How This Strategic Senior Executive Is Driving Exponential Revenue For Multiple Premium Edtech Businesses Executive coach for startups and entrepreneurs Artem Kazakov, a prominent sales and marketing professional with a track record of delivering extraordinary results in marketing strategy development for more than a decade, is now boosting revenue streams of Skillbox, a premier edtech firm
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
In the last ten years, the world has seen a sea-change in the domain of edtech. Today, in 2022, observing the sheer volume of the edtech industry as a whole, we can comfortably conclude that we are witnessing a steep growth of the edtech niche and the peak is yet to come. For example, as per the reports of Statista in India, the volume of edtech is predicted to reach $10.4 billion by 2025. And the scenario is not very different when it comes to the rest of the world.
Though this skyrocketed growth may appear sudden or sporadic, the actual situation is quite the contrary. The growth in the edtech sector has been thoroughly systematic, effort driven and goal directed while fueled by the dynamics of textbook rules of economics and deployment of proper marketing strategy. This is exactly where Artem Kazakov steps into the picture. Kazakov is a proficient, dedicated and empathetic C-suite executive with specialization in revenue generation, executive management, business model innovation, marketing strategy and strategic negotiations. He is presently the chief commercial officer at SkillBox, a Moscow-based e-learning platform. With his expertise in innovative marketing strategy and novel growth hacking techniques Kazakov led Skillbox to become a Unicorn within a short period of time.
Kazakov, while admitting the disruptive changes in the domain of edtech in the last few years, predicts that the industry is still in a good shape to accommodate the new startups and the saturation is likely not to happen very soon. He emphasizes though on the fact that day by day the degree of complexity in edtech is increasing. Having said that, he suggests edtech startups should equip themselves well in four core areas in order to higher the chances of taking the growth ladder. These four areas include bringing a useful concept, building the right team, designing a pragmatic and workable marketing plan and executing the entire strategy in a systematic and effective manner.
Coming up with the right idea
Kazakov elaborates these core areas further. According to him, the major problem with startups nowadays is that most try to emulate and replicate an existing, successful model. This simply doesn't work, he emphasizes. In his words, "The common fundamental trait of all the successful startups is that they had a unique concept which provided a solution to a problem for which people are finding a solution. This aspect of innovation is indispensable and copying others ideas is a flawed business strategy". Kazakov continues, "We can't say what would have happened if you could somehow replicate another successful business model entirely. But it's not possible for you to know all the aspects of that business. So, the task of replication is basically an impossible endeavor. Hence, avoid copying others like a plague."
Assembling the right team
"Getting the right people on-boarded is crucial. Your team members will largely be responsible in making your startup successful." Kazakov comments while talking about team building. He continues, "As the CEO, you should always try to find the right balance between skill, dependability, accountability and loyalty in each of your employee hiring drives."
Designing a workable marketing plan
"The common initial block for edtech startups is failing to invest enough time and effort in designing an effective and pragmatic marketing plan. A limited budget may lead you to reconsider investing in something that. But to be honest such a restraint may yield a very sluggish return." Kazakov says, "But when it comes to marketing, consistency coupled with pragmatic planning will eventually bring profit to your edtech startup, no doubt about it." He concludes.
Execution of the plans
Kazakov points out the aspect involving execution of the devised strategy is equally important as the other three. In fact, in his words all these four aspects are "mutually indispensable" and "inherently interdependent". He continues, "Developing a strategy is of no value without its desired execution. Each edtech startup owner should think about devising strategies and driving execution simultaneously, not in a disjoint manner. Some commonly occurring mistakes that CEOs can avoid include failure in detecting a flaw in execution workflow, making decisions too early or too late, lacking a coherent and actionable deployment process, weakness in maintaining execution excellence, etc."
When it comes to his career, Kazakov, while building an impressive number of high-performance marketing and revenue teams in edtech firms like Mentorama, Careerist, Skillbox, etc., is on a mission to help promising startups strategize their marketing efforts to scale exponentially. As an advisor, he also helped global teams to create marketing actionable plans to drive growth. His expertise includes hiring key C-level executives, building local and global sales and marketing teams, performance marketing, automation and adaptation.
As for the recipe for his being able to consistently help many edtech firms attain high revenue, Kazakov says, "I like to challenge my own expertise and that is what I think is the only way to enhance my skills further. When it comes to my comfort zones and preference to any specific business environment, the more diverse the areas of application are, the more interesting it gets for me as it offers me new problems to solve. My core mantra is to help business owners to see what they aren't able to see right now, and that too without delving deep into the organization's operation level."
Kazakov as the Skillbox executive was selected one of the Best Top Managers by Kommersant recently. He adds further when it comes to the challenges that he has faced in executing his strategies, "It's not that there is a formula which can be reused every time with success, especially when it's about growing a company and boosting the revenue. It happened many times that I had to repeatedly revise the business development strategy, as we faced novel obstacles hindering the growth." He adds "When your business grows 2-4 times every year, everything you knew before needs to be rethought from scratch. In such a case, you need to redefine all your approaches including forecasting, business modeling, organizational management structure, teamwork, marketing etc."
Takeaways for edtech startups
While the edtech domain is comparatively considered a better place to start for the startups in terms of prospects, Kazakov cautions that a wrong strategy formulation and fundamental errors in executing the entire project plan at granular level may lead to an unwelcoming end. To avoid such mistakes, Artem suggests, "There are two main takeaways I would like to mention for aspiring and existing EdTech Startup owners. Firstly, as a budding entrepreneur in EdTech, one must understand that the product does not always have to be complete in its initial phase. Often, the maximum acceptable quality of a product, or even just the presence of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), makes it possible to achieve significant points of growth and a desired initial momentum. At the same time, one should not prioritize the endless loop of development. In the initial phase, it is important for the startups to concentrate on quickly capturing the market. Development is an ongoing process and hence it may continue but launching the product at the right time is what can become a cardinal factor in achieving exponential growth. Secondly, when Startups are on the verge of assembling the team, it's very common to hire a highly skilled employee by paying much more salary than the market rate. This is often done by the business owners due to the expectations about the results in terms of revenue generation. They try to justify such hirings by these expectations of return. But this "expected revenue generation', as it is, expected, an estimation and is definitely not guaranteed. A better HR strategy would be to aim for investing time and resources in shaping, developing skills and performance improvements of the existing employees. This will gradually lead you to have normal employees getting elevated from the level of just another employee to a star performer."