Catalyst

VP / Director of Finance & Operations

Edu venture aimed at reshaping secondary education for the 21st century seeks FD/OD to round out leadership team

WHY DON'T WE HAVE A LINKEDIN PRESENCE?

We are a lean team that prioritizes focus. We're trying to stay below the radar for the time being. LinkedIn is great, but it can also be very distracting.

WHY ARE WE HERE?

Education is the single greatest equalizer. Widening access to great education has to be one of our collective goals alongside other matters of global significance: sustainability, healthcare for all, financial inclusion, civil rights...

Our aim is to inspire and unleash the talents of the next generation of conscious, connected global leaders through extraordinary, accessible education.

Because with technology, we can. And as a society, we must.

ABOUT CATALYST

Catalyst is an innovative and early stage education technology company committed to widening access to world-leading education. Born from one of the UK’s most distinguished secondary schools in partnership with experienced startup operators, Catalyst offers fresh, accessible and relevant education for ambitious and curious students across the globe.

We believe that the problems we face are more challenging and urgent than ever before. Tomorrow’s leaders must be able to address interconnected issues in ways currently unimagined and, more concerningly, unimaginable.

Already, youth are making their voices heard on the global stage: Malala on the right to education of women and girls; Greta on climate change. Catalyst is where tomorrow’s leaders come to get ready - to level up - to work alongside peers and practitioners with a view to scaling their potential for impact in the days and decades to come.

ABOUT US

Though our founding team brings decades of experience across startups, VC, industry, education, diplomacy, and technology, we are - at heart - passionate educators.

No matter who we are, we respect and embrace others. We value diversity of thought, experience, background and skill.

We are a team that acts with pace and care, and believe that winning teams are built by clever, considerate, and curious people working toward a shared vision.

We strive to create a work environment that is urgent, candid and compassionate so that our team can execute to a magnificent standard as we undertake the small challenge of reimagining how great secondary education is created and consumed at scale.

We have attempted to embody these values through the recent launch of our first student-facing programme: a 2-week cohort based enrichment course for ambitious and curious 14-18-year-olds from across the world that studies the topic of ‘change’.

We were oversubscribed, with interest from 40+ countries. Cohort participants represent many nationalities: UK, Germany, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan, to name a few. You can watch the trailer here.

WE...

We find it hard to work with people that intentionally say things that are different to what they mean. We feel that toxic positivity and artificial harmony erode trust and kill businesses, so we prefer high-stakes conversations. We appreciate that meaningful, productive relationships may need some friction to test boundaries and experience unconditional respect.

We subscribe to a set of beliefs that help guide how we work, play, and problem solve. Do these resonate with you?

  • Great education is the basis for societal progress - human capital is the bottleneck to societal progress. Unleashing the talents of those transitioning from ‘youth to adulthood’ is the most important thing we can do to impact the future.
  • At Catalyst, we are specifically interested in the study of ‘change’. Others call it the study of progress: link.
  • Teach like your hair is on fire - we’re tackling an enormous problem with considerable headwinds (and, fortunately, tailwinds too). Urgency is a must.
  • If given more (time, money, etc), try to do less - make things shorter. Do fewer things well. Focus on the key messages. Communicate with precision. Cut waste.
  • Style, substance, and story go hand-in-hand - quality matters. Design matters. Storytelling matters. Great quality + great design + great storytelling influences stakeholders and improves lives.
  • Everyone can, and should, contribute in a meaningful way - 2 years of experience or 20 years of experience, we expect our team to go the extra mile and strive to have the greatest impact. Achieving the greatest impact necessarily means taking pride in our work, holding ourselves and others accountable, ditching ego, and embracing diversity.
  • Calculated risks are worth taking, and we should take them - calculate. But then act. We expect our team to compress risk wherever possible and to reason from first principles to develop a true view of business circumstances. But we also know that real progress comes from executing with pace and conviction in the face of unknowns.
  • Doing the ‘right thing’ is always the right thing - our reputation as a team that does the right thing means something, and we feel it pays off in the long run. Also, its the right thing.
  • We like to hire for slope, not y-intercept - where possible, we hire for potential, approach and ambition over experience.

ABOUT YOU

We think you will identify with many of these experiences:

  • At least 6 years’ of hands-on strategic, operational and/or financial experience, of which at least 2 years should be at a b2c startup or scaleup business (as defined by headcount of <50, <£25m in funding secured, and/or <£10m in revenue)
  • A strong understanding of accounting, financial and operational principles (though you don’t need to be a qualified accountant)
  • Passion for finance automation with comfort and appetite for new financial and business efficiency software
  • Confident and effective negotiation skills, comfortable owning supplier relationships in all areas of the business
  • Track record of developing, articulating, and defending commercial strategy in a way that achieves buy-in at a board/investor level
  • Quantitatively proud, with experience in financial forecasting, planning, modelling, budgeting and reporting
  • Track record of owning complex end-to-end projects across an organisation and/or in your personal life, with a relentless focus on execution
  • Delighted with rolling up your sleeves; no job is too small
  • ‘0-friction’ interpersonal skills with the ability to build credibility and motivate others
  • Driven by data, in love with Excel
  • Believer in profitable growth over funding-led growth

