JUN 08, 2019 • 6 min read
It’s certainly true that Jamie Beaton ‘speaks as fast as he thinks’ - because in Jamie’s case that’s at lightning speed.
I’ll start by providing some background on Jamie. The global Edutech company CEO graduated from Harvard magna cum Laude 2 years early (after gaining entry into 25 of the world’s best universities following his graduation from high school in New Zealand). He is the world’s youngest student to be admitted to Stanford MBA, and a Rhodes scholar at Oxford pursuing his PhD in public policy. He is also the founder and CEO of Crimson Education, a global company with valuations at 160 million US dollars. And he’s only 24.
It is no surprise, then, that Wellington College (UK) students had been relentlessly hassling Jamie to come to Wellington. Jamie even commended one student for his persistence - commenting that Jack would make a great salesperson!
To kick things off we learned about Crimson Education. Jamie explained how, when he was young, he saw a fellow Kiwi get into a top US university, and that changed his whole mindset as to a New Zealand education being his only university study option. Jamie contacted the other star-students he knew in New Zealand who had gained acceptances into top international universities asking them to come on board as tutors - and with this small group he formed the first stages of Crimson.
Not long afterwards, Jamie, at only 18, gained investment from Wall Street (understanding it was a great time for entrepreneurs because of the abundance of venture capital).
Within the year, Jamie went around the country recruiting more specialist tutors, national debating champions and Maths Olympiad wizards—all the star students he could find, and then marketed their profiles on Facebook. Towards the start of 2013, Crimson started running events with 8 speakers and 200 students, to gain publicity and build Crimson’s profile.
The first year of any start-up is often the hardest, but Jamie proceeded to talk about how Crimson created value for customers: ‘creating value is the only thing that matters’. Jamie went on to say that positive customer reviews are the best form of marketing. Recommendations from friends with established success stories tend to be more compelling than paid advertisements. ‘Viral marketing’ is a phenomenon where an unlikely success story can gain publicity with momentum due to how fast and easily material can be shared on the internet, giving Crimson free publicity.
Jamie also explained that although the US selection seems unpredictable, there is actually a specific template that is shared by the Ivy League universities that an aspiring student can mould themselves for. Ivy League universities generally focus more on personality, and Russell Group universities tend to focus on grades, but with the correct appreciation of what is actually being looked for, US applications can be as methodological in approach as exams. This is possible because Crimson has huge datasets on the successes and failures of students, and is constantly building and adjusting strategies to get more consistent results.
Jamie expressed the importance of mentors, because they advise you to avoid mistakes that they previously made. Finally, he stressed the importance of passion: ‘you will be more efficient doing what you are passionate about because passion is energising. Energy builds passion, and this virtuous cycle can continue to maximise efficiency of time management.’
Being enrolled in Stanford and Oxford simultaneously is pretty demanding, so for the last few months Jamie takes 9am to 3pm as an MBA student at Stanford, and then, as his team in New Zealand wake up, he works on Crimson from 3pm to 1am. But every few weeks/months he’ll fly back to the UK to keep up with his Oxford degree, cherishing the Wi-Fi on the flight to get more work done. This back and forth gives him 7 hours of sleep, 1 hour 30 mins eating, 10 hours Crimson, and what’s left is study and an hour of detoxing, with a candid admission of a guilty pleasure of a YuGi-Oh game he plays on his phone. The way to get all this done is to focus on individual tasks in discrete chunks of time. He also added that it’s important to care for your physical and mental health a little daily.
So who does Jamie look up to? Number 1 was his mum, who made his education a total priority, who built her own business from scratch. He named Carl Eichan, an activist investor who invested a billion dollars into Blockbuster, but as soon as that tanked he invested 2 billion into Netflix, epitomising someone who is willing to change their mind based on data and see it through. Another model was Sheryl Sandberg, who has played an inspirational role in starting the discussion around women in business, and in doing so has been very impactful.
Jamie’s current goal for Crimson is to have every guidance counsellor in the UK and US guided by Crimson data. And further to establish a Global online high-school, where students are grouped by their ability not their age, interconnected with other students and specialist mentors worldwide online. Finally, Jamie’s goal is to reach 10% of the world’s learners by 2025.
Jamie also condemned the Operation Varsity Blues scandal and felt infuriated by such a level of blatant corruption.
For the full podcast of the interview, click here "Wellington College Jamie Beaton").