General Assembly case study

The New-York headquartered global educational institution focused on technology, business and design, set up in London with help from London & Partners.

Client profile

General Assembly

With assistance from London & Partners, this New York-headquartered global educational institution focused on technology, business and design set up in London taught 9,000 UK-based  students and grew so fast that it set its sights on a bigger campus — all within 18 months.

London & Partners are fantastic. Our main contact is a walking LinkedIn. There isn’t one person that they aren’t willing to introduce me to.

Matt Cynamon, EU Regional Director, General Assembly

About General Assembly

Founded in New York in 2011, General Assembly is a global educational institution teaching digital, business and design skills. Through full-time immersive programs, long-form courses, and short-term classes and workshops it has taught more than 70,000 students in NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Sydney, Hong Kong, Berlin and now London.

Business aim

Spotting the global shortage of cutting-edge tech skills, General Assembly saw an opportunity to become Europe’s leading tech-related educational institution. It chose to set up in London, the continent’s premier IT hub, but who could help it find a campus, professional partners, promotional opportunities and students?

London & Partners services

  • Office location: finding a training campus on the doorstep of London’s Tech City, home to Europe’s fastest-growing ICT cluster
  • Promotion: supporting the company’s launch and promoting its courses through London & Partners channels
  • Introductions: to professional partners including accountants, lawyers and estate agents
  • Networking: connections with start-ups and established companies including Cisco and Skype; invitations to regular business meet-ups

Business success in London

Within 18 months of setting up a campus in London in April 2012, General Assembly had developed a network of more than 500 teachers and practitioners and trained more than 9,000 students. By the end of 2013 it was planning major expansion to bigger premises.

In their own words

What’s your key piece of advice for other companies planning to expand to London?
“Invest in people. Your first hire should be somebody from your home base and then you should build out your team locally. Also, there’s a tendency to underinvest: some companies try to establish a market presence by sending over one person with just a set of business cards and not setting up an office. The more you invest up front the less you pay longer term.”

London & Partners helps overseas businesses grow quickly. How did you benefit?
“They accelerated our business. We could make networks a lot faster. We could find classrooms. We could find students and partners. They made us feel as if we were already embedded in the city before we even got here.”

What is General Assembly?
“It’s a global education institution. Our vision is to create a community of individuals who are empowered to pursue work that they like. We do this by teaching the technology skills of the 21st century and by providing access to career opportunities.”

Why come to London?
“It was a no-brainer. We want to be the leading gateway to opportunities in technology for Europe and London is perfect for us. It is the capital of digital business in Europe and is still going through a remarkable renaissance. It has this incredible legacy of traditional industry — from media through to financial services, a lot of people are leaving traditional industries to pursue technology-related ideas.”

London & Partners’ network comprises hundreds of vetted experts. How did you benefit?
“They are fantastic. Our main contact is a walking LinkedIn. There isn’t one person that they aren’t willing to introduce me to. And the main thing they get from it is the satisfaction of contributing to the economic success of London.”

How did you spot the opportunity in London?
“London, New York and San Francisco are all technology capitals with the same problem: there’s a lack of qualified talent. There’s been a rapid change over the last few years. Up to 2008 the major industries were finance, management consultancies and so on. These jobs started drying up and entrepreneurship and setting up tech companies became a much more viable option.”

General Assembly has trained 65,000 students globally and more than 9,000 in London. Who signs up for your courses?
“Our students come from very diverse backgrounds: professionals who want to advance their career; people embarking on completely new ventures and graduates seeking entry-level positions. But they all share the same entrepreneurial spirit. We also have a global and local team that’s sourcing jobs, organising networking events and keeping the alumni engaged.”

Which services did London & Partners provide?
“They made a lot of things a great deal easier, particularly through introductions and networking. They helped us identify real estate options and introduced us to major players in the community. They also connected us to lawyers and accountants, investors, start-ups and established companies.”

London’s business community is accessible and open-minded. How has your experience been?
“What’s really impressive is how open everyone is. Within three months of being here, I had managed to meet everybody I wanted to. The community is not as strong in New York as it is here.”

Some of the world’s best IT practitioners and visionaries are in London. Are they part of your network?
“We are reaching out to the community in London and the instructors that we have built up over the past year and a half are probably the most important thing that we’ve done. They are some of the best in their field.

Will you continue to use London & Partners to help you grow?
“Yes. The value of an educational institution is in its community and London & Partners has enabled us to create that community. We will continue to ask them to help us build it.”

What are your expansion plans in London?
“We are thinking of moving to a bigger space. Over the past year and a half we have made an initial investment in London, which has more than been repaid. We now plan to re-invest heavily.”

Matt Cynamon, EU Regional Director, General Assembly

Published: March 2014