Jamie Beaton, 24, CEO of Crimson Education speaks about pushing the boundaries, starting a company at the age of 18 and scaling up his business worth over £200 million
Beaton, CEO of Crimson Education, the world’s leading university admissions
advisory firm, wanted to remove the barriers to allow all students to reach
their greatest potential
“I’ve always seen it as a challenge. “I want to prove that age isn’t a barrier, which is advice we often communicate to our students looking to embark on ambitious path,” Jamie Beaton tells me. “Luckily, Crimson’s results have made people sit up and notice us, despite the relatively young average age of our staff.” Jamie grew up in Auckland, New Zealand where he raised by his mother, Paula. Jamie had always been a high achiever from a young age, and started tutoring from the age of three which accelerated his learning tremendously, allowing him to be well ahead of his peers in school. When he was 15, Jamie had the dream to go abroad to study and didn’t want his geographical location to put a limit on his ambitions. He applied to the world’s 25 top universities and was accepted into all of them, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Cambridge, Wharton (UPenn), Duke and more. Jamie was ecstatic, but then realised many students like himself were not presented the options to study abroad or had the access to helpful support and advice to navigate through a different education route.
“When I was 15 and approaching the last two years of high school, I really started to consider pathways beyond my hometown of Auckland, New Zealand,” Jamie said. “After completing high school, I 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 complicated and overwhelming. My application 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 at top universities at home or overseas because they're unaware of the pathways available to them. I thought that if information about the top universities was accessible and explained for students and if mentoring was on hand to guide students to discover what the best fit option was for them; more students would apply.”
In 2013, Jamie’s idea from Crimson Education was born. At 18-years-old, Jamie kickstarted the company with his girlfriend, Sharndre Kushor with just $40 in his pocket. He had a mission to equalise the university admissions playing field by gifting students with the necessary knowledge and advice to get into their dream universities and compete on the world stage. Using artificial intelligence, millions of data along with a team of expert tutors and mentors from the world’s leading universities, Crimson Education has helped hundreds of students make it to top universities all over the world, securing 193 Ivy League offers, 57 Oxbridge offers, while also providing over $67million financial aid and scholarships for the underprivileged.
“There was a myth that what I had achieved was impossible and so it was not worth the time pursuing,” Jamie said. “But I proved it was possible with the right information behind you. Once students and their families were made aware of these opportunities to study at top world institutions like Oxbridge and the Ivy Leagues, they were extremely grateful. It wasn’t long until the questions came flooding in from my high school community as waves of young Kiwis aspired to access the massive opportunity that top global universities represented, and that led to the genesis of Crimson.”
Kickstarting his business that the age of 18 was no easy feat. However, Jamie never let his age determine his success and instead used his ambition and drive to propel him forward, looking at obstacles as a chance to learn and grow his business rather than seeing them as a setback.
“Another quality I’ve picked up is to never let your age define you,” Jamie tells me. “You’ll learn more from experienced figures if you approach them not as a fan, but as an equal. Don’t be intimidated and always push to do more than what’s expected of you at your age.”
“The most common obstacle is the lack of trust you receive as someone younger than everyone in the room.” he added. It’s tough to build credibility as a young business leader. At the same time, I’ve always seen it as a challenge. I want to prove that age isn’t a barrier, which is advice we often communicate to our students looking to embark on ambitious paths. Luckily, Crimson’s results have made people sit up and notice us, despite the relatively young average age of our staff. I suppose initially, age may have felt like an obstacle when meeting with schools, given I looked like one of their students. But this just made us work harder to prove our expertise, dedication and high-quality services.”
Jamie had always been a go-getter and never let his age or any other factors stop him from achieving greatness. He never held himself back out of fear or uncertainty, and instead chose to dive into the deep end with his business idea. With a quality team behind him and a full-proof strategy, Jamie focused on spearheading his strategic plan while breaking barriers.
