Public Heroes

The Princeton Review's Founder Hated Being a Public Company CEO

Dealing with regulations, transparency requirements, and investors is just not as much fun as running a start-up, says John Katzman.

The Princeton Review's Founder Hated Being a Public Company CEO
John Katzman, educational entrepreneur and Noodle Education CEO, says being a leader at a start-up infinitely surpasses being a leader at a large company.

Noodle is an aggregator of education information, featuring educational videos, search features, and student-to-school matching functions.

"I hated being a public company CEO," Katzman told Business Insider. "The thing about start-ups is you can make it, and if it’s wrong you can remake it, and you can build a team that you want to have, a product that you want to have. You’re utterly focused on your users or your customers and their needs, and trying to figure out how to meet those needs."

"Once you’re public, and as you grow, you’ve got an installed base, regulations, and transparency requirements that really, as CEO, make you spend more and more of your time facing investors and regulators, talking to accountants and anchors ... It's just that it’s not as much fun."

Even among his discontent, Katzman is no stranger to corporate life. After ending his 26-year career as the founder and CEO of The Princeton Review, he began another education start-up, 2U, in 2008. While he says that he stayed at Princeton Review for too long a time, he regrettably left 2U "too early."

"The question was, in a sense, at Princeton Review, how much value was I adding as a public company CEO. I was adding less than other people might've ... I think you want to move on when you’ve given your best work and then feel that you’re not going to add as much value moving forward. I think I could have left a little earlier and done that."

Not only did Katzman learn a lot about timing, but also about maintaining the vision that entrepreneurs so often lose sight of once their venture takes off.

"I think a good entrepreneur has a very clear grasp of what the goal is, an unwavering sense of the goal, an utterly agile approach of getting there."

His advice to the rising business mogul: don’t be wed to the path, find the path, while staying wed to the goal.

As for Noodle, Katzman doesn't think he's leaving anytime soon.

"I think I have plenty here to keep me fully engaged for quite some time. The notion of building the right team right now, getting great people, letting them do great work, and keeping a hand on the tiller, that's exciting."

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

Jul 18, 2013
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