Delighted that the good folk of GA would offer our members such a fab perk, we thought it wise to also interview one of the leading lights in the General Assembly team, New Yorker Matt Cynamon, Regional Director of the UK and Germany team, who has been based in the London office for the last few years.
General Assembly began in New York City in 2011 as an innovative community led organisation for startups and entrepreneurs - people like you and I methinks. Since then it has evolved into a global educational institution that aims to transform thinkers and self starters into makers and creators. Providing education in technology, business and design in nine campuses across four continents they sure have come a long way...and not just metaphorically!
GA can now truly call itself a global company having recently opened a new European headquarters in London and progressed nearly 50,000 people through a GA programme - but more on that later.
Matt himself started out with GA at the end of 2011 as an education production assistant and within 12 months had been promoted to Regional Director - pretty phenomenal career growth we think you’ll agree. But Matt is keen to stress that this career leap has much to do with GA’s startup philosophy and the reality that “inside any rapidly growing company, you will see internal career progression”.
Matt goes on to highlight a wider point for all startups to consider, “You need to nurture and grow your own talents and you need people that are passionate and in love with the brand” - Note taken….
So why have they chosen London as their European base? Well, Matt starts by explaining that plenty of cities have a hub of startup activity, but that really London is the heart of that activity. With a key GA philosophy being that education is a gateway to opportunity, it’s hard to argue against London as the gateway for as many good folk as possible.
But as I quickly remind Matt, whilst London has a large population, the vast majority of people in the UK and Europe don't live in the city, or indeed anywhere near it. Matt agrees and reaffirms that GA’s aim to remove barriers to entry for thinkers and self starters (key aim for us here at Startacus one may add) is reflected by the their Front Row platform which is accessible from anywhere in the world. “We believe that face to face learning is very important, but that Front Row is an additional tool for our community everywhere”.
The thing with GA is that they transcend just being for tech startups - which is often not the case for ‘entrepreneur orientated’ businesses. Matt talks of their own development from being a community driven organisation in 2011 in NYC. “Entrepreneurship was and still is a solitary, isolated thing, and we wanted to create a space that was for like-minded entrepreneurs.”
That creation naturally evolved into an education space, when members of their growing community began offering workshops and training for other members. A good lesson for us all - let the consumer shape the business and the direction it takes.
And in terms of the comparison between the GA communities they have built in the States and elsewhere Matt feels there are more similarities than differences. “People need the same things, wherever they live. Every community creates a unique culture, but as a critical mass you need the passion and the mindset wherever you live”. The world and the community you join are evidently your oyster.
And what’s next for General Assembly? Matt highlights that further expansion is inevitable, but that they plan to continue to develop London as their European base.
Next for Matt? Well he has just started in a new role as Global Director of Alumni. By the end of 2015 General Assembly will have around 50,000 alumni across the globe.
Armed with intense ambition, a desire to support one another, and a wide range of the most important skills of the 21st century and partly thanks to GA, this group will possess all the potential to be one of the most influential networks in the world - and as the world is now a much smaller place than it used to be, we look forward to GA’s next evolution and hearing the next chapter of their tale...
Interested in finding out more about our fab 3 months free access to Front Row? Check out the previous General Assembly article.