“My mentality is that you need to get fast validation,” Jamie said. “When people think of a business idea, they often spend too much time sitting in a room researching. It’s far more valuable to actually go out and receive immediate feedback. Once Crimson was validated in 2013 by friends, family, and students who had reached out to me for advice, I focused on finding a way to deliver value to customers that wasn’t just through me or through Crimson’s co-founder Sharndre. To do that, I needed a quality team. I looked at my own network of high achieving students from Math Olympiad competitions or debate competitions and utilised this network. I hired 50 to 100 of these students that were duxes (the highest-ranking students at their schools for academic, arts or sporting achievements), head boys or girls, great academics, great athletes – essentially those people I knew that were all really pushing the limits.”
He added: “The next step was to drive results. You can’t scale an organisation that doesn’t deliver. We worked tirelessly to create value for the students that enrolled with Crimson. Strong results created a positive feedback loop that propelled the business further. I have been very strategic from the beginning in terms of who has joined the team and what investors have come on board. The networks have been incredibly important to Crimson’s growth.”
Jamie stressed the importance of getting valuable feedback on your business, revamping and moving forward. In Jamie’s world, there is no time to slow down as business waits for no one. He would welcome helpful advice and continue fine tuning his strategies, using it as fuel to grow even further.
“Again, my advice is around feedback,” Jamie said. “You can spend years building what you deem to be the ‘perfect’ piece of tech, only to find that, upon launch, the rest of the industry has left you behind. Work on a version 1.0, put it out to the market, gain rapid feedback, and iterate. Tech entrepreneurship is about being dynamic, responsive, and open. Not rigid, slow, and closed. Welcome feedback and use it to fuel advances.”
Jamie was no stranger to challenges and scaling up his business. He placed a great emphasis of building a friendly company culture but found this tricky when his staff grew from 50 employees to around 200 workers. Jamie had to come up with new ways to communicate business decisions and make sure everyone was on the same page, such as setting up more meetings and having regular dialogue across departments.
“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,” he said. “Going through that transition is a huge test of culture. All companies, including us, stumbled with building culture through that phase. We realised that the whole company didn’t have a connection to me or my founding team in the way early employees did. You've got to find new ways to level up your communication and strategic coordination of the business. We find it’s really helpful to get everybody on the same page, communicating our strategic business decisions and plans to the wider team through regular meetings. I think that cultural junction is a key challenge that a lot of companies have to go through, and it can be painful.”
Jamie said it is important to be a life-long student and to never stop learning, looking at new ways to plan and analyse strategies because he always believes there is room for improvement. Revealing his top tips for success, Jamie said he always keeps moving ahead, focuses on minimising risk, researches on people before meeting them and never stops asking important questions.
“Never stop learning. Your brain, like every other part of your body, loves exercise,” Jamie said. “In business and in life, you are constantly faced with strategic decisions, and the more carefully and analytically you plan and practice, the better. Keep ahead of the curve by knowing when a job is well done and moving to the new opportunity it has led to. Optimise your time and the lessons you have learned in the process. Minimise risk. This sounds obvious and while some risk is a good thing, know that engaging in risk that has the potential to derail or cripple your business has to be avoided at all costs. Do your research - and know someone before you meet them! Whether it be a job opportunity, or in my case a Rhodes Scholarship interview, going into the interview knowing your interviewer gives you a deeper understanding of the person driving the process. Ask lots of questions. Educators, mentors, bosses, even people in your personal life... you’ll learn very little from the people who matter most to you, unless you ask them questions. The desire to altruistically help one another is a fundamental human characteristic. Use it, and never stop asking.”
He also emphasised the importance of delivering promises and not sticking to rigid timelines, as they are often fictitious.
“Deliver on your promises. It is one thing to have a great education, and another to gain traction in a start-up saturated world. But it’s your reputation for hitting commitments that defines how much trust you receive in return. Also, timelines are fictitious. If someone says something should take two months, we often take two months. If someone says something should take two days, we often take two days. But timelines are often given to impose the perception of structure in an otherwise chaotic environment. Ignore them, bend them, beat them and move to the pace of your very own clock.”