At age 23, Jamie Beaton and Sharn­dre Kushor have built a global tu­tor­ing em­pire. All that’s miss­ing at Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion is a profit.

Forbes - - CONTENTS - By alex KOn­rad

At age 23, Jamie Beaton and Sharn­dre Kushor have built a global tu­tor­ing em­pire. All that’s miss­ing at Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion is a profit.

In Oc­to­ber 2014, Ju­lian Robert­son had a pre­sump­tu­ous guest on his hands. Jamie Beaton, 19, had con­fi­dently strolled into the hedge fund bil­lion­aire’s home of­fice to talk about soft­ware used by some of the schol­ars spon­sored by Robert­son’s foun­da­tion each year. Beaton, small-framed with auburn bangs mopped across a boy­ish face, looked even younger than his age. And the Har­vard un­der­grad seized his chance to ask why he hadn’t landed one of the 22 full-tu­ition schol­ar­ships him­self. “I thought, My God, what a ques­tion,” Robert­son says. “Then I got to know him, and I hired him on the spot.”

Beaton, who’s now 23 but still looks like a teenager, stands out as one of the fresh faces at Stan­ford Busi­ness School, where he’s nearly half­way through an M.B.A. and a master’s in ed­u­ca­tion. A full-time stu­dent since that meet­ing with Robert­son, he still finds time to be chief ex­ec­u­tive of Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion, a col­lege ad­mis­sions and tu­tor­ing startup he co­founded with his girl­friend, Sharn­dre Kushor, five years ago.

With Kushor serv­ing as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer in their na­tive New Zealand, the two have quickly built quite the global em­pire. Crim­son, they say, con­nects 20,000 stu­dents to a net­work of 2,300 part-time in­struc­tors and ad­vi­sors, over­seen by

204 full-timers. They have raised $37 mil­lion from out­siders while giv­ing up only 55% of their com­pany. The last round of ven­ture fund­ing, in 2016, val­ued Crim­son at $160 mil­lion.

Launched to help stu­dents from Asia and the Pa­cific get into glam­orous U.S. col­leges, the com­pany has ex­panded to serve stu­dents in 40 na­tions, in­clud­ing Brazil and Rus­sia. Rev­enue? Cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence is that it’s in the low eight fig­ures. As for the bot­tom line, the founders’ si­lence sug­gests out­side in­vestors are pa­tiently wait­ing for it to turn black.

You’d be for­given for think­ing the founders are stretched a bit thin. Kushor spent the first three years of Crim­son get­ting a de­gree in health sciences from the Univer­sity of Auck­land. And Beaton, af­ter adding two Stan­ford de­grees to his two from Har­vard, plans to carry on with a Rhodes schol­ar­ship at Ox­ford this fall or next. But some- how the two have made it work—even main­tain­ing a ro­man­tic at­tach­ment across 6,500 miles.

Six months be­fore found­ing Crim­son, Beaton and Kushor toured Europe with a group of Model UN stu­dents from New Zealand. As the two be­gan dat­ing in spring 2013, they hatched the idea for what be­came Crim­son. “I hadn’t had any role mod­els in my life that ex­plored over­seas and global op­por­tu­ni­ties for their stud­ies,” Kushor says.

By the time Beaton met with Robert­son about his schol­ar­ship miss, Crim­son’s num­bers were al­ready good enough to im­press the semire­tired Tiger Man­age­ment founder. Robert­son led a $1 mil­lion seed fund­ing and en­listed Beaton in a two-year side gig as an an­a­lyst. With the cash, Beaton and Kushor hired their first full-time staffer in Aus­tralia and opened an Auck­land of­fice.

To de­velop their stu­dent-con­sul­tant match­ing

sys­tem, they turned to J. Galen Buck­wal­ter, a psy­chol­o­gist who de­signed sim­i­lar tools for eHar­mony. The soft­ware, in which Crim­son has in­vested sev­eral mil­lion dol­lars, uses a range of met­rics to match a stu­dent’s skills and per­son­al­ity to ad­mis­sions ad­vi­sors (mostly vet­er­ans of col­lege and high school ad­mis­sions of­fices) and sub­ject tu­tors (mostly un­der­grads work­ing part-time).

