Matthew Brimer, Co-Founder, General Assembly
How Matthew Brimer and General Assembly filled a gap between traditional education and the fast-moving tech industry.
Matthew was a guest of StartCon, Australia’s largest startup and growth conference. It was held at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
When he was young, Matthew Brimer spent his days taking apart old electronics and dreaming of space exploration. A child of the Midwest, he was raised on the belief that hard work and passion could turn even the grandest dreams into realities.
As he grew older, he continued to hold tightly to this conviction, and, with the blood of two entrepreneurial parents pumping through his veins, Brimer knew he wouldn’t be stuck in his high school job selling ice cream forever.
Always that tinkering kid at heart, Brimer wanted to be an inventor. And he ultimately achieved his dream, but in a way he never would have imagined while growing up. He became an inventor of businesses, of communities, of experiences.
Co-founder of several brands to date, including dance party/lifestyle brand Daybreaker, VC firm The Fund, and most notably online education platform General Assembly—Brimer has developed an incredible knack for building passionate, engaged communities. Today, General Assembly has 20 campuses and more than 35,000 alumni, and Brimer serves as a mentor to members of the next generation of entrepreneurs through his role at The Fund, a New York City community of founders that he co-founded.
And it all began with an old piece of furniture and a lucky break on eBay.
In 2005, during Brimer’s freshman year at Yale, he and a few buddies noticed that some of the buildings were under renovation and the university was selling the contents in the process. After perusing the items for sale, they decided to buy an antique piece of furniture to see what they could get for it on eBay.
They took a couple photos of the item, posted it and hoped they could make a few extra bucks from the sale.
They had purchased the piece for $50. It sold for $1,000.
Minds blown, they rushed back to the buildings, bought more items and the college freshmen launched a small online business in the antique furniture space.
Having caught the entrepreneurial bug, Brimer wanted to try his hand at something a little bigger—something that required more technical skill.
In 2007, he and four other college students launched the website GoCrossCampus.com, an online game that turned college rivalries into a wildly popular online battle.
“We made every first time founder mistake in the book. It ended up a few years later becoming a total failure,” Brimer says. “But for a while we were the largest college gaming network in the country.”
He acknowledged that with too many founders and no way to generate new revenue, the project was doomed to fail, and GoCrossCampus shut the doors to its battleground in 2010. But while his first project may have ended, Brimer’s desire to create new things had only begun to grow.
He graduated, moved to New York and freelanced as a web designer while he spent all his free time immersing himself in the tech space. Although the city was bursting with brilliant entrepreneurs and new, exciting ideas, Brimer soon realized that bringing them together to interact and exchange those ideas was a challenge.
What if, he wondered, there was a physical building dedicated specifically to serving those in the tech space? What if there was a place where they could work alongside each other and learn while building meaningful community?
With that dream in mind, Brimer, Jake Schwartz, Adam Pritzker, and Brad Hargreaves co-founded General Assembly in early 2011.
Education for the 21st Century
General Assembly launched as a place for coworking, education, and community, under a single membership model, and this system worked well at first. But Brimer quickly noticed that, to better serve members, a greater emphasis had to be placed on building out the educational branch of the brand.
“There’s this huge skills gap between where traditional higher education leaves off and where the 21st century begins,” he says. “College education isn’t changing that much relatively speaking. But the 21st century—in terms of what employers are looking for, in terms of the talent they’re hiring, in terms of the skills you need to be effective in any industry today—that’s moving quickly.”
Brimer says that a traditional university education can leave graduates in tech fields woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead, and this was the gap he hoped General Assembly could fill. So they eliminated the coworking aspect of the business and doubled down on providing quality education from stellar instructors.
According to Brimer, these practical training programs on digital skills taught by actual practitioners currently working in the space were the most powerful, the most transformative thing they could provide. He wanted to equip students with valuable skills that enabled them to land a new job, upgrade their current position or pursue their passions in the digital economy.
Brimer and his cofounders threw themselves into the new phase of their business, raising more capital, expanding their curriculum both online and off, and launching a new branch that offers corporate training and assessments to large companies. They also built out a credentials program and launched a philanthropic wing designed to lift up those with talent and tenacity from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
With this grand expansion came a need to cement the trust consumers had in the brand.
