’t essential to a career (like a medical degree) over the next ten years either will wither on the vine or else radically transform themselves to stay alive, becoming much more like accelerators in the process.
And that’s not necessarily good or bad in and of itself (or rather there’s both good and bad in it). I’m not celebrating this or complaining about it. I’m just saying: there’s a huge opening here for a correction and a new way of thinking, and it’s going to happen right before our eyes. Fortunes will be made (or lost), careers will be made, new ways of operating will take root. The smart person would recognize that and take advantage of it, however he/she was positioned to do so.