Matthew Henshall: Founder & CEO, Lessonspace & Code4Kids
Stepping into a leadership role by necessity, parallel learning through managing multiple businesses, and the risks of aiming for a perfect outcome
About our Guest
This episode’s conversation is with Matthew Henshall, the Founder and CEO of Lessonspace and Code4Kids. Matthew is from Cape Town, South Africa. While he is an Electro-Mechanical Engineer by training, he has flourished as a serial entrepreneur, having launched a series of education-focused tech startups. His first major startup success was founding SkillUp Tutors in 2016, which was then acquired in 2021. He now oversees two global edtech companies: Lessonspace, a “Zoom for Education” solution, and Code4Kids, a way for teachers to teach coding, robotics and IT in the classroom for ages 8-15.
Everyday Leadership in Action
Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Matthew:
Stepping into a leadership role can sometimes occur by necessity: When founding his first startup, Matthew has several other co-founders whom he considered more technically advanced. It was for this reason that he volunteered himself to figure out the business side of things. His co-founders embraced this and he shares a story of a particular case early on where there was a disagreement around a decision that needed to be made. One of his co-founders told him that he needed to be the one to make the final call, and that they would rally behind the decision together. He found this very humbling as it made him realize that he needed to make a smart decision that will be the right one for the team and to set up the business for success.
Managing multiple businesses or teams simultaneously can help provide perspective and parallel learning: Matthew currently manages two businesses concurrently which has accelerated his rate of learning. He says this has allowed him to spot similarities and differences in each business. It gives him an opportunity to think more about why certain business and team strategies might work with one and not the other, and he has even found himself connecting peers across both companies to exchange specific learnings he feels would be relevant to each other. This dual-business set up has also forced him to shift his leadership style from doing everything for his teams to more of an enabling role. He used to tell people his role was to “make sure you know where you’re going, have what you need to get there, and I’ll help you get there” to instead only promising the first two.
Aiming for a perfect outcome comes with risks: Matthew recently heard a sports analogy for business decisions that reminded him of the leadership decisions surrounding the sale of his previous platform, SkillUp Tutors. The analogy is that a tennis player can increase their odds of achieving a winning serve by aiming to serve the ball closer to the out-of-bounds line, but this also increases the odds of losing the point altogether. Matthew reflects upon the the stage at which he was selling the business that he and his team had built over several years. He is proud of how he handled the situation, and knows that things could have ended in a completely different way.
The Everyday Leader is a podcast featuring conversations with leaders from across Africa’s companies, organizations, and governments about their experience managing teams and projects throughout their careers.
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