From day one, Brimer placed a significant focus on delivering measurable outcomes at General Assembly, as a way to build firm trust in the brand. He wanted to answer the question, “What can I do after experiencing this product that I couldn’t do before,” with an unequivocal answer: get a job in tech.
It’s no secret that a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a job after graduation, and this, Brimer feels, is a major issue right now for traditional colleges and universities.
“So here you have spent all this money, all this time getting a college degree and it doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore,” he says. “The outcomes are a little nebulous.”
Brimer and General Assembly wanted to provide something with more certainty. By supplying classes in coding, data, design, marketing, business, and career development, as taught by instructors with the most up-to-date information, Brimer feels that General Assembly fills the gap left by traditional education, more directly preparing students for a career in the industry.
The co-founders of General Assembly also made a concerted effort to attract instructors who were not only excellent in their fields, but also who cared deeply about passing their knowledge and skills on to others.
Brimer says that the best instructors at General Assembly are those who love giving back and empowering others, even if they’ve never had any teaching experience. Today, according to its website, there are more than 250 expert instructors. With an ever-evolving curriculum, and continued expansion, General Assembly is bound to continue making a splash in the tech world.
Brimer began as a cofounder, later transitioned into a part-time position, and this summer he stepped into a new role as an external “evangelist for the company,” when the Adecco Group acquired the brand for $412 million.
While his day-to-day work at General Assembly may have come to a close, he is still extremely passionate about what he was able to accomplish during his time there, and is excited to see what new frontiers they are able to conquer in the years to come.
Brimer is no longer the kid tinkering with household electronics in Missouri, but with free time to concentrate on new ventures, he’s still dreaming big.
“It would be a hilarious thing,” he says, “to explain to my 6-year-old or 8-year-old self what it is that I am, have been, and will be.”
4 Ways To Establish Trust in Your Brand
When competing with major colleges and established universities, the way Matthew Brimer was when he co-founded General Assembly, it is absolutely essential to establish deep trust in the brand as quickly as possible. But all brands, not just those in the education space, have to find a way to build a bridge of trust between company and consumer to become successful. These are four of Brimer’s best tips on how to establish trust for your brand.
1. Deliver Measurable Outcomes
Brimer says that one of the best possible ways to build trust in your brand is to deliver outcomes that are clear and measurable. To decide what that outcome is, he recommends asking, “What is possible for a customer after engaging with the brand or product that would have been completely unattainable before?” By nailing down the measurable outcome and then delivering it, it turns word-of-mouth references into undeniable, tangible results.
2. Celebrate Success Stories
Once you’ve determined what “measurable success” for your brand looks like, it’s time to celebrate those who have achieved it! Brimer says that even prestigious colleges only gained the clout they have because of the success of their alumni. In the same way, the successes of others who have interacted with your product reflect back onto your brand.
3. Establish and Adhere to Core Values
By crafting a definitive and concrete set of core values you can stand by, customers learn what they should expect from your products and services. Brimer says that by delivering on those values, you can develop an invaluable level of trust with consumers that can only come from maintaining integrity.
4. Stay Humble
Brimer says that, all too often, as companies grow larger, so do the egos of the people at the top, preventing them from quickly acknowledging mistakes and accepting feedback with humility.
“The more human of a relationship you can have as a company with your users, the more trust you’re going to have,” he says. “Trust goes away when it’s a faceless brand—a faceless corporate entity—interacting with live humans on the other side. That’s when things go downhill.”
- Why we need to stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up
- How buying an antique piece of furniture at Yale sparked his first ecommerce business
- How he and his friends built the largest college gaming network in the country
- How General Assembly got started
- The philanthropic arm of General Assembly
- GA’s $412.5 million acquisition by Adecco Group
- What it’s like post-acquisition and his involvement in General Assembly
- GA’s hybrid approach of both online and in-person classes
- Why, from an employer perspective, General Assembly is a great source for talent acquisition
- How GA built trust in their brand in the early days
- What they look for in a General Assembly instructor
Full Transcript of Podcast with Matthew Brimer
Nathan: So the first question I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Matthew: I don’t know that I actually have a job right now. I had a job in high school, serving ice cream. But I’ve sort of been an entrepreneur all of my adult life and at this stage in my career, I have a lot of projects and entrepreneurial endeavours going on. So for me it’s not one job in particular. It’s sort of, a lot of interests and responsibilities and obligations. How should I elaborate that further to give you a better answer?
