City Unrulyversity: free pop-up tech city university

City Unrulyversity: free pop-up tech city university
City University London

City University London

Case study by City University London

City Unrulyversity is a pop-up university for budding entrepreneurs and a new concept in higher education enterprise.

It was co-founded in early 2013 by City University London’s academic Dr Caroline Wiertz and Sarah Wood, COO of a digital media agency Unruly, with a mission to inform, inspire and empower the next generation of Tech City entrepreneurs.

When Tech City UK was established in 2010 to recognize and support East London’s emerging cluster of tech and digital companies, no one could predict the massive growth that it would enjoy in the next few years, with a reported 15,720 new companies registered in the EC1 postcode between March 2012 and 2013 alone.

One of the cluster’s biggest challenges is a shortage of education and skills and this is what City Unrulyversity seeks to address.

City Unrulyversity is the only ongoing, entirely free, open-access education initiative in Tech City. The project is currently funded by City University London, Unruly and the EU’s Capital Accelerator Programme.

City Unrulyversity pops up every Wednesday night for 9 weeks three times a year to deliver free, interactive sessions for early-stage entrepreneurs that focus on sharing knowledge, discussing ideas, challenging assumptions and reflecting on business practice.

Through City’s principal academics partnering with leading companies, including Twitter, Unruly, Mind Candy, Hailo, BBC R&D and Framestore among others, City Unrulyversity combines practitioner expertise with academic rigour underpinned by the latest research.

City Unrulyversity is designed to mirror the interdisciplinary nature of Tech City and entrepreneurs pick and choose sessions that will help address their skills and knowledge shortages and add value to the companies they are developing.

The curriculum is developed based on input from the entrepreneurial community itself and covers a wide range of business, design and tech topics.

Any entrepreneur who attends five City Unrulyversity sessions is entitled to apply to Cass Business School’s £10M Entrepreneurship Fund for investment.

Since January 2013 City Unrulyversity has delivered 53 sessions that were attended by 2,000 individuals.

The audience has grown from an average of 20 participants in early 2013 to an average of 65 participants per session in late 2014.

Typically, around one third of the attendees own or work for a start-up and another third are in the process of setting up a new venture. The remaining delegates comprise staff and students from a variety of London universities.

Aneesha Lowni, Co-Founder of Springy Thingy, says: “City Unrulyversity is an ingenious idea – it has brought together great theory, practice and professional expertise in the form of friendly, accessible and informal presentations that speak to and engage its audience; people who are at the grass roots level of either embarking on a new business or are a start-up and have no idea where to turn to next!”

Paul Brown, Founder of Rokket Digital, agrees:

“I have been to a couple of the City Unrulyversity events, the level of teaching, interactivity and engagement of the speakers and of the other participants has been fantastic. I have learned a lot!”

City Unrulyversity has become an important part of Tech City’s ecosystem, and is strengthening the University’s links with the start-up community, which in turn leads to project, internship and job opportunities for City students, and supports those students who are starting up businesses themselves.

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