Top Education Software CEO: Tim Vipond of Corporate Finance Institute

Tim Vipond built his first website in high school, using nothing but HTML and Notepad. Back in 1998, the internet didn’t seem like a viable path to a secure career but Vipond was about to prove himself wrong for the first time. Abandoning what he deemed a hobby, the Canadian native went on to work in investment banking after graduating from Dartmouth.

Both of his grandfathers were entrepreneurs. One a farmer, the other a retail franchise owner, Vipond grew up in awe of their tenacity, work ethic, and ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Despite this, he never counted himself as much of an entrepreneur.

But after a few incidental side gigs, his outlook began to change. Designing and delivering financial modeling courses to MBA students at the University of British Columbia on weekends while getting a consulting practice off the ground in his spare time gave him newfound confidence at a crucial time. Over ten years Vipond was an Investment Banking Analyst at CIBC World Markets, worked in Investment Management at ScotiaMcLeod managing portfolios of high-net-worth clients that totaled $120 million, tackled a role in Strategy and Corporate Development at the Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., and became the Vice President of Corporate Finance at Shoes.com.

As his entrepreneurial spirit began to take shape, Vipond was approached by his co-founder in 2015 to create Corporate Finance Institute (CFI). “By the time CFI launched in 2016, I had over 10 years of professional experience across investment banking and corporate development at both public and private companies,” Vipond told The Software Report. “It felt like a very natural time, and I had the confidence to step into being an entrepreneur.”

If his experience had taught him anything, it was that startups were not for the faint of heart. Fiercely determined to succeed, Vipond became fixated on creating the perfect product.

“In the early days, I was the only full-time employee for almost a year. [While] working out of my apartment, I remember being totally obsessed with working on the website, writing content, and perfecting our SEO,” says Vipond. “Later, as the team grew to 10 and then 20+ employees I shifted to focusing on culture and teamwork and getting everyone inspired to build the business with me.”

This indelible enthusiasm paid off, with CFI boasting incredible growth. In 2019 alone, CFI enrolled over 200,000 students in half a million courses, up by 200% from the previous year. “That’s something we are extremely proud of,” he beams.

With business acumen in his blood, Vipond is not satisfied with CFI resting on its laurels. Recently, the financial analyst certification organization has expanded its portfolio of proprietary certifications to include the Certified Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)™, the Capital Markets & Securities Analyst (CMSA)™, and the Business Intelligence & Data Analyst (BIDA)™ programs. “With paying students coming from over 170 countries, we are honored to be helping so many people around the world become better financial analysts and advance their careers,” says Vipond.

At the very core of CFI’s success, he counts its employees as the crux of their continued progress. “When it comes to culture, I think having a sense of belonging and safety is the key to building a team that’s creative, passionate, and dedicated to the business.” Culture Code, by New York Times best-selling author, Daniel Coyle, happens to be one of Vipond’s favorite books. It also advocates for vulnerability and purpose in building a high performing team, ingredients the company continues to prioritize.

Despite the uncertainty that plagues startups, there’s a fervent commitment to traditional values in an unconventional sector that underlines CFI’s bottom line. “Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty surrounding decisions, I step back and think about our principles as a company,” says Vipond. “Ensuring that anyone in the world can have access to high-quality affordable education, believing that practical skills are more important than theory and that learning should be modular and interactive. This helps guide my decision making and I know that no matter what the outcome of the decision, at least we stuck to our principles.”

Ultimately, Vipond is willing to stray from the norm, as long as they don’t interfere with his or the company’s principles. One way he does this is by working remotely in Costa Rica. “I love warm, tropical getaways. Costa Rica is one of my favorite places. My wife and I got married there and we try to go back whenever we can.”