Nathan: Yeah, how did you find yourself doing the work you’re doing today? Tell us about your first company, the companies you’re working on right now.
Matthew: Got it, okay, cool. So I was born and raised in the American Mid-west, in Missouri and actually both my parents were, still are, small business owners. My mom is a graphic designer and my dad runs an architectural signage company, and from a young age they always encouraged creativity and pursuing one’s passions and what-not. As a kid I was very much into space and taking apart all electronics and I wanted to grow up and be an inventor. Today I would say I am maybe an inventor of businesses, an inventor of communities and of experiences and of other things. I think it’s hard to predict as a kid what you’ll end up, it’s almost impossible to predict what your life is going to be like. I think this idea, actually I was thinking about this the other day. The idea that we ask children what do you want to be when you grow up? I think it’s a terrible idea.
Nathan: Yeah, its ridiculous.
Matthew: Totally, it’s the wrong question. Because it’s saying, first of all it’s saying, it’s making two big assumptions that I think, in today’s world are false. One, it says, it assumes that you are going to be one thing, which is very much going away right?. You’re going to have, what, like you’re going to have one job? You’re going to have one very specific career? Or you’re just going to be one thing? When in reality most people are lots of things. Maybe they’re a musician on the side, maybe they have some hobbies. They’re doing some work and then five years later they’re like: Oh I’m interested in something else and they do some different work, and it’s always evolving. But then that question also assumes. What do you want to be when you grow up? Not only is it one thing that you can be but that being grown up is like a forever state. That you are now, whatever, you choose a thing and then you are that thing forever. For the rest of your life. Which is also not how the world works.
I don’t even know that I could even explain, it would have been a hilarious thing for me to explain to my six year old or eight year old self what it is that I am, and have been, and will be as an adult. So I think instead maybe we should ask our kids: What sparks your curiosity, what are you interested in, what types of things would you like to pursue, what would you like to get better at? These are the more interesting questions I think.
Anyway, to come back from that tangent. After high school I got in to Yale for undergrad and it was at university in undergrad that I think I really caught the entrepreneurial bug. Freshman year at Yale I discovered, renovates and I discovered that Yale was renovating these old buildings on campus and they were selling off all these old antique pieces of furniture. So friends and I bought one of these pieces of furniture for a very modest amount of money, and took some photos of it, put it on E-bay, figured we’d sell it for a couple of hundred bucks. I think, this piece of furniture, we bought it for $50 and it ended up selling on E-bay for a thousand dollars.
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Matthew: So we thought: Oh, here’s a little opportunity. So we created a little e-commerce store on E-bay, an e-commerce site on E-bay store, and a whole brand around this stuff. We did our research, and we researched these antique pieces of furniture as they were coming out of renovated buildings on campus. And it was a small business, I wouldn’t call it a start-up, but it was a small business in the antique furniture space. And it was during that year too in school when I was sort of doing this as a big extra-curricular, where I think I learned a lot of the basics of customer interaction and logistics and building a website and e-commerce and transportation and all that stuff. So that was kind of like the first taste.
And then later on in college I wanted to do something a bit more tech oriented and so got together with a couple of friends, and we decided: Let’s build a start-up. And what we built was this social gaming platform called Go Cross Campus. We made every first time founder mistake in the book. It ended up a few years later becoming a total failure. But for a while we were the largest college gaming network in the country, and we were basically taking real-world rivalries and college rivalries and sports rivalries, and building these kind of team-based online games motivated and fueled by rivalries. But again, as I said, we capitalised the business poorly, we had too many co-founders, made a lot of mistakes, never really figured out how to generate new revenue, which apparently is important for running a business, so they say. That little revenue detail, right?
