Matthew Brimer, the co-founder and head of business development at General Assembly, is a party animal. (But probably not the kind you're thinking of.)
Much of his time is spent building out his tech education company, which has more than 1,000 monthly graduates across 14 campuses, and about 25,000 alumni. During the rest of his time, though, he's running Daybreaker, a morning rave that currently has 150,000 members across 12 global cities.
One thing should be clear, though: Daybreaker isn't your traditional club experience. It serves coffee, not cocktails, and takes place between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on any designated weekday each month. Attendees dress up in costume, mingle, and swag out to the beats of up-and-coming DJs. The cost to party won't break the bank, either: General admission is $25. For an additional $15, the truly brave can catch a 6 am. yoga class.
"Night life had gotten overrun by drugs, alcohol, and mean bouncers. Everyone is digitally divided on their phones," says Radha Agrawal, Daybreaker's co-founder. "We knew there had to be more than just a night club to go dance, self-express and let your hair down." (Agrawal also founded THINX, an underwear company, and Super Sprowtz, a children's nutrition startup.)
The two make a point of choosing "creative" venues to throw their party, such as Verboten, a concert hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or a boat that pulses along the Hudson river. Daybreaker recently went to Miami, Fl. for Art Basel, and soon, it will launch officially in Toronto, Canada. Other active locations include São Paulo, Brazil, and Paris, France.
To date, the morning party has attracted high-profile attendees, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Goodall, and Sound Cloud CEO Alex Llung. Perhaps more impressive, it has yet to take a penny in venture capital, and has been profitable since its inception two years ago. When asked the best part about running Daybreaker, Agrawal and Brimer spoke in un-rehearsed unison: "Control."
Not having to cede any power to investors is certainly a new experience for Brimer; General Assembly has raised nearly $120 million so far, from high-profile investors including Jeff Bezos and Alexis Ohanian.
A broader scope.
Brimer is adamant that the company straddles different sectors. "It started off as an art project and social experiment, but really became a movement and an opportunity to push forward values of wellness and health, as well as camaraderie and community, self-expression and creativity, openness and love," he said, adding that this is something "the world really needs more of right now," nodding to the proliferation of ISIS, and recent shootings in the U.S.
To that end, in January of 2016, Daybreaker will be rolling out an artist-in-residence program, where one of the company's "community members" receives free housing in New York City for six months.
To launch the program, Brimer has again partnered with Brad Hargreaves, a fellow General Assembly co-founder who went on to create Common, a co-living startup. The company, which is just two months old, works with real estate developers to rent affordable housing in Brooklyn. The rent for a bedroom at Common is typically $1,200 to $1900 per month, including utilities, upkeep, and access to group events.
Hargreaves hopes that the artist in residence program will be mutually beneficial, in that he or she will introduce Common dwellers to the city.
"The lens of an artist is a great way to feature stories and narratives from our community," he says.
Specifically, Daybreaker is looking to sponsor those who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a comfortable life in New York. The metropolis--at once an epicenter for artistic expression--has also become the most-expensive place to live globally, according to recent data from UBS. The average rent price for a studio apartment in Manhattan is $2,990, as of October 2015.
Brimes says the aim is to recreate a comfortable, creative work space, similar to where Beatnik poets like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg initially rose to success.
"Some of the most vibrant flourishing times in New York City for artists, were, say, the East Village in the 1960s, or Williamsburg in the 90s. These areas were all characterized by low-cost housing for artists to thrive and build community. Now as rents continue to grow, it's harder and harder for them," he says.
Elliot LaRue, a singer, actor, and entertainer, was selected as Daybreaker's first artist in residence. He's also an MC for the company, and holds a side job coaching at a gymnastics center. He plans to use the next six months to finish an upcoming album.
"My project has been in the works for a few years, [and this] gives me a chance to have a place where I can not worry about my rent, record there, and show people some samples of my work as well," LaRue says.
The challenges of growing a (second) venture.
Brimer says he's approaching Daybreaker somewhat differently from General Assembly. For one thing, he's keeping this startup "lean," with 30 employees. (General Assembly, for reference, has more than 500 employees.)
That's a manageable size for now, given the operational headaches that the events business can pose. Daybreaker has no physical presence, so all teams work remotely. That means investing a lot of confidence in the local producers, and once or twice, that confidence was misplaced. After an unsuccessful first launch in London, for example, Daybreaker now plans to re-launch there in the first quarter of 2016.
"Culture fit is another pain point that we've realized is a really important part of growing Daybreaker," Agrawal concedes. "The cities that missed were often the ones where it just didn't work on many levels, and perhaps the climate and the time that we launched. London was one of those ones where we didn't find the right producers until just recently."
Another difficulty has been keeping the experience consistent across all locations. Brimer notes that while the New York City party has a more laid back, hipster feel, Los Angeles -- in due form -- typically goes all out with costumes and kitsch.
Still, he says his background has been immensely helpful. "With General Asesmbly, I've been building a company with locations and campuses in different cities all around the world, so I was able to take some great lessons about how to scale, what to centralize what to localize," he says.