New Zealand- born Jamie Beaton graduated from Harvard University, Magna Cum Laude, in 2016 (two years ahead of schedule) with a double-degree in Applied Mathematics-Economics and Applied Math. He was also one of the youngest in the world to be accepted to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business at age 20.
As Co-Founder and CEO of Crimson Education, Jamie now helms a company dedicated to leveling the playing field in world-leading university admissions. The world’s most successful college admissions company, Crimson, now boasts a global student body of 2,000 students who are mentored and tutored by over 2,400 tutors who themselves have graduated from the world’s best universities, including all Ivy Leagues, Stanford, MIT, Oxford and Cambridge.
Before Jamie’s graduation from Harvard and Stanford, he was invited to speak at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Representing the voice of youth, Jamie spoke in a committee on ICT-Integrated Innovative Education for Global Citizenship to Eliminate Poverty.
Two years prior, Jamie was engaged as Tiger Management’s youngest ever analyst, impressing Julian Robertson with his multiple investment pitches and managing hundreds of millions of dollars from his Harvard dorm room. Before this, in early 2014, Jamie was one of two freshmen accepted as an analyst at Weiss Asset Management. In 2013 he also worked as an analyst at The Icehouse, Australasia’s largest and most successful business growth center/incubator.
In regards to his role as CEO of Crimson, Jamie heads a company that represents the largest personalized education company in the Southern Hemisphere, growing a team from a mere handful of enthusiastic staff to one that employs close to 3,000 employees. In regards to investment, Crimson has raised a total of $US56M in funding since its founding in 2013, its evaluation now sitting at $US260M.
In 2019, Crimson Education won the Westpac Business Awards for Innovation, while in 2017, Jamie and Crimson co-founder Sharndre Kushor were featured on the 2017 Forbes Asia – 30 Under 30 List. Just some of Jamie’s further accolades include New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year, New Zealand Innovator of the Year, NZ Hi-Tech Young Achiever, and Young New Zealander of the Year.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Jamie Beaton says:
“We have met many of our investors through the simple but rewarding process of referrals. Sometimes they are Crimson parents who see the real value in our offerings and the transformative results of our services. In many ways, this is the greatest way to come in contact with potential investors given these interested parties have seen us at work – they have come to know and value our market difference – how we engage with our students and value them each as individuals with their own personal potential.
In these cases, we filter through interested investor opportunities and assess those that can bring value to our long term strategy and help us build upon our mission to provide our students with the education of the 22nd century.”
Read on to know more about Jamie’s successful journey as an entrepreneur and how to secure funding.
Please tell me about your personal background, and what are you working on currently?
Jamie Beaton: I was born an only child in Auckland, New Zealand, and brought up by my mother, Paula. I was always incredibly curious and asked my mother an endless number of questions. I was someone that wanted to always know more than what was in front of me, and from the age of three, I used tutoring to accelerate my learning across a variety of subjects. Initially, I started working hard in Mathematics and English, building strong foundations that would enable me to learn several years ahead of the school system.
In terms of current projects, Crimson has just launched the first global online high school, Crimson Global Academy. We have some great experts joining us in this venture including the former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key who will be acting as an advisory board member, and an accredited and strong teaching board led by John Morris ONZM; Executive Principal of Crimson Global Academy
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Jamie Beaton: When I was 15 and approaching the last two years of high school, I really started to consider pathways beyond my home town of Auckland, New Zealand. After completing high school, I navigated the application process of overseas universities and applied to study at the top 25 ranked universities in the world and was accepted to all of them.
I found the maze of information on how to apply to these universities complicated and overwhelming. Applying to so many universities was more so due to my own uncertainty as to whether I’d be successful in gaining admission to any of them.
Most students don’t consider studying overseas because they’re unaware of pathways available to them. I thought that if information about overseas universities was accessible and explained for students looking to study abroad, coupled with mentoring being available to guide students to discover what the best fit option was for them, more students would apply.
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start?
Jamie Beaton: After I gained admission to the world’s top 25 universities, many local New Zealanders heard of my admissions and were curious as to how this was achieved. I suddenly had a number of really interested students and parents curious as to how this was possible and interested in the process as a whole – how to do well in the standardized exams, build an impressive extracurricular profile, and so forth.
That’s really how it started. It was these early adopters who gave Crimson great word of mouth, and our referral base kept growing. Our students got great results, and this resonated to a stage where we built a base of amazing Crimson ambassadors who wanted to share their stories and encourage other students to make the most of the opportunities available to them.
Culturally we saw a shift in the NZ mindset, and students began to look beyond their local universities for something different. It was incredibly exciting to see.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Jamie Beaton: I founded Crimson Education in 2013 with a vision to equalize the global university admissions playing field. Firstly, I did this on a micro-scale by leveraging my own experience among Kiwis. Back then, I had $40 in my bank account and raised money like one would for a student-driven project.
