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My first boss: Ahad Khan, CEO of Kajabi

The people who helped shape business leaders

Ahad Khan says Kajabi helps serious business owners get unstuck and just keep going. Photo: Kajabi
Ahad Khan says Kajabi helps serious business owners get unstuck and just keep going. Photo: Kajabi

Ahad Khan is CEO of Kajabi, the leading platform helping creators turn their knowledge into sustainable online businesses. Valued at more than $2bn and having empowered tens of thousands of creators to earn over $5bn in sales from more than 70 million customers worldwide. Khan oversees 350 staff.

I had grown up in Ohio’s Midwest before moving to Silicon Valley and Ben Spero was the first person I interacted with on a daily basis in the tech world.

At Spectrum Equity, a private equity firm, we invested in tech-enabled services businesses. I joined in 2008 and part of the job was meeting entrepreneurs and getting smart about what was happening in different sectors. It was a fantastic experience and Ben influences the way I feel today about leadership, relationships with colleagues and myself.

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Ben, who joined the firm in 2001 and is managing director today, is candid, direct and honest and this all felt very ‘just’. When you were speaking with him it felt like you were getting great feedback.

My job as a junior person was to react with that. When you have trust in the person giving you feedback you trust they are coming from a place of honesty. If you react well you can see it improving. It was an understanding when building a team, having credibility and looking at you as an honest broker and a just person.

The firm was also casual in nature but intellectually honest. When there is the opportunity to improve, you have a culture that rewards that but also enables that conversation to happen without it getting too defensive and turning into a negative spiral. That’s a sign of a good manager.

You don’t get that culture unless somebody listens as well. Ben wasn’t always right but if you could provide that context he would adjust some of it. There is a level of apprenticeship as well: how do you put people in situations that are beyond what their expectations are and give them opportunity over time?

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I saw Ben recently; from being a twenty-something at Spectrum to now a forty-something at Kajabi and your boss says they are proud of you, well, it was a cool moment.

Kajabi is built for creators and entrepreneurs no matter where they live. We are based in southern California but our customer base is 60% US, 40% international already.

UKRAINE - 2021/05/05: In this Photo illustration a Kajabi logo of a software company is seen on a smartphone and a pc screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Kajabi helps creators turn their knowledge into sustainable online businesses. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (SOPA Images via Getty Images)

It is a software platform that’s developed to reduce the administrative burden for people to develop successful online businesses. It’s simple as it's a one-stop shop. We power the knowledge products, CRM, payments and I look at it with the people I grew up with in the Midwest. They are looking to put value out into the world and monetise as a creator.

We have been in that business since 2010 but we look at our customer base as the middle America, middle class of the world. The average creator on the platform makes $37,000 – that is leaps and bounds ahead of any other creator content platform in the world.

We’ve created more than $5bn in creator revenue since inception. One woman has made nine figures on the platform by creating courses on how to pass a trucking exam. Other topics vary from accounting basics and life coaching to how to play drums. The content is all knowledge, experience and expertise and there is real value in that.

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You see the creator economy as an ecosystem in general – Goldman Sachs published a report earlier this year where the creator economy could approach half a trillion dollar industry over the next five years – and our belief is that people will be smarter and not only be creators but entrepreneurs as well.

We deliberately sit behind the creator as we are creator-centric. That does cause a problem for us as our brand isn’t well known but we tell our ‘hero’ stories again and again and we evangelise this concept of direct-to-creator economy and that is where the future is.

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