Xconomist of the Week: Q&A with General Assembly’s Brad Hargreaves

11/20/12Follow @gthuang

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curricula for our long-form courses that emphasize hands-on experiences [and] deliver the most value for our students and community. Our core belief is that the best way to gain basic proficiency in specific topic areas is to surround yourself [with] the best practitioners, to work alongside equally motivated and like-minded peers, and to learn by doing. We bring this approach to everything we build.”

On GA’s latest challenges: “Our biggest challenge is prioritizing the requests that we receive for new long-form course offerings so we can remain ahead of the demand. Right now we offer 12 different courses. Over the next year we plan to introduce several more.”

On interesting trends across the company’s network of cities: “General Assembly now offers ongoing educational programming in nine markets on three continents. What we have learned throughout this process of expansion is that every community is distinct, but they each have a deeply entrepreneurial and enthusiastic core. These tech communities also face a common challenge: a shortage of high-quality talent, particularly in the areas of technology, business, and design. With so many smart and innovative ideas, companies are struggling to find developers that can build the sites, marketers to take the products to market, and designers to create memorable user experiences.”

On how startup education has evolved as entrepreneurship has gone (almost) mainstream: “We see a lot of people who want to get as far as possible on their own without raising money or simply never raise outside capital at all. People realize that it’s often a bad idea to raise a pile of VC money to hire a team of developers and designers to build their first product. They are building that first product themselves, which for many, requires learning the basics of Web development and design. This doesn’t apply as widely in the hardware, biotech, and cleantech fields, but it’s certainly a trend in consumer and B2B software.”

On an important issue in startups and community-building that isn’t getting talked about that much: “There is an attitudinal shift away from early fundraising to bootstrapping and self-sufficiency. Consider the gaming industry as an example. There has been a huge shift from a publisher-dependent studio model requiring tons of capital and time to a community of smaller, independent developers building games for relatively open platforms like mobile and social. In this new model, building a successful game just requires an idea and the skills to design and program it.”

On his biggest lesson learned at General Assembly: “Community is the key. We’ve always made our community the center of the General Assembly experience, but it’s remarkable how this has been reinforced. From finding instructors to building a local brand—all of this is so dependent on the strength of the General Assembly community.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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