Mathew Brimer is best known as the mastermind behind the multi-million-dollar, 21st-century educational institution, General Assembly. Since its inception in 2011 as a small, New York-based co-working space, General Assembly has grown into a multi-national concern with over 20 campuses worldwide, over 50,000 alumni and a position as one of the world’s leading providers of “skills-gap” training. Since General Assembly was acquired in 2018 by the Adecco group, Brimer has stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the company, while remaining an active spokesperson for their work. That’s not to say he doesn’t have outside interests: since graduating from Yale, Brimer has become one of the country’s top entrepreneurs, dabbling in everything from venture capitalism to morning raves, community outreach to furniture rental. To discover more about Matthew Brimer, keep reading.
1. He caught the entrepreneurial bug at college
Even when he was still a student, Brimer was busily honing away at his craft. While at Yale, he, along with a few of his friends, noticed the university was selling off the contents of some buildings under re-construction. Wanting to see if they could prop up their student loans, Brimer and his buddies bought a piece of furniture for $50 to sell on eBay. The profit from the resulting sale saw their initial investment more than quadruple in value: by the time bidding had ended, the price stood at $1000. Buoyed by their success, the group bought up more furniture to resell and launched their own online antique business.
2. His first big success was GoCrossCampus.com
In 2007, having already tasted some success with their antique business, Brimer and his friends decided to try their hand at something altogether bigger. The result was the website GoCrossCampus.com, an online game that pitted college students against each other in battle. Ultimately, the project failed (something Brimer has since blamed on too many founders and not enough ways to generate revenue), but for a brief period in the early 2000s, GoCrossCampus was the biggest and most popular college gaming network in the US.
3. He co-founded General Assembly after moving to New York
After graduating from Yale, Brimer decamped to New York, where he began exploring ideas for his next project. One idea, in particular, caught his imagination: the concept of taking a physical building where tech workers could work alongside each, share ideas and build a community. In 2011, he, along with Jake Schwartz, Adam Pritzker, and Brad Hargreaves, saw the idea to fruition with the creation of General Assembly.
4. He’s all about education
General Assembly initially started off as a coworking space. However, Brimer quickly became aware of the challenges that some of the younger participants were facing in post-college life. “There’s this huge skills gap between where traditional higher education leaves off and where the 21st century begins,” he told Foundr. “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.” To help fill the gap, Brimer decided to change the focus of General Assembly from a coworking space to one with an emphasis on providing graduates with the skills and training they needed to excel.
5. He turned General Assembly into a multi-million-dollar industry
After hitting on the idea of creating a “campus” experience rather than a co-working environment, Brimer oversaw the transition of General Assembly from a small, New York-based operation into a multi-million-dollar international industry. As well as developing a philanthropic arm, the project has also expanded from its initial focus on private individuals to creating cooperate teaching partnerships with businesses and Fortune 500 companies. It now has 20 campuses on 4 continents, more than 50,000 full- and part-time alumni, and over 500 team members.
6. He’s an evangelist
In April 2018, it was reported that General Assembly was to be acquired by the Swiss-based, multinational human resource company, the Adecco Group. The deal saw Adecco part with a staggering $412.5 million, demonstrating just how far Brimer had taken the business within the space of just 7 years. Since the buyout, Brimer has stepped down from managerial duties at the company but continues his association via the role of an external “evangelist”.
7. He’s a Wes Anderson Fan
Building multi-million-dollar operations from scratch might seem like an all-consuming activity, but Brimer still manages to find enough downtime to indulge his favorites hobbies, which, according to about.me, include good design, comedy, biking, electronica, settling down with a Wes Anderson movie, and “creating amazing experiences for people — online and offline”.
8. He founded a lifestyle brand
Since experiencing success with General Assembly, Brimer has continued to test his talents with new ventures. In 2013, he co-founded Daybreaker, a global community and lifestyle brand that began life as a social experiment revolving around the idea of kicking off your day with a morning dance party, and quickly evolved to become a global movement that aims to inspire community, mindfulness, and mental and physical wellness.
9. He owns a venture capital firm
In August 2017, Brimer took his career to the next level with the creation of The Fund, a new type of early-stage venture fund created and fueled by a grassroots collective of over 75 founders and operators. The fund aims to take the talents, networks, and money of its community to develop the New York tech space in a meaningful way.
10. He’s won numerous accolades
Over the course of the last decade, Brimer’s many achievements have seen him win numerous honors. In 2012, he was named one of Inc Magazines “30 Under 30”, and in that same year, he was selected as one of Vanity Fair's “The Next Establishment”. 2012 also saw him join the ranks of Business Insiders Silicon Valley 100, while in 2015, he proved his talents (and his age) once again when he was named to another “30 under 30” list, this time with Forbes.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee