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Ed tech entrepreneur Matthew Brimer on the future of work

Co-founder of global education startup General Assembly shares his thoughts on the skills needed for success in the digital age.


Matthew Brimer will draw on his diverse range of experiences at a series of events as part of the City of Sydney’s visiting entrepreneur program.

As co-founder of General Assembly, Matthew Brimer is in a strong position to talk about the future of work. Started in 2011 in New York, General Assembly has campuses in 30 cities, including Sydney and Melbourne, over 50,000 alumni and a reputation as the go-to place for tech training. General Assembly takes students from classrooms to careers and provides training in the digital economy’s most in-demand skills.

General Assembly’s status as a force in global tech education was confirmed earlier in 2018. The world’s largest recruitment and staffing firm, Zurich-based Adecco Group, acquired the company for $412.5 million.

General Assembly isn’t Brimer’s sole project. He’s working to support the next generation of entrepreneurs as co-founder of an early stage venture fund, The Fund. He’s also co-founder of Daybreaker. The international lifestyle brand helps people dance up a storm, producing sober morning dance parties in major world cities.

Brimer will draw on his diverse range of experiences at a series of visiting entrepreneur program events and masterclasses in November.

In the lead-up to his first Australian visit, Matthew shared thoughts on the future of education, building communities and lifelong learning.

What for you was missing in the education and information landscape that drove the creation of General Assembly?

The world is transforming so rapidly that jobs are increasingly in flux. The idea of taking an entrepreneurial approach to your career has become increasingly important. Having portable, employable skills relevant for the digital economy is a must for today’s career-seekers.

It used to be that traditional education was this thing you received in your youth. Being ‘college-educated' was an adjective you applied to yourself, and either you were or you weren’t. But now, the skills you need throughout your life change.

The skills and proficiencies you need when you’re 25 years old look very different than what you need when you’re 35, 45, 55 or older. As such, your education should evolve throughout your entire life.

To stay relevant, you need to adapt, stay current - keep your skills fresh.

Why do you think General Assembly has been such a worldwide success?

When creating General Assembly, we knew that ‘community' — learning and creating together, with shared values, in an intimate context — was vital.

As we expanded and made progress on our initial vision, we realised how deeply important outcome-oriented education was for so many people, learning from actual practitioners skilled in their craft, with a focus on achieving a new career or an upgraded life that wouldn’t have been possible prior to engaging in the educational experience.

For us, that was the core formula that we built upon and expanded over the years to bring transformative career-changing possibilities to so many individuals around the world.

Are there any advantages for Australians being a long way from the hub of digital tech Silicon Valley? If so, how could local entrepreneurs exploit it?

Silicon Valley can be an insular bubble without the diversity of thought and background needed to build companies that can solve the world’s plethora of complex challenges.

Entrepreneurs generally tend to scratch their own itch. So problems that exist in other parts of the world, that don’t exist in Silicon Valley, are often great opportunities for tackling. There’s less competition, and more time and space to build a real solution.

I’d recommend hunting after big, difficult, hairy challenges that people are actually struggling with, and build them a solution they were never expecting to solve a problem they’ve always dealt with.

What would be the top takeout you hope to share with our local industry while in Sydney?

Pursue what’s really important in the world.

Don’t spend your life just trying to make a buck. Support one another. Forget this paradigm of zero-sum capitalist competition. Life is too short and the world needs mission-driven entrepreneurs solving actual human and environmental challenges now more than ever.

Don’t build something just because it’s a good hack into human psychology. Build something that matters, that makes a difference, and that actually expands people’s hearts and minds for the better.

Matthew Brimer at the visiting entrepreneur program

Find out more about upcoming events in the visiting entrepreneur program.

Published 19 November 2018, updated 29 February 2024