Matthew: Anyway, so I learned a lot from that. That ended up, unfortunately failing, right around the time when I was graduating from school. But the desire and the interest in being an entrepreneur and creating something in the world that did not exist before, and then moving the world forward by sort of spawning an idea into reality very much appealed to me. And so I avoided getting any sort of corporate job or anything like that. When I graduated I moved to New York City and was paying the bills and paying the rent and what-not by doing freelance work, freelance web design, some web development and some consulting work. I was in New York City and I was trying to immerse myself into the start-up and tech ecosystem in New York City. Meeting a lot of interesting VCs, engineers and designers and other entrepreneurs. And this was now 2009/2010, post-recession New york.
And I started to see the need to create a physical place, a physical hub that could be a nucleus of the start-up and tech and design ecosystem in New York City. I started talking about this idea to a lot of people, gathering interest, getting a lot of support. And basically with three other friends we decided: All right, let’s do this thing, let’s start this thing. It was a physical place, it was called General Assembly and we started off running classes and workshops in digital skills topics, with all the classes and educational workshops being taught by actual practitioners. So you were learning Software Engineering from a web developer, you were learning User Experience Design from an actual designer, et cetera. But we also, for a period of time, were offering co-working for early stage start-ups in New York City. And then the whole thing was kind of wrapped in a social community where people come together and do lots of events and happy hours as a real community. But it wasn’t a digital thing, it was a real life physical community and place and set of educational offerings and what-not.
Nathan: And it started as a co-working space, right? And then you did the schooling stuff?
Matthew: So it started, really, sort of as three things in one.
Matthew: Co-working, learning and community, social community. So we were doing events and hackathons and community stuff and we had a membership model. And then we also had about a hundred desks, rentable desks that were all in this open-plan approach, and it was a sort of curated co-working environment. And then we were also trying our hand at producing classes and workshops and learning experiences.
But pretty quickly, within the first year or so, we realised: Oh this education thing, that we’re just starting to dabble in, is the most compelling part of our business. We started to go deeper and realised: All right there’s this huge skills gap between where traditional higher education leaves off and where the 21st century begins. And college education isn’t changing that much, relatively speaking, in general. But the 21st century, in terms of what employers are looking for, in terms of the talent they are hiring, in terms of what skills you need to be effective in any industry today, that’s moving quickly. And as technology has continued to transform every single industry out there, the skills required and what good, employable talent needs to look like in today’s economy is constantly changing and evolving. So we realised: Oh there’s a big need, why don’t we continue to offer practical, relevant educational programmes for people who what to learn these skills of the digital economy and become employable practitioners on their own.
And so a few years in, after we had launched a couple of campuses, we actually pulled back and no longer offered a co-working model. We were just doing co-working in New York and we actually pulled that back because we realised: You know what, renting desks to early start-ups in many ways was the least interesting thing that we were doing. It was much more powerful and much more, better business and also more transformative and positive in peoples lives to offer courses that allowed them to transform their careers, develop really valuable skills and then get a job or upgrade their job or pursue whatever their passions are in this growing digital economy.
And we ended up raising, over the course of now what’s been eight years since we launched, we ended up raising a few rounds of capital, we grew to about 20-something campuses in cities around the world. We started to really expand our enterprise business by offering corporate training and assessments and really rigorous educational training programmes for large companies who realised they need to upskill and keep their own employees up to speed.
We built a credentialing programme, we built a whole philanthropic and social impact arm that I helped start, which provides scholarships and support services for individuals from underprivileged backgrounds to go through General Assembly and become developers and designers and data scientists but without any significant costs to them. Recognising that raw talent and brilliance is widespread, it’s just that some people haven’t had the opportunities to become the people that they want to become due to economic and financial hindrances. And so we wanted to start to remove those barriers to entry, for people who had the hustle and who had the tenacity and had the grit and the passion and wanted to be something in the tech industry but just maybe weren’t coming from a lot of means, financial means. And so we’ve done a lot of work in that space as well. I could go on but that’s, and I’ve done more entrepreneurial stuff post-General Assembly too. But that was the foundation, at least for me.
Nathan: Yeah, no, it’s fascinating because I know General Assembly quite well. I was looking, many moons ago, to do a course myself. I got my girlfriend to do a course, she’s gone on, she did the digital marketing course-
Matthew: Oh cool.
Nathan: -here in Melbourne. She’s gone on to run actually a very successful e-commerce business now off the back of that.
Matthew: Oh cool.
Nathan: So I like that it’s-
Matthew: Great to hear, I love those stories.
Nathan: -I like that it’s ten to twelve weeks as opposed to going back to university or college or what-not and it takes three-
Matthew: Plus four years, something.
Nathan: -to four years.
Nathan: So I know this model quite well, I just wanted to round out the story because I know you have quite a few other companies. Daybreaker, you’ve got your own VC, The Fund, a few other companies. But I’d just like to round out the story. You scaled out to, I think 15, was it 15 or 20 campus locations, quite a few different continents? And then you actually-
Matthew: Over 20.
Nathan: -okay, over 20 now. And then you were actually acquired for $412 million by the Addeco group.
Matthew: Yeah, that was this summer.
Nathan: Yeah, and so, are you still active in the company? What was your role at the time? Or are you still active?
Matthew: Yeah, I’m still supportive and an evangelist for General Assembly and I’ll still do speaking gigs and help introduce them to the right folks. That would be helpful, to keep the business moving forward. But I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day. I was, I mean, it was my entire life for many years, from co-founding it and then I’ve been part-time for the last few years and now I’m trying to be helpful if I can, but I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. So just a few questions around that, just out of curiosity. So you guys, as you mentioned, a big opportunity in the corporate and enterprise space. I’m curious how come you guys didn’t go down the path of online and stayed face-to-face?
Matthew: We’ve gone down the path of online in a massive way.
Matthew: Most of our enterprise education is online, actually.
Nathan: Okay, I didn’t know that.
Matthew: And online for consumer, not enterprise, but for consumer, online is our biggest growth area. So we still very much believe in the campus model and delivering transformative education in real life.
Matthew: But we found that there’s a lot of growth opportunities and delivery opportunities to build out online programmes as well. And so often times we’ll sort of couple, we think of it more in a hybrid approach. So we don’t think the future of education is strictly offline but we also don’t think the future of education is strictly online. For example, with large companies, large organisations we actually offer, as a bundle or a package, in person, hands-on, experiential education in addition to a number of online educational products and digital courses that we offer that can just reach more people. Not everybody has to visit the shop. Because for a lot of large companies, they have employees all over the world, and if someone needs to get better at digital marketing, not somebody but if thousands of people in a large organisation need to get better at digital marketing, they can’t all spend three months in New York or London or something.
Matthew: So we are going to have to go to them. So we’ve actually been building out educational programmes trying to partner now with companies to build out mini- General Assembly campuses within their own organisations as well as just offer our programmes virtually to lots of employees across different offices around the world. So we look at a two-by-two matrix, we have consumer, we have enterprise, we have online and we have offline and we’re doing all four.
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Matthew: The interesting thing about how it all connects is that the employers who are hiring our graduates for our campus business. We have students who go through our full-time programmes and become employable practitioners in Data Science or Web Design or Mobile Development or whatever.
Matthew: And so a big part of the value, or at least how you can measure the value of these programmes, education programmes is by actually getting a job in this new field that you’ve just been honing your skills in. And so the employers who are hiring our graduates often also realise that they need to upskill their existing talent. So from an employers perspective, General Assembly is a great source for talent acquisition, hiring of graduates.
Matthew: And, it’s also a great source for talent assessment because we have these really robust credential and assessment programmes where you can measure the skills and proficiencies and deficiencies of your existing talent. But then also talent development. So if you have 1000 marketers around the world and you realise: It’s 2018, all of them really need to understand analytics. We have those programmes and we can do that sort of training. So it’s interesting after now, enough time, we’ve started to see how everything unifies and how we should think about even further integrating a lot of our offerings realising that it’s not so much the separation between the consumer and enterprise anymore but it actually a more unified system of education.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really interesting. So one thing I have to ask you, which I think you guys have done a really good job at, especially in the early days. And this is something that lot of founders struggle with in the early days of their company. Is building trust. And you guys are competing against universities that have been around for a very long time that have significant rapport and respect and if somebody goes to Harvard, in the American schooling. That’s so well respected, it’s just known, you just get this automatic, bang … So how did you guys in the early days convince people, or build that trust for your brand? Even for me, three years ago when I said to my girlfriend, you gotta do this thing, I think it will be better than going to uni. What advice would you give, because I think it’s something that you’ve done really well, and I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with?