As Crim­son picked up new cus­tomers through word of mouth, Beaton used his sta­tus as a Har­vard stu­dent to re­cruit tu­tors from Ivy League schools. He scored a pow­er­ful sup­porter when Larry Sum­mers, the for­mer Har­vard pres­i­dent and one­time U.S. trea­sury sec­re­tary, agreed to ad­vise Beaton on his the­sis. “I kind of as­sumed he was over-ex­tend­ing him­self,” Sum­mers says. “I was wait­ing for him to drop a ball. But he does 48 hours of things in every 24-hour day.”

Crim­son’s in­ter­na­tional fla­vor in­cludes its fund­ing (Chinese ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Chen Xiao­hong is an in­vestor) and part­ner­ships (such as ones with Dul­wich Col­lege’s branch op­er­a­tions in Shang­hai, Seoul, Sin­ga­pore and Myan­mar, in which Crim­son tu­tors stu­dents start­ing at age 12), and it has opened satel­lites in Cape Town, Mu­nich, Zurich and Sin­ga­pore in re­cent months.

Fees vary by coun­try, but $50 an hour is typ­i­cal for video con­sul­ta­tions, which can start early in high school. By the time a cus­tomer is done with col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions, the bill has mounted to any­where from $5,000 to $10,000. Crim­son’s clien­tele tends to self-select for fi­nan­cially com­fort­able high achiev­ers; still, Beaton says, the av­er­age Crim­son stu­dent who ap­plies for fi­nan­cial aid re­ceives $41,000 a year.

Sey­oon Ra­ga­van, a 19-year-old Crim­son client, had al­ready rep­re­sented Aus­tralia in math Olympiads when his par­ents, both Sri Lankan im­mi­grants with tech­ni­cal jobs, en­cour­aged him to think about Prince­ton. He found Crim­son through an info ses­sion at his Syd­ney high school and signed up with a con­sul­tant to help him with the ap­pli­ca­tion process and his school’s fi­nal ex­ams. He’s now a fresh­man at Prince­ton. In New Zealand, Jes­sica Cox read about Crim­son in an on­line news ar­ti­cle and be­gan do­ing 10 to 25 hours of work a week as­signed by Crim­son tu­tors. Cox will study bi­o­log­i­cal sciences at Ox­ford this fall.

Crim­son has big plans in North Amer­ica, where it has re­cently opened four of­fices. But here Crim­son faces a ma­ture mar­ket full of coun­selors like Top Tier Ad­mis­sions and test prep com­pa­nies like Kaplan and Prince­ton Re­view. Michele Her­nan­dez, who runs Top Tier, is skep­ti­cal that stu­dents can learn much from video con­sul­ta­tions about ad­mis­sions. “You can go to Khan Academy and watch videos for free,” she says.

While Kushor has worked on Crim­son full­time since 2016, the com­pany will turn seven be­fore it has the un­di­vided at­ten­tion of its other boss. Robert­son chuck­les when asked whether he’s ever backed a leader who built a suc­cess­ful busi­ness while re­main­ing a full-time stu­dent: “Jamie is a young guy with a bril­liant mind, and he works hard. I think he can do it all. But I think he’s over­do­ing the ed­u­ca­tion part.”

An ex­u­ber­ant fast talker, Beaton de­clares his case stud­ies at Stan­ford have all been Crim­son­fo­cused—mean­ing, he says with a straight face, he’s re­ally re­ceiv­ing un­paid con­sult­ing help from class­mates, whom he also tar­gets as po­ten­tial hires. “At Crim­son,” Kushor says, “we’re pretty ex­cited about the fact that we are a learn­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.” Maybe it’s okay to learn on the job—at least if you are in the ed­u­ca­tion busi­ness.

Jamie Beaton and Sharn­dre Kushor, who are co­founders and a ro­man­tic cou­ple, make their (ex­tremely) longdis­tance re­la­tion­ship work with Slack mes­sages and a com­mit­ment to spend­ing birth­days and Valen­tine’s Day to­gether.

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