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MasterClass CEO David Rogier's Top Four Tips for Hyper Growth


In IVP's Hyper-Growth Podcast series, IVP investors talk with CEOs of the fastest growing companies and discuss the ins and outs of company building in the hyper-growth environment.

In our second episode, IVP investor, Roseanne Wincek, sits down with David Rogier, Founder and CEO of MasterClass. David talks at great length about the company, how he thinks about hiring during each stage of growth and scaling quickly - from board members to employees, and what all of this has taught him about being an effective leader for a company during its high growth phase. IVP led MasterClass's $35 million Series C in 2017 and their $85 million Series D in 2018.

It all started with a lesson from grandmother.

Starting with half a million dollars from a trusted VC to help David go think of a great idea, this entrepreneur-at-heart found inspiration from his family roots. His grandmother, who helped raise him, provided one piece of advice that's stuck with him since the third grade.

Education is the only thing that a person can't take away from you.

She was right. So much so, that David used this advice to take the $500K he raised to build an education platform to give the masses access to the expert advice they didn't know they'd longed to learn. Founded in 2013 to give everyone access to genius, MasterClass is a prime example of hyper-growth. Two years ago, when IVP invested, the company employed 30 people and had just released their 13th class. Today, the company has tripled in size, released its 50th class and launched an online subscription streaming service.

Intuition coupled with customer interviews helped David identify what would make people excited to learn online. He found one reoccurring theme: people would pay to learn from the best. If classes are taught by the best in the world, students know that they are getting real, relevant, battle-hardened learnings. To test his thesis, he built a fake website and found that students were clamoring to buy classes from the masters. MasterClass was off to the races.

Since the company's start in 2013, David and the team at MasterClass have built a brand that has attracted the world's best. Serena Williams teaches tennis, Carlos Santana demonstrates the art and soul of guitar, Spike Lee doles out the intricacies of independent filmmaking, Annie Leibovitz shows the art behind photography, and Steph Curry helps even the best ballplayer understand the precision needed to shoot and score.

David tackled attracting the masters but also had to grow his company from infancy to the growth stage in the crowded online learning market.

To do this, David shared a few of the lessons he learned along the way with Roseanne.

Recognize the fundraising process is like an art. Don't ever send a pitch deck before a meeting.

Unless you've got stats like Uber, David says, it's hard to explain your story to an investor who may fail to understand the company's full potential from a series of slides without verbal context. In the early stages of investment, investors look for team caliber and dynamics, market fit and hyper-growth potential - things that are hard to see in a pitch deck in isolation. Wait to send the deck until after the meeting, allowing the ability to highlight the story - and opportunity in person.

Plus, understand that each round is different. A founder story highlighting the genesis of a company may land at the early fundraising rounds but will not secure a growth investment, where illustrating key hires who understand growth and scale become more important to gain capital. Finding the right people to guide each phase of storytelling to investors is crucial - and iterate along the way.

Find board members that support you. Not ones that try to run the business. If you have a bad board member, you're in a world of pain.

A company grows through a robust network of board and investor support. As a leader or CEO, the choice of board members becomes more critical as the company grows. Do lots of homework. Talk to entrepreneurs who have worked with this investor in good outcomes and in bad. Figure out why a person would be additive to the company's culture and growth, as well as a support network and sounding board.

Find an outlet for the inevitable emotional rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship. Have a great therapist.

With any entrepreneurial endeavor comes high and lows. David's trick combines routines like keeping a daily gratitude journal, talking with a trusted friend or advisor, and regularly speaking to his therapist. Why? Issues at work arise from people dynamics and decision making among them. While a therapist may not understand business goals or growth metrics, they do understand how people interact as well as their patterns of behavior. These can then help leaders predict how a team member may act or respond. This guidance and third-party sounding boards can reduce decision fatigue and ease the growing pains of a high-growth business.

Hiring right is better than hiring fast. If you hire too fast, your bar will drop, and you won't hire great people.

When a company hits the high-growth stage, recognize hiring the right people will take first priority. At this stage, roles and responsibilities change - and fast. Figure out how to remove the people or candidates who can't or don't have the ability to scale. Companies start off with a gaggle of original employees who build the business through blood, sweat, and tears. During a growth-stage hiring stint, however, it's vital to differentiate current employees who can grow into the next role, while also finding future A player new hires through an honest dose of reviews from all levels of staff during the hiring process.

As a company grows, the touch point from employee to CEO diminish. Putting trust i
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