Matthew: So, in no particular order. Number one, delivering measurable outcomes, and the question that you want, as a company, that you want to ask, if you want to deliver measurable outcomes for your customers is: What is possible for a particular customer, post-experience, post-product, after they have been through your, they’ve engaged with your product or finished your programme, whatever, what’s possible after that experience that would have been completely unattainable for that same user, customer, prior to having engaged with your product or service? And you want the answer to be clear whenever you ask or approach that question. And if it’s not, then it’s much harder to build legitimacy, trust in the brand.
So to put that into a specific example. For us, outcome oriented education, often for us, means can you get a job? If you’re a student, and you’re going through and you’re taking our Web Development immersive programme, and you’re committing time and money and effort for three months of your life to go through this Web Development immersive programme at General Assembly. Can you get a job within several months of graduation as a web developer in this new career field? When you started the programme you were a total novice, you had never coded you had never been employed as a web developer, you didn’t know these technologies. But after going through the programme can you now get a job and actually did you get a job? And you can say: Oh yeah I got a job, or I started a company using my new skills.
If it’s obvious and measurable and objective that an outcome has been delivered that would not have been possible had you not been through the product or service then as a company you’re doing your job right. And you’re delivering outcomes. Because once you start doing that enough there’s no arguing against it. It’s not sort of a he-said, she-said situation. We’re either getting people jobs because they have these skills, and they’re able to start companies and get jobs and do things that they wouldn’t have been able to do before General Assembly, and so the testimonials are real. Or, it’s just all talk and we give people a piece of paper that says: Oh you graduated. But if the paper doesn’t mean anything then it’s just all talk and we very strictly and strongly focus on delivering outcomes at all of our oriented around our education being around outcomes and not being around giving people a degree, or a piece of paper.
I think a lot of the big problem right now with colleges, traditional university, is that just having a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore. So here you have spent all this money, all this time getting a college degree and it doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore. And the outcomes are a little nebulous, or can be and so we just rigorously focus on outcomes so I think that’s crucial to developing trust quickly and not waiting 300-plus years to be Harvard.
Another one that I would look at is do your best to generate some success stories and then celebrate those success stories. So why does Harvard have the brand that it does? Well, I would say it’s largely because of the success of a number of its most high profile graduates. I went to Yale so I can count as the same thing. There’s presidents, there’s CEOs, there’s philanthropists, there’s inventors, there’s all these successful people that you can point to and say: Oh they went to Harvard, so I guess Harvard must be a good place. So if you’re offering a product or service, and you want to build trust quickly, the more that you can celebrate the success stories of your users and customers, the better.
And then the third suggestion I have is, that trust is hard to build but it’s easy to break. So most companies have a set of core principles of values that they come up with early on in the company. What do we stand for? Aside from our products and services, what are the values that we really stand for that we’re not going to veer from? And the more that you communicate those values to your users and that you stick, and more importantly that you actually practise what you preach. So that you actually stick to and adhere to living those values. And as your company makes decisions that it makes the decisions that are in the direction of those values, and you don’t compromise on these core values. That’s how you build trust with a community, or the community and your users. Say, okay, the product might evolve, the leadership might evolve in this company, the mobile app might evolve or whatever. But if I as a user know that this company is holding to good values and that’s something I can count on, it will maintain trust.
Take decisions based …as a good example. Facebook has lost massive trust, especially in the last few months but also in the last couple of years. So Facebook has lost a lot of trust in its users because it was revealed that some of their decisions that they made were not adhering to the values that they were preaching. And that trust is very hard to get back. But if you as a company adhere to and stick to and practise those values, and customers can continually rely on those, that’s really one of the only ways to build trust.
