Jonathan Cornelissen Shows How to Navigate Life of Startup


Taking a startup from inception to late-stage growth is a difficult and sometimes lengthy proposition. However, with the right strategy, it is not only doable but can also be a very rewarding experience. Tech entrepreneur Jonathan Cornelissen has had the experience of navigating such a journey, and his work provides an informative glance at the tactics needed for success. We took a look at his startup, DataCamp, to see how its growth can provide lessons for those seeking to emulate his success.


Seed Idea

The first step in starting a business is coming up with a viable idea. In the case of Cornelissen, his initial idea came while studying for his doctoratein econometrics. While teaching classes, he saw that his students were having a difficult time learning the R statistical programming language. Recalling his own difficulties in this area, he began searchingfor a platform that could teach the language in an engaging manner, as with other coding languages and platforms at the time. Unfortunately, he found that there was no such platform for R and that the area of data science was being underserved when it came to tech education.

The future CEO also knew that the field of data science was set to experience explosive growth in the coming years. The potential for data to help organizations meet their goals was expanding, fueled by technology. But as that expansion took place, he realized that data fluency would become an increasingly coveted asset for companies as they looked for new hires. Seeing that there was no engaging platform to teach data fluency at the time, the entrepreneur realized that creating such a learning environment had the potential to be a viable business idea. That idea turned into DataCamp and was the first step along the company’s start-up journey.


Launching the Startup

Once a viable business idea has been identified, the next step is to launch the company. This can mean different things for different businesses. For example,the considerations involved in creating a bakery are far different from those involved with a tech startup. However,the common element in this phase is the importance of planning. Many business experts believe that this is the most important phase in ensuring the success of a business venture, as mistakes at this stage can reverberate through the company for years. Careful planning and a focus on fundamentals are key.

During this phase of its start-up life, the company founded by Jonathan Cornelissen was focused on creating a prototype, business plan, and pitch deck. Though the entrepreneur felt equipped to work on the latter two elements, creating a prototype seemed a bit out of his wheelhouse, so he and his co-founder brought on team members to help out. This is an exampleof how early decisions can have ramifications throughout a company’s trajectory, as those early team members were an integral part of launching the business on its journey. Poor decisions at that phase had the potential to loom large at a later point.


Establishing Growth

After a company is officially launched, it needs to start growing into the business idea that it will hopefully become down the line. Again, the particulars of this process vary bytype of business, but typically, this phase includes bringing in money from different sources to fuel the business. For some business owners, this means taking out a loan from the bank, but for others, it can mean seeking out investors. Whatever the method, this phase is one in which the company starts to take shape through the input of capital and hard work.

This time for the data education company entailed a long and concerted effort to attract investors and prove that the business was commercially viable. Initial funds came from small investments, government grants, and personal funding. As the organization grew and showed that it had the potential to attract a large customer base, it began receiving bigger and bigger investments from venture capital firms interested in the tech space. This allowed the company to reach a size large enoughto deliver on the promise of its premise and begin providing educational services for large groups of people.


Late-Stage Expansion

Looking to the work done at DataCamp, one can see how the company has expanded on its concept over the years to serve more and more organizations and individuals. By offering new and diverse courses and seeking out engagement from the open-source community, the company has achieved pronounced growth year over year. To date, the company has served over fourmillion learners and helped them achieve their goals of increased data fluency. DataCamphas future plans that will continue to grow its boundaries and bring on new and challenging work, but it is already at a point where it’s showing how viable its initial concept truly was.

Though businesses typically follow a broadly similar path throughout their lives, the details of those paths can vary greatly. Looking to the example set by Cornelissen and his company provides an in-depth look at how one company navigated the trials and tribulations of early start-up life in order to flourish as a fully operational business. For those seeking to create a business of their own, this example can be a valuable learning tool tohelp improve the chances for long-term viability.


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