ABOUT THE ROLE

We appreciate this role is intentionally broad and have broken it down into three core areas to help you decide if it is the right for you:

Commercial Finance:

  • Champion a culture of responsible resource management
  • Drive cost efficiencies in pursuit of achieving transparent and reportable value that can be reflected at the bottom line
  • Own contract negotiations in all areas of the business; achieve optimal value for money
  • Manage supplier relationships
  • Take a forensic approach to continuously improving P&L and unit economics
  • Own the financial forecasting process and partner business functions to manage resources effectively

Strategic Finance:

  • Own the financial narrative and long-term model for the business, ensuring it aligns with our strategic vision
  • Narrate and reflect the financial story for the business in a way which is compelling for diverse stakeholders: team, board, etc
  • Contribute to strategic planning; challenge decision making through rigorous analysis of assumptions
  • Co-develop and report against business-wide KPIs; analyse and report on key financial metrics... unit economics, CAC, cohort dynamics, retention and LTV
  • Own the business-level dashboard; extract insights that result in constant business improvement
  • Actively support all investor and board-facing activities

Operations:

We believe that finance and operations are inherently linked. We are excited about working with someone who feels similarly. In this spirit, you will:

  • Work with the leadership team to define business goals, and set, implement, and communicate our operational strategy
  • Lead our operations function, helping to develop a culture rooted in failing forward, velocity, and execution
  • Define operational KPIs and milestones that track project quality, accountability, and resourcing
  • Own the Gantt, if that happens to be your weapon of choice
  • Automate - automate - automate processes to allow for efficient business operations
  • Actively assess competition and the wider ecosystem, staying abreast of new challengers and incumbents alike
  • Lead daily/weekly team standups and meetings, ensuring we are metric-led and customer-first

We imagine that you will ultimately take responsibility for both finance and operations functions, but with experienced team-leads / ‘Heads of’ reporting into you in ~18-24 months.

COMPENSATION

We are open to engaging diverse candidates with different kinds of experience and at different stages in their career.

Given the early-stage nature of the venture, we imagine this role is commensurate with a base salary of between £75-90k.

We also believe in long-term alignment so that as the company succeeds, you have the opportunity to realize further value. For illustrative purposes, mechanisms like profit sharing or equity help align talent and company long-term outcomes.

HIRING PROCESS

We are a small team and don’t hire a lot. We actually don’t really want to hire that many people. Why? We don’t believe building a huge, profitable company means we need to hire lots of people. The opposite. We think having a small, effective, fast team means we can grow bigger, better.

We also think that small companies are more fun to work at. We get more done, and have fun doing it. But there are tradeoffs... we work hard and we take our work seriously. We also like to be scrappy. That means we might not be the right fit for many people. But for others, it will be a great fit.

Still, we are hiring a few people. But to be honest, running a perfect hiring process isn’t one of our top goals right now. We want to optimize for employee experience which, given we’re a small team, means we might run a less than ideal candidate experience. That’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make right now because it means that when you join, you stay... we hope!

That’s more about our approach than the process.

So... the process:

  1. (Up to 45 mins) We do a discovery call. This is an informal chat with one or two people on our team and you. This is your chance to ask questions. We don’t want to waste your time if you aren’t authentically interested in what we’re doing. We also learn a lot about you from the questions you ask ;)
  2. (Up to 45 mins) If we’re both happy to move forward, we conduct a more traditional interview where we dig into your experience. You don’t need to prepare anything in advance.
  3. (Up to 2 hours) We present you with a mini-challenge - often, much like the challenges that we run during our programmes! You spend up to 45 mins preparing and we use remaining time to debrief and discuss.
  4. (Up to 1 hour) If we’ve made it this far, we really want you to join. We’ll make an offer subject to (1) a final round interview with someone you haven’t met... another team member like an advisor or a board member, etc., (2) references, and (3) the ‘airport test’. (Note - the offer won’t change following this stage so if you choose to continue with the process, we assume that it is because you intend to accept it/would accept it subject to completing the hiring process.)
  5. (Up to 1 hour) We’ll run an ‘airport test’ which is code for, can we hang out together for an hour and not talk about work stuff but still feel like the time was well spent and enjoyable.

Why do we make an offer before the final round interview? Two reasons:

  1. We find that negotiating terms of employment before agreeing to work together isn’t always the best approach. We like to end the candidate experience on a high and start the employee experience on a high. High + high = very high.
  2. We don’t want ‘likeability’ to dictate an offer, which it often does. The final interview is a chemistry check on both sides. The terms of the offer won’t change, but if there are any concerns on either side following the final stages, the offer may be rescinded.

It's worth mentioning that on some occasions, we may deviate from the above process. We want to be responsive to individual candidates and our shared context.

In addition...

💸 You can share in the upside

🌎 You can work from anywhere; though the UK/London is HQ

💻 Get access to the tools you need to do your best work

📚 We believe in lifelong learning; we practice lifelong learning through continuous personal and professional development - including access to coaching and courses

☑️ Quarterly ‘workations’ where we get together as a full team

🏖️ Unlimited holiday; we trust you to balance work and play

Questions