My mentality is that you need to get fast validation when growing a company like Crimson. Often, people think of a business idea but often fall into the trap of spending too much time sitting in room researching. It’s far more valuable actually to go out and receive immediate feedback. You can read as many books and articles as you want, but at the end of the day, the best feedback you can receive is when you are sitting in a boardroom opposite investors discussing as to why they should be backing your business.
The next step is to drive results. You need to back claims with numbers, and you certainly can’t scale an organization that doesn’t deliver. From those very first days of Crimson’s infancy, we worked tirelessly to create value for the students that enrolled with Crimson. Strong results naturally created a positive feedback loop, which in turn propelled the business further.
As Crimson grew, and even currently, you need to have a relentless focus on improving the service you provide. Growing Crimson was key through acquisitions and taking investment, which aligned to Crimson’s vision. We made a number of strategic acquisitions to fill our knowledge gaps and received funding from investors with wide networks.
I have been very strategic from the beginning in terms of who has joined the team and what investors have come on board. These networks have been incredibly important to Crimson’s growth.
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Jamie Beaton: Crimson has raised a total of $US56M in funding since its founding in 2013. In the latest funding round, we raised $US10m from Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Education Group and $US5m from Korea-based Solborn Investment, plus minor contributions from smaller investors.
How do you decide when to go out for fund-raising? What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this?
Jamie Beaton: Crimson receives a lot of interest from leading venture capital funds regularly, so we typically don’t entertain a lot of investment requests. However, in recent months we have had requests from a number of investors whose values and structures align with our own – investors for example who own and operate vast networks of high performing schools in Asia and who are dedicated to helping young students be the best that they can be. In these cases we are excited about collaborating with companies that complement our goals and structures, believe in the futures of education technology and bring great value to Crimson and it’s the dedication to grow with the mindset of expanding our ability to help more students reach their full potential on the global stage.
In this way, we are able to build upon Crimson’s impact on an increasing number of hard-working and talented young people who want to improve their lives and the lives of others through education. This puts us in a very strong position – not just financially – but in our ability to make an impact via our student’s success. It is also seeing us gain access to some of the world’s leading investors.
How many investors have you met so far, and which among them have invested in your past funding rounds? And how long does it take on average to finalize each funding round?
Jamie Beaton: We have been able to establish one of the world’s most credible shareholding registers in the global education universe, including investors like Tiger Management’s Julian Robertson, Chase Coleman of Tiger Global, the Hong Kong-based CTF (Chow Tai Fook) Education Group and Korean-based Solborn Investment. Generally, investors are very excited about the impact we have on a student’s future – and how we engage technology to break down geographical and economic barriers.
Our student outcomes have driven our viral growth, and as such, we have been able to carefully select investors that align with our goals and values – and this often happens very quickly. For example, in our series A funding round, we closed investments within 48 hours of opening discussions. Of course, as we build, these discussions become slightly more complex given our growing number of shareholders, but essentially our partnerships with our investors remain based upon similar beliefs and goals for the future of education.
How did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Jamie Beaton: We have met many of our investors through the simple but rewarding process of referrals. Sometimes they are Crimson parents who see the real value in our offerings and the transformative results of our services. In many ways, this is the greatest way to come in contact with potential investors given these interested parties have seen us at work – they have come to know and value our market difference – how we engage with our students and value them each as individuals with their own personal potential.
In these cases, we filter through interested investor opportunities and assess those that can bring value to our long term strategy and help us build upon our mission to provide our students with the education of the 22nd century.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently? (Your insight or advice on this would be very helpful for startups)
Jamie Beaton: There have been many challenges, especially when scaling as rapidly as Crimson has (and still is!).
There’s a moment in a company’s growth, as it transitions from a headcount of around 50 to around 200, where you pass this key point when each person in the company can no longer know one another. Going through that transition is a huge test of culture. All companies, including us, stumbled with building culture through that phase. We realized that the whole company didn’t have a connection to my founding team or me in the way early employees did. You’ve got to find new ways to level up your communication and strategic coordination of the business. I think that cultural junction is a key challenge that a lot of companies have to go through.
Another challenge has been attempting to break the mold in terms of people’s mentality around what college counseling involves. Crimson offers something most schools can’t, and it’s difficult to make people see that. To overcome that, we’ve focused on results. The success of our students speaks strongly to the value we provide.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Jamie Beaton: Our goal is to grow and leverage technology so that we might advance in our mission to transform ‘brick and mortar’ education into something more accessible and exciting – so that we might continue to help all of our students, no matter their background, to make their own mark on the international stage.
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