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Apr 11, 2016

Idealog’s one-on-one with Jamie Beaton, New Zealand’s own entrepreneurial wunderkind

At just 21, Jamie Beaton is just about to graduate from Harvard. He’s co-founder of Crimson Consulting, a full service education consultancy that’s attracted a $85 million valuation. He’s also an analyst at hedge fund Tiger Management.

Jamie Beaton

He’s also just won first prize at the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA), a series of competitions for student entrepreneurs who own a for-profit business.

Idealog secured 30 minutes of fast-paced, run-on sentences with the business prodigy, and talked about money, entrepreneurship and education, as well as the many, many things he finds fascinating.

 

Idealog: Congrats on the award. 

Jamie Beaton: Thanks. 

 

Given that you’re already enjoying so much success with Crimson Consulting – how do you feel about winning this award? Is it a big deal for you?

Yeah, I guess I feel like this competition, what it targets is students currently at university who are already running companies and there were some really fantastic people in the competition. In the global competition every year there are some really, really heavy hitters. There were some people last year who had raised, I think, $150 million in capital with very, very robust businesses at the final competition. I’m very excited to see how we do over there. 

And also I guess, in New Zealand, I really want more young Kiwis to realise that entrepreneurship at a young age is very much doable, accessible and achievable. So I think yeah, this competition really embodies that, so those are two main reasons I wanted to do it. 

 

Here in New Zealand, we very much think of ourselves as having something of an entrepreneurial spirit. Do you think this self-image is accurate?

That’s a good question. I think it is true. I think Kiwis are entrepreneurial compared to other parts of the world. I wouldn’t say we are the most entrepreneurial, but I would definitely say, for a Western economy, we do pretty well for ourselves. I think in terms of the start-up community, it’s still in its nascence compared to other parts of the world, and then I think in terms of business education and in terms of learning about business and entrepreneurship in school, I think there's not necessarily as much focus as there could be. 

I'll give you an example. One of my good friends who I did this computer science subject with in one of my classes, he started coding when he was about twelve and he was building apps at the age of fifteen, sixteen. Now at Harvard, he’s focused continually on launching new tech products every semester. He’s very, very entrepreneurial and I don’t think there are as many agile coders flying around New Zealand as I think there could be. I think there's room for improvement.

 

Was entrepreneurialism encouraged when you were at school? 

Yeah, absolutely. I had a number of really good teachers who provided a lot of really good emotional and tangible support to every leadership initiative and project and campaign that I did, so I definitely think there's great support.

I think that one of the areas for improvement would be in the instilling in young students the belief they can do it. That’s one of the things we really focus on at Crimson. Nearly all of our students are involved in leadership development programs where we help them actively build up campaigns, clubs, companies, initiatives, things like that, but by really focusing on helping take their interests and really apply them to their community and really build leadership skills, so I think there a really strong base for that at school, and definitely room for improvement as well. 

 

Looking back on those years, what was your first excursion into entrepreneurial thinking? Can you put your finger on a particular moment? 

Yeah sure. I guess I take a broad view of entrepreneurship. I think entrepreneurship is about seeing things that other people are not seeing, or piecing together a puzzle in a way other people aren’t thinking about it.


When I was about eight or nine, I went to this school during the weekend and I was the only European student in a school of 300 Chinese students, also some Japanese and Korean students, but primarily Chinese. I realised early on that a very strong education, really quality information and good mentorship was something that wasn't as well understood as being important being from a European family background.

In terms of tangible projects, when I was at Kings I launched this anti-drug campaign called 'Don’t Stand By, Stand Up' which was a kind of youth-to-youth, peer-support movement in response to some unfortunate events in the area at Kings. I wrote a piece for the New Zealand Herald, I got out and started active units in all the houses of the school to help students support one another and to build a positive community around being pro-active and helping your friends, so that kind of leadership project was kind of entrepreneurial.

I guess the last thing is, when I applied to US and UK universities. I started really making that a goal of mine at about the age of fourteen or fifteen, I really set my sights on schools like Harvard and Yale and Princeton etcetera, and when I did that there were very few students applying from New Zealand, so I think the decision to take a leap and really shoot for the sky in terms of some of these universities was really quite entrepreneurial. 

Read the full interview here..