The former COO had been with the company for over eight years.
“It’s a strange place to be,” says Miranda Lievers over a video call. “It’s been since I was 16 that I haven’t had a job or one or more businesses on the go. It’s been a really long time since I just had blank space, which is neat.”
After officially stepping down last month to an advisor role, the co-founder and former COO of Vancouver edtech platform Thinkific has had no shortage of emails and LinkedIn messages asking her on coffee dates and calls. But, at least for now, she’s in no hurry to write a name in that space.
Lievers joined when Thinkific was a team of the four co-founders and describes herself as “very much a 0-to-1 person—which is diving into something that doesn’t exist and asking whether we can make it into a thing.”
When Lievers left last month, Thinkific had just under 300 employees. That was after a January cull of over 70 staff. “While I’m super humbled and proud of everything we’ve done and continue to do, [Thinkific] was no longer at that stage of growth that I’m really suited for and excited by,” says Lievers.
The company went through a multi-month transition process in which board member Steve Krenzer was appointed president of the company. Lievers moved much of her team over to Krenzer and was, in her words, “able to make the graceful departure I wanted.”
So, what’s next for Lievers? Well, she either doesn’t know yet or she’s not telling. But a look at her past might uncover some evidence about where she’s headed.
Born and raised in Westlock, a small town about an hour north of Edmonton in Alberta, Lievers likes to say she’s the daughter and granddaughter of entrepreneurs, who were farmers and beekeepers. But her father did a computer science degree in the late 80s, and Lievers taught herself to code with one of his textbooks.
She ended up studying commerce at the University of Alberta and splitting her work experience between small business and tech. Eventually, she got a job at Telus doing dial-up tech support. “It was like being in a funded startup—we rolled out high-speed internet, turned out that was a thing,” she recalls with a laugh. During her seven years at the telecom, her department grew from some 40 people to around 1,600. “That was my first experience of rapid scale,” she says. “How do you very quickly grow, train and hire people en masse and build tools and systems to be able to support those people?”
Then it was time for something completely different. Her husband wanted to start up a photography studio, so Lievers gamely obliged. “I said, Sure, I’ll start anything.”
The two built and ran Blue Olive Photography for another seven years. “I love building my own things, but I love even more talking to other people about building theirs,” Lievers says. “Folks used to say to me, You should be a consultant and teach and work with other entrepreneurs. But the reality about small businesses is that they either don’t know that they need consultants, or they can’t afford them.”
Lievers says she’s not starting another business for at least six months, even as she estimates she’s drafted five different napkin business plans. “I need to remember that I don’t have to jump into something right away,” she says.
“I’m having great conversations with entrepreneurs, and am fascinated by this middle of what it looks like to scale. I think there’s tons of resources about how to start a business and how to operate at scale. There’s not a whole lot that helps navigate all the mess in the middle. I love having conversations with business owners navigating that space, doing speaking, one-off consulting, that kind of thing. But I’m not entirely sure what I’ll invest the next decade of my life into.