Jamie Beaton, 21 and Sharndré Kushor, 22, have just closed a $39.5 million capital raising for the global online education business they started on Facebook and Skype. And they’re looking to expand their reach even further.

It all started when a teenaged Beaton, whois academically gifted, realised that there was not enough support out there for kids who wanted to get into the world’s top universities.

While the King’s School, Auckland graduate managed to get into all of the institutions he applied for – Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cambridge – some of his gifted classmates were not so lucky.

Along with Kushor, he set about finding a solution for kids who wanted to get into Ivy League schools.

Thus was born Crimson, an online tutoring and mentoring company that boasts an impressive success rate and has more than 20,000 students on its books.

With a focus on arming students with the knowledge, skills and strategies to nail their applications, Crimson’s success rests largely on its network of high-level, paid mentors.

“We have everything from gold medallists in the Maths Olympiad to people that have won the world debating championship at both high school and university level, all the way through to former deans of business schools,” Beaton said.

“We put a lot of emphasis on attracting that top tier of mentor, sourced from all of the world’s top universities along with companies like Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Google, Amazon, people who have interned at the UN and the White House.”

The services on offer, which are largely delivered online, cost anywhere from $25 an hour for tutoring, up to $15,000 a year for more sophisticated, tailored program.


At the beginning, the pair leveraged their connections and drew on their personal networks to recruit mentors and reach out to students.

“I think I had about $40 in my bank account at the time, so we basically used Facebook as an initial way to reach out to students,” Beaton said.

“I’d just graduated and had a great reputation my high school in New Zealand they were very helpful with connecting us with students for that first class … Going through high school, I participated in a lot of academic competitions so I had a good crowd of high-achieving students and I was able to bring them in to the common goal of a better education for students through this online delivery process.”

With zero capital at their disposal, the co-founders relied on free online resources to get things off the ground before finally raising $1.5 million of angel investor seed funding off the back of their first year cohort’s admission results.

We put a lot of emphasis on attracting that top tier of mentor, sourced from all of the world’s top universities along with companies like Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Google, Amazon, people who have interned at the UN and the White House.

“That really got us moving,” Beaton said.

As well as paid services, the company recently launched Crimson Hub, a free portal with thousands of videos from students, universities, companies and organisations.


I had to ask Beaton: What is the key to getting into one of the world’s top universities?

“Every different country is quite specific,” he said.

In the United States, he said top universities took a “holistic approach” that examined students’ performance over the last four years of high school, meaning it paid to start planning from as young as age 12.

And a strong academic performance was not enough; to get into an Ivy League college it was necessary to rack up an impressive list of extra-curricular achievements.

Rounding off the application process were a personal statement, an essay and supplementary questions, along with reference letters.

“It’s an incremental process that rewards great strategy and dedication to finding interests that really resonate with you,” Beaton said.

The approach aims to provide a grounding for future success beyond tertiary study.
“Getting into uni is only the starting block,” he said. “Kids go through our program with really good communication skills, debating skills, are worldly and basically perform really well in this environment post gaining admission … On average our students perform in the top 30th percentile of the universities they’re getting into.”

With offices in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Thailand, the UK, Singapore, Mumbai and Nanjing, Crimson is expanding into Russia next month while ramping up its online presence.

“There’s a lot of investment going into optimising the online experience, continuing to improve the product,” Beaton said.

Source: The New Zealand Herald


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