Adecco to Buy General Assembly for $412.5M to Grow Tech Workforce

The Adecco Group, the global staffing and worker training giant, has inked a $412.5 million agreement to acquire General Assembly, a tech training and career development company that offers courses online and at 20 campuses worldwide.

The deal underscores the growing demand for software coding and other digital skills—and employers’ increased willingness to turn to non-traditional sources to find talent.

General Assembly (GA) launched in early 2011 with an incubator in New York City that was a cross between a co-working space and a startup university. As Xconomy reported at the time, entrepreneurs and young ventures that set up shop in the Manhattan office also had access to daily classes on topics such as HTML, online advertising, and how to pitch their company’s story to the media. GA wasn’t initially backed by venture capitalists, but instead got funding from the likes of Skype, Ideo, Silicon Valley Bank, and the New York City Economic Development Corp. The original idea was to educate and nurture entrepreneurs.

Since then, a startup boom and fast-growing demand for tech talent at virtually every company have helped fuel the rise of for-profit coding schools and other alternative education providers. GA has ridden that wave to capture at least $119 million in venture capital from Advance Publications, IVP, Maveron, Rethink Education, and others. GA has evolved its model along the way, but kept its focus on teaching digital skills. The company offers part-time and full-time courses in subjects like software development, data science, user experience design, and digital marketing, available online or at locations in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It also hosts workshops and events at its physical spaces.

In recent years, GA has put more of an emphasis on serving businesses, particularly large employers like Google, Visa, and General Electric. GA’s offerings include a “talent pipeline as a service,” through which employers pay GA to find job candidates and train them, enabling companies to fill a dozen or even hundreds of roles at a time.

“Demand for digital skills is growing, but supply remains constrained,” Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze said in a prepared statement. “The rise of automation also creates a critical need to re-skill workers, with as many as 375 million employees globally needing to transition to new roles by 2030. By offering General Assembly’s services alongside [Adecco Group’s] existing talent development, career transition, and professional staffing solutions, we will be able to better respond to these client needs, enhancing both access to and the supply of the most in-demand skills.”

GA generated approximately $100 million in revenue last year, Adecco Group said in a press release. It has more than 50,000 alumni of its courses, and its customers include more than 300 of the world’s largest companies.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter. Once it does, GA will operate as a stand-alone division within Switzerland-based Adecco Group, and GA co-founder and CEO Jake Schwartz will continue leading the business, according to the press release. GA is investing in its business, and is expected to be “modestly dilutive” to Adecco Group’s earnings this year, but it should begin adding to the parent company’s earnings next year, Adecco Group said.

“This [acquisition] is a milestone, a reflection of the world waking up to the skills gap we face, and the opportunity to reshape the relationship and connection between education and the world of work,” Schwartz (pictured above) wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Jeff Engel is Deputy Editor, Tech at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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