When Betabeat first visited General Assembly a few weeks before it opened, co-founder Adam Pritzker told us that the vision was to create an educational space free from the pressures of venture capital so often tied into startup incubators and accelerators.
That has all changed now. Howard Schultz’s Maveron fund led the round, snagging Yuri Milner’s DST Global and Jeff Bezos’s Bezos Expeditions as investors in General Assembly. Alexis Ohanian, Hosain Rahman, and Alex Asseily are also in the round. The new money will allow GA to expand far quicker than they could relying on a $200,000 grant from the city, dues from members and freebies from sponsors like Rackspace and Skype.
General Assembly is reportedly eying global expansion, especially through online offerings of its classes and event series. DST and Amazon certainly have the chops to help GA hit global scale. Perhaps the city should rethink the cost benefit of attracting a major engineering school to New York when our home-grown campus is poised to become a worldwide classroom.
The critical component missing from the Fortune story is how much money GA received in this funding round and what the terms are. Brad Hargreaves revealed that the funding totals $4.5 million and that some of the money will be used for expansion to another retail space in Manhattan and a campus in London.
DST is already offering $150,000 to every company that goes through Y Combinator and one would assume startups accepted into GA may now have a similar option. Perhaps the dealflow is explicit, like Startfund, or perhaps implicit, via the goodwill that comes through funding. However, Mr. Ohanian, a YC grad, said GA is dreaming bigger. “Not looking to make a YC competitor at all, though. The GA vision is much bigger than a tech accelerator,” he said in an email.
GA seems to have its eyes on virtual education as a source of future revenue. As Mr. Hargreaves wrote, “When we launched our first certification program—Front-end Web Development—a few weeks ago, we received over 100 applications for only fifteen available spots. Demand for this kind of education has clearly outstripped supply. And we want to answer the call….So will we open a bunch more campuses? Put all our classes online? Start training executives? We don’t know. Right now we’re singularly focused on continuing to create a great, meaningful experience at our New York campus. That said, we see the bigger picture: there is immense demand for social, application-driven education in technology, design, and entrepreneurship, and we’re committed to addressing this real need.”