Alex Burke first took the reins of kiwiSaaS education technology business, Education Perfect, in May 2019. He was less than a year in the role when the first COVID-19 lockdown hit in March 2020.
While growth had been strong even before the pandemic, global stay-at-home orders massively accelerated the demand for virtual learning technology. Tech platforms like Education Perfect were thrust into the limelight in 2020, and presented with a significant opportunity to grow and build their profile in the market.
When Alex stepped into the CEO role at Education Perfect, the virtual learning platform was used by 1,600 schools in 17 countries. A year later, this reach had extended to 2,600 schools in 58 countries.
In June 2021, Education Perfect announced they had been acquired by US private equity giant KKR in a deal that valued them at NZD$445 million. The deal was completed in October 2021, following Overseas Investor Approval.
Alex says the acquisition will allow Education Perfect to invest in the team and product, expand further into Australia, New Zealand and push into new markets.
“This is a generational opportunity for Education Perfect to make a global impact in education. We have a world-class product, driven by technology and data. The investment will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and get in front of all the schools and institutions who are still in the process of folding more tech into teaching.”
Alex says that it’s important for kiwiSaaS businesses to build a brand and culture from a New Zealand base that will attract offshore investor interest.
“Any business needs to obsess over your customer first and foremost, the experience is everything, but don’t underestimate the power of building up brand and culture.
“We spent time creating a brand that was clean, simple and had a global appeal. We also created a clear mission, vision and company values, such as End Today Excited by Tomorrow, a value that speaks to building team resilience; and User First, that speaks to our founders’ obsession with the user.
“Bringing this together helps to underpin your growth, hire talent and connect with like-minded potential partners in your industry.”
It was important for Alex that his staff be brought along on the acquisition journey.
“Our people, the EPeeps, are our biggest asset. During 2020 – this period of intense demand – we grew our team from 125 people to 166 across nine countries. We now have over 200 in the team. A major focus for us during this time was not losing sight of who we are – not only our brand, but our values. The team values create a clear set of behaviours, and set expectations for each and every EPeep – helping to unite the team and ensuring we’re all heading in the same direction.”
Across countries, cultures, and timezones, sometimes the most effective things for the Education Perfect team were also the most simple.
“We have also invested time connecting and celebrating our Kiwi heritage – where we had come from, who had played major roles along the way. That kind of reflection is one of the first things to go out the door when a company goes through major growth.
“We work in a crowded market and our identity is unique and is actually a big positive: it provides us a point of difference in the market.”
Alex says business leaders can set the direction of a company early on by focusing on team culture and setting the right foundations.
“Imagine you’re a new starter and you come into this company that is so clear, so focused on why and how they do what they do. It’s an essential part of setting up employees – and the company – for success.”
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