The digital economy demands a workforce that is computer-literate, fluent in technology trends, and attuned to the market. General Assembly, a global education network focused on technology, business, and design, claims it can get the masses up to speed faster than existing models of computer-science instruction.
Launched in January 2011, by Adam Pritzker, Jake Schwartz, Brad Hargreaves, and Matt Brimer, in partnership with the New York Economic Development Corporation, General Assembly offers classes to students interested in programming, web development, online marketing, and other business-related subjects. It’s got locations in New York (where it started), Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, among others.
VentureBeat recently met with Pritzker in Santa Monica where he discussed the outdated teaching models holding students back, his plan to make General Assembly a premiere educational-service-and-community around the world, and his company’s strategic partnership with local start-up accelerator Launchpad LA.
“We don’t want to teach what a professor believes is important, we want to teach what the market is demanding,” said Pritzker.
General Assembly offers a wide range of classes (more than 1,200) at multiple tiers and price points, he said. Combining online and offline instruction, Pritzker said General Assembly’s educational programming varies from hour-long classes for $25 to $50, to immersive weekend workshops for $500, to 16-week courses for $5,000.
“The product really steps up in terms of what your desires are as a student, what you’re willing to pay, and the time you’re willing to commit to learn the content,” he added.
Pritzker said his company has an interesting problem because his instructors aren’t certified teachers, but practitioners: working engineers and web developers. “They’ve done user-interface design for YouTube or they scaled Amazon’s email marketing and those are really the people our students want to learn from,” he said.
Additionally, while Pritzker said General Assembly does offer its students certification, he stated that his service does not provide accreditation, which means General Assembly doesn’t allow its students to take on debt to enroll in classes.
Pritzker declined to discuss the profitability of his business, but said that there is demand, emphasizing that over 30,000 students have enrolled in two years, and citing the company’s expansion into eight markets in the United States, Europe, and Australia. In addition to General Assembly’s flagship locations in New York and London, it has outposts in Berlin, Boston, Los Angeles, Melbourne, San Francisco, and Sydney, according to company documents.
To promote technology education around the world, Pritzker said General Assembly’s strategy includes forming partnerships with government entities, like the New York Economic Development Corporation and “10 Downing,” a colloquialism for the British government. Pritzker cited Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to General Assembly’s New York headquarters to illustrate the strength of the latter partnership.
While General Assembly has expanded rapidly, Pritzker cautioned that he doesn’t want his company to grow too fast, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the quality of his content and his community.
“We’re really focused on places where we think we can be an immediate value-add to that community, and L.A. was one of those places,” he said.
In L.A., General Assembly came to an agreement with Launchpad LA for the accelerator to host its local outpost campus. Pritzker said the entertainment industry’s core expertise, combined with the emerging local tech community’s new ideas, make L.A. an ideal ecosystem for innovation in the digital space.
VentureBeat spoke with Launchpad LA Managing Director Sam Teller, who said “we’ve always been eager to offer more events and programming for the L.A. startup community at large. Joining up with GA, a leading global education startup, was the perfect way to achieve that goal.”
General Assembly has raised $14 million in Series A and B funding from Maveron, Mousse Partners, Bezos Expeditions, Learn Capital, Vegas TechFund, Alexis Ohanian, Digital Sky Technologies founder Yuri Milner, Hosain Rahman, and Alexander Asseily, according to company documents.
A representative of the company told VentureBeat that General Assembly’s closest competitors are Dev Bootcamp and Flatiron School, but that both are primarily focused on long-form courses. Pritzker said his company employs 90 people.
Adam Pritzker image courtesy General Assembly.