Must Read Blog June 26, 2015

Atoms, Elements and A Scaling Framework

The world doesn’t need another list, right? Wrong, or at least that’s what we thought when the Tyton Growth50 was hatched earlier this year.

Based on the early engagement and reaction we’ve had with folks in the field, our instincts were correct. The education sector did need another list, but one focused on those organizations driving and achieving scale as beacons for the numerous entrepreneurs toiling to enable better systems and learning experiences for stakeholders ranging from early childhood through to corporate, professional, and lifelong learning.

What is the Tyton Growth Framework?

At Tyton Partners, company and institutional leaders, investors and entrepreneurs often ask us to sift through market hyperbole and inflated expectations in pursuit of fact-based, pragmatic and actionable recommendations. And that in many ways is the genesis of the inaugural Tyton Growth50, a set of companies that have achieved a degree of market scale that offers insights from which other businesses and entrepreneurs can learn.

We curated our list – working through an initial sample of more than a thousand companies – through the lens of the Tyton Growth Framework which comprises four core attributes: financial sustainability, market awareness, customer engagement and learner/stakeholder impact.


At first glance, each element is intuitive. However, few organizations are able to achieve a sustained level of execution – and excellence – against all four concurrently. And therein lies the rub.

The Tyton Growth Framework attributes are the business equivalent of atoms; their differing combinations enable the creation of distinct elements, i.e., companies. As combinations of various atoms inform the properties of an element – e.g., its mass, density, and conductivity, among others – so too do the Growth Framework attributes describe and highlight the characteristics of a company. Moreover, each attribute is facilitated by a set of smaller atomic particles – inspired leadership, disciplined prioritization, rigorous execution, and the benefit of timing – that are critical enablers of success.

Achieving Stability and Scale

The education sector is littered with companies that have achieved broad-based awareness among customers, but have failed to convert that into sustainable revenues or compelling stakeholder impact. Similarly, companies with a strong evidence base and demonstrable impact on student performance or institutional productivity are not assured of mass acclaim or adoption. The interplay between these attributes reflects the balance required between organizational execution and customer impact to create a stable company element; and that is simply a prerequisite for growth and scale.

Proving the existence of a scientific element in a lab setting is, by definition, a prescribed, academic exercise; demonstrating that such an element exists broadly across diverse environments and conditions reveals actionable and impactful potential applications. Underpinning the Growth Framework attributes is success in scaling sales and distribution models in a live, rather than lab-like, context. Fundamentally, the intersection of financial sustainability, market awareness and customer engagement – i.e., a company’s ability to execute against reaching, converting, and serving customers – form strong (atomic) bonds propelling companies’ success.

Notwithstanding the abundant investments in dynamic products and services across the past decade, the education sector has seen comparatively few distribution innovations that have had a meaningful impact on district, institutional, and enterprise procurement models. Our Growth50 finalists include numerous examples of companies pursuing pathways to market adoption and customer support that reflect alternatives to more traditional direct sales and professional development and implementation services models.


The Growth Framework and its attributes have relevance across all sectors of the education market, albeit with varying considerations and degrees of emphasis based on the systemic and structural issues facing pre-K-12, postsecondary, and corporate and professional learning companies and markets. We will begin to unpack these and other issues in the coming months through further commentary and market examples.

We look forward to sharing some of the insights and lessons learned by entrepreneurs and leaders in this inaugural list, at both the elemental and atomic level.