You just have to maintain integrity and also maintain some humility. This is sort of a corollary, or this is 3B, with integrity also comes the importance of maintaining humility. As a company grows and has more power and larger user base and more money and bigger investors and all these things. More glory, whatever. It can be easy for the leadership or for a lot of the employees of the company whatever to develop a big ego and that can also be a detrimental factor in your relationship with your users and it can sort of be a separation between your users. Where you might do something wrong and if you believe that you are incapable as a company of doing anything wrong, but users see that you did something wrong, you’re going to lose trust.
So as you grow and as you keep expanding, know that people are going to make mistakes, we’re all human, companies are just groups of people. And so if you do make a mistake and do something wrong, get feedback, actually listen to what happened, listen to your customers, and acknowledge that they care enough to even bother to communicate that feedback to you. And then work on fixing it. But, in general, the more human of a relationship you can have as a company with your users, the more trust you’re going to have. Trust goes away when it’s a faceless brand, a faceless corporate entity interacting with live humans on the other side. That’s when things go downhill.
Nathan: I’d love to know about the relationship with your teachers, instructors and how you correctly incentivize them and also get great teachers? Because somebody might be a great practitioner, but they might not be a great teacher.
Matthew: So first and foremost we try to attract instructors who actually care about sharing their knowledge and skills with other people who want to learn. Instructors who find meaning and satisfaction in seeing other people develop in their field. Some people, they just have no desire to teach, for whatever reason it does not bring them satisfaction and joy. Whereas our best instructors, even if they have never formally taught before, they are not professors, or they maybe haven’t had a formal teaching job. Do they enjoy sharing their skills and giving back to the community, and helping to empower and support aspiring students, aspiring individuals who want to develop this craft that the instructor has also developed? There’s something special about saying: Okay, I’m very good at this particular set of skills and I have the ability to share those skills with other people who want to learn and who have that passion and that fire for the subject. There’s something very meaningful there for some people. But not for everyone. So we try to make sure that we find people who are not only great practitioners, doing what they do for a living, they know the subject matter, of course, that’s table stakes. But more importantly what really separates the okay instructors from the best instructors is, to what extent do the instructors really care about supporting and developing the students who have an interest and a passion for the subject?
And then we have a whole recruitment process and we’ll have them teach and little bit for us and we’ll get references, same as like how you hire talent. We have a whole recruitment process. But I think those two things are most important. Are you passionate as an instructor? Are you coming in really desiring to develop other people and help support other people, do you care about giving back? And then two is: Are you a very talented and knowledgeable practitioner in this industry? So we don’t have people teaching who have been out of the workforce for a decade. Everyone who teaches with us is teaching a lot about what they do for a living and what they know in their industry.
And what that means is that then as the world moves forward is that our curriculum is always in evolution, it’s always evolving. For example, the programming languages that we’re going to be teaching in our Web Development course ten years from now, those programming languages probably haven’t even been invented yet. So, how are we going to know what we teach ten years from now? We don’t, we just have to be good at teaching what is relevant now and the skills that are in demand now and also build a system for our curriculum to always be evolving. Have a system that we can slowly shift and modify and add and subtract bits of our curriculum to stay current and to stay relevant because that’s what it’s all about.
Nathan: Yeah, I love it man. Well look, super-mindful of your time, I know we have wrap. Just one last question. Where’s the best place people can find out more about yourself and your work?
Matthew: So, my handle for all things social media is generally: Brimer, B-r-i-m-e-r, that’s me on Facebook, that’s me on Instagram, that’s me on Twitter. And then I’m also on Linkedin, but my handle there is M. O. Brimer, M. O. B-r-i-m-e-r. And then if you want to check out General Assembly it’s GA.co is the website, G-a-dot-c-o.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, I just want to say thanks so much for taking the time mate and yeah, I hope you enjoy the rest of Australia. Have a great time in Sydney and Byron Bay and I really appreciate your time-
Matthew: Thank you man.
Nathan: -and congratulations on all your success.
Matthew: Yeah, thank you, I appreciate it as well.