Hiring and building a skilled startup team

Cluey Learning is one of Australia’s hottest edtech startups, an online tutoring company with revolutionary ideas for how K-12 students learn. Having launched in April 2018, Cluey has developed a cutting-edge technology platform that combines live online tutoring, custom designed and mapped content, and an adaptive learning platform to help school students smash their learning goals.

Think & Grow played a key role in the early development and launch of Cluey Learning, helping them to build a stellar executive team. Working closely with the founders, Think & Grow’s first step was understanding Cluey’s unique culture and mission, and how that influenced the team it needed. Think & Grow were then able to conduct a global talent search and attract A-players who were passionate about Cluey’s vision for education.

The problem

Having secured funding,as well as having a seasoned founding team with previous exits under their belts, Cluey wanted to launch by April 2018. When we began working with them in September there was still no product to go to market with. – Cluey therefore needed to build the team who could take it to launch and beyond.

“We decided from the outset that if we were going to build this thing, we were going to build it properly. This means it was critically important that we got the right people on board,” explains Michael Allara, co-founder, Cluey Learning.

To make a credible play in the education space, Cluey Learning needed to secure the right talent that could execute immediate needs, as well as longer-term strategic growth goals. Cluey’s founders were already aware of Think & Grow, so asked Partner Anthony Sochan to meet and discuss their needs.

The process

After taking time to understand Cluey’s vision and culture by embedding himself in Cluey’s office, Think & Grow built a strategy which would enable them  to build as many resources in critical areas as possible. The first step was getting executives on board as soon as possible, as well as ensuring alignment across critical team members on key strategic initiatives. Despite time pressures,compromising on quality as not an option.

Usually, it takes 10 to 12 weeks to hire a CTO, from initial briefing to day one on the job,  however, given the proposed launch date,Think & Grow had to be able to do this within six weeks. Following a search we successfully recruited the ideal CTO candidate for the role.

Hiring the CMO was more complex. Getting the individual roles right on a small startup team was also critical.

As Cluey was building a more progressive digital experience, Allara was skeptical about traditional CMO and sales director functions, and so we needed to consider integrating those functions. The aim was to create an integrated, customer first engagement model. The role was subsequently reframed as Chief Customer Officer. This added a further layer of complexity as the talent pool of individuals that were both an excellent marketer and also capable of owning the sales side is scarce in the Australian market. An fully international search to identify this candidate therefore had to be executed.

Outcomes

An initial offer was made for the Chief Customer Officer, however after the candidate declined, we had to go back to the drawing board and start the search from scratch. Think & Grow went on to find an exceptional candidate who had global experience. Think & Grow also helped recruit several product manager roles and a UX and design lead to supplement the broader team.

Client feedback

All in all, Cluey Learning found the process to be a “very useful experience, that was very constructive and positive.” A key success factor in this work was that Cluey put trust into Think & Grow, and allowed the team to get close to their business.

“When you’re trying to build out a coherent team it helps to work with someone who understands the goals you’re trying to achieve. We had Anthony from Think & Grow sitting in our office for a couple of days a week for a couple of months. He helped ensure we got the right skill sets and culture, and offered valuable advice throughout. He fitted in very well with the team, and was very generous with his time and with his knowledge. We’re very happy with the work that Think & Grow did with us, and the approach that they took.”

Cluey Learning currently has over 40 staff, and secured a multimillion dollar investment from Quartet Ventures. It is still hiring certain academic and technology roles, and after a successful go live in April 2018, the business has gone from strength to strength.

Project name

Chief Customer Officer (CMO)
Chief Technology Officer
Lead Product Designer
Product Managers

Client name

Cluey Learning