Magoosh Is Making Sure You Get Prepped For Your Dreaded Standardized Tests
Man, I wish I knew about Magoosh last year when I was studying for the GRE. Writing and verbal, nailed it. But my method of trying to re-teach myself math from 7th grade was a failure. Magoosh, the online personal tutor for your favorite standardized tests like GRE, GMAT and SAT, is making sure you don’t have to go through the self-taught bomb I went through. We caught up with founder, Bhavin Parikh, to find out what inspired Magoosh, who he admires and what his wife does NOT approve of.
Tell us a little more about what inspired Magoosh.
Back in 2007, my parents encouraged me to apply to business school. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I figured, “What the heck?” I soon learned that the GMAT was a mandatory part of the application process. As I researched ways to prep, I grew frustrated – classes could run several thousand dollars, and I didn’t even know how good they’d be. I was also working as a consultant at the time, traveling four days a week. I needed something that I could use at 11 p.m. after a long day’s work.
I opted for a book. That was a mistake. The questions in the book were far easier than those on the actual exam, and the explanations were lacking. Luckily, I’m good at taking standardized tests (not the most important life skill!), so I did well enough to get into Berkeley’s MBA program, Haas. At Haas, I found that many others had similarly frustrating GMAT prep experiences. A few classmates and I rallied around the idea that high-quality test prep (and education, in general) should be more accessible.
We wanted to provide test takers with an experience similar to having a personal tutor, but without breaking the bank. Enter Magoosh!
What’s a typical day at Magoosh look like?
We’ve gone from a few guys huddled around one desk in free office space on Berkeley’s campus to seven people located in an office in downtown Berkeley, each with their own desk! We understand that everyone has different working styles, so we provide quite a bit of flexibility.
Employees start coming in as early as 8 a.m. and continue wandering in until 11:30 a.m., when we have our daily stand-up meeting. The meeting lasts 5 to 10 minutes, with everyone sharing their accomplishments from the last 24 hours, their goals for the next 24 hours, and any obstacles they’ve run into.
Around noon, we head out to lunch, typically playing word games while we eat – we’re a very nerdy bunch. Other than that, everyone works on their projects, often taking work home with them. Much of our work involves creating content for our blog or product, improving existing site features based on customer feedback, and responding to customers who need test prep help.
We guarantee a 24-hour turnaround for any questions from our paying customers, so these responses take a lot of time. Lastly, we play a lot of foosball. We’ve played and tracked over 1,000 games in the past 9 months. We even have power rankings!
How do you motivate yourself?
I love seeing the results of our team’s hard work. We regularly get emails from customers who recently took their tests and want to share their results with us. These emails are highly motivating for me and for the team.
Here’s a comment that came in last week from a customer who achieved a near-perfect score on the verbal section of the GRE:
“Magoosh was a HUGE help to my study process. I couldn’t imagine scoring so high on the verbal without the insightful advice and videos for every single section. Just working through those videos truly made me see what the GRE wanted out of those responses. I can’t even compare Magoosh to a textbook because no book gave me insight like Magoosh did.”
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Making progress is all about getting customer feedback as fast as possible. As we built Magoosh, we often found that our intuition was wrong. We’d spend weeks “perfecting” a feature, only to launch it and find that it was the wrong feature altogether. We now release features much faster to a small group of customers, and then, based on their feedback, decide whether to improve it or scrap it. We scrap about 50% of what we build. Don’t be afraid to throw things away!
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
It’s a mess of papers…literally a mess. My wife does not approve! I also have a massive bar of chocolate, a cup of coffee, a water bottle, and an external monitor. Oh, and I have this guy standing atop a box of receipts….
What entrepreneur do you admire?
I admire Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz. I’ve not only learned a lot about marketing and SEO from him and his company, but I’ve also learned about the importance of building a company culture around specific brand attributes. He has TAGFEE, and we have SFQAR. (We’ll have to work on that acronym!)
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend?
I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now. I love it, and I love helping students around the world. I’d also love to take some cooking classes.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
Luckily, I didn’t have to leave a full-time job to pursue Magoosh – believe it or not, I’m fairly risk-averse.
When we started Magoosh, I was in business school, which basically served as a 2-year incubator for the company. We had access to resources, great sources of feedback (our fellow classmates), and some of the world’s best professors. We were in an extremely supportive environment, and by the time we graduated, we already had a product and paying customers. At that point, it felt like a no-brainer to continue with the company. I’m not sure I would have been able to make the leap without the experience at Haas. I owe them.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
I have three pieces of advice:
1. Find advisors – Many people have done it before and can help you reach your goals faster. There’s no reason to go it alone. Seek out help, and once you’ve had a modicum of success, look for opportunities to give back.
2. Commit – I know quite a few entrepreneurs who have been afraid to fully commit, and only focus on their startups part-time while continuing to work somewhere else. That safety net can prevent them from really pushing themselves. Remember how Bruce Wayne needed to get rid of the safety rope to make the climb out of the pit in “The Dark Knight Rises?”
3. Enjoy the ride – I can honestly say that I have no regrets about my decision to pursue Magoosh full-time, regardless of the final outcome. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s easy to get intimidated by the road ahead, but take some time to look back at what you’ve accomplished as well.
Web app or site you couldn’t live without, and why?
Asana, a project management web app, has become indispensable to our company. Everyone uses it to keep track of to-dos and collaborate. Now that everyone uses the same tool, tasks rarely fall through the cracks, and we don’t need to check in with each other as much. I highly recommend it.
Where can our readers reach out to you?
They can hit me up on Twitter.
Thanks, Bhavin! I’m not alone when I say standardized tests are the worst! Thanks for making Magoosh – an online test prep platform to help us adverse students succeed.