Setting Yourself Up for Success: Jamie Beaton on Building a Multi-Million Dollar EdTech Company in his 20s and Supercharging Students’ Opportunities for Success

It was Jamie’s entrepreneurial spirit that led him to pioneer pathways to top colleges others thought inaccessible, and into the world’s most competitive careers, through co-founding global edtech company and personalised education and mentoring brand, Crimson Education.

We all have moments when we look in the mirror and think back to who we used to be. When I think back to my high school self, my “starter pack” was that I wanted to go to a top college in the US. The big question was “how?”. I worked hard preparing my application, doing this and that, and two years later, felt incredibly fortunate and excited walking onto the campus of Georgetown University.

Some time later, I heard about this company called Crimson Education, that provides students with the personalised support and guidance to get into leading US/UK colleges. What an interesting idea! And started by a couple of Kiwis!

Today, Crimson Education is a multi-million dollar company helping students around the world get accepted into the world’s top universities including the Ivy Leagues, Oxford and Cambridge. In this episode, we chat with Jamie Beaton, the CEO and co-founder of Crimson Education to understand what led him to Harvard, the journey of Crimson Education, and how he thinks.

From this conversation I learned about Jamie’s competitive passion combined with a deliberate and precise approach to build optionality. It’s definitely inspired me to start thinking about my life and goals from this lens.

The write up below is merely a summary of the conversation. To hear Jamie’s story and the key insights we’ve learned from this conversation, you can listen to the episode above.

Why college in the US?

“I think for me, my aspiration was to be in the most ambitious global university possible that would give me every possible career pathway that I wanted to.”

When Jamie left New Zealand, he wasn’t sure exactly what he would do but knew to make sure that his undergraduate degree was this kind of international passport to a set of opportunities. Harvard was a great place that opened doors to a lot of different opportunities, across the world and to a variety of firms.

When did you start optimising your profile for those top US schools and the rigorous application process?

“I would say I started thinking pretty tactically about this process between age 14 to 18, and that led me to make a lot of decisions that I wouldn’t have probably had.”

Jamie rewinds back to when he was very young and tells the story of when he started focusing on his academics and his goal to be the dux of his intermediate school. Even from then, he started to think about how to study for those exams and how to use his time. Later on in high school, he had a conversation that led him to look into global schools and realise he had to build extracurriculars, leadership, other things as well as academics.

Do you think long range preparation is absolutely needed to get into competitive things they really want?

“There is a term which is sort of quite polarising at Harvard called building optionality. And what this means is like you want to build your profile such you have many, many different choices of things you can do.”

e.g. having a high GPA means you could apply to top American business school or be competitive in banking recruiting. You may not know what you want to do yet but you have the flexibility. So someone who has built optionality for many years have more flexibility in what they want to do in their career.

What are some ways to build optionality?

“The first thing is you want to acquire signals, which basically I like credibility enhancing markets that are recognised by a wide variety of people within whatever industry you’re doing.”

Diving into specific examples of what this means in Education and professional career working at top banking or consulting firms which can often have the side benefit beyond really good reputation of opening up many doors.

What happened after you got into Harvard? How did you plan your career from there and what led you to start Crimson?

“As I was going through my high school journey, i met this guy called Julian Robertson, who was the founder of Tiger, one of the world’s biggest hedge fund groups. And I think a couple of those different experiences, seated in my mind that you know what’s on wall street’s pretty cool.”

Jamie began this pursuit, interning at investment funds in New Zealand and joining various investing and finance extracurriculars at Harvard, and working at a top hedge fund in New York

“Now that was happening simultaneously to the launch firms because I launched Crimson shortly after getting into kind of all the regular round schools and that happened around mid 2013.”

How was trying to balance, trying to start a business in an old academic setting and also going for those internship experience in finance as well?

… “It was intense, but I had three different things that I really enjoyed. And that kind of kept me pumping along with my co-founders as well, who were a great source of kind of support and stability as I was pushing myself pretty hard with some questionable night sleep.” …

Jamie describes what it was actually like but also his passion for what he was doing

Is there anything you would have changed looking back at like how you balance things? Would you do it all over again?

Jamie describes how the optimisation decisions you go through in high school as far as allocating your time didn’t seem so complicated. But at Harvard … “The set of opportunities become so big that you really have to become more self-aware as to what you really value.”

How do you make decisions around how to invest your time?

“So how I think about it is, you know, what are the things that drive like optimal performance for you as a person.”

Jamie discusses his approach of optimising in the different buckets of your life like personal life, professional life, what’s going to level you up and relationships, and the way his current allocation have developed after a couple years of iterating.

What made Crimson Education so successful?

“My initial kind of competitive advantage was the sort of academic results that I achieved, and the credibility i’d built with my high school”

However beyond this, Crimson Education was also very obsessed with helping their students do well, taking the same competitive spirits they themselves had to help their students excel. We then dived into how Jamie thought about business strategy and learned the importance of simultaneously balancing a big vision with a super niche entry strategy in order to build a product really dominant in its initial market. Jamie also describes the process of Crimson expanding globally and expanding product offering.

How does it feel to have achieved so much?

Jamie has gone to Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and started a multi-million dollar company … achieving so much in his mid-20s and living so many’s dreams. We asked him what that feels like.

His answer was that “It really feel like we’re at day one”.

Jamie describes how it only feels like they’re scratching the surface of what they’re trying to build. Over last few years, he’s been pursuing experience to build the premise that will help Crimson reach full potential and can now build something quite impactful for students around the world.

What next?

Jamie describes his passion for education and helping students. Even though the future, particularly when it comes to one’s career, is very much unpredictable in nature, he can see himself doing this for a long time.

“We’re in the early days of building this global online high School and I think that’s got the potential to serve millions of students if we get it right. “

Biggest Lesson?

“Leadership and the ability to kind of rally people behind a singular vision is going to be one of the most effective ways to achieve your long term ambitions”

Listen to our episode with Jamie to dive into the story and grow with us.

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