Having started out as a free quiz making website for educators, Los Angeles-based ProProfs quickly has become the leader in providing tools for educators and businesses to create quizes, tests, and training for students, employees, and staff. ProProfs, the brainchild of serial entrepreneur and computer scientist, Sameer Bhatia, is a truly robust online resource currently providing its quiz and training tools to institutions such as Yale and Harvard as well as to companies such as DHL, Dell, and Sony.
We recently spoke to Sameer about how he grew his startup from the free quiz site to a web-based systems of tools for businesses, educators, and students around the globe. Here’s what he shared with us:
Can you tell us the story behind ProProfs?
We have a really interesting founding history. We started off as a free quiz website for our discussion forum users to exchange certification exam questions. However, much to our surprise teachers from different subject areas and knowledge backgrounds started using our tool to make quizzes. Our big break happened when [corporations] came calling, wanting to pay for our quiz tool.
They wanted some additional features like security, privacy & branding. We realized how much value we were creating by catering to the huge requirement around employee training and testing. That’s when we pivoted and created a new freemium version – a free version for public quizzes, with a small fee for private quizzes and then expanded into larger sphere of training and related web based tools such as an online survey software, training software, and LMS software. Since then there has been no looking back. Today, we are like the YouTube of online quizzes and training with over a millions of users visiting our site daily.
What business or startup experience did you have prior to the founding of ProProfs that helped you with ProProfs?
I am a serial internet entrepreneur. My academic background is in technology with Masters in Computer Science from USC (University Of Southern California) along with a number of years of experience in software/technology industry. My past start ups have been in e-learning, online retail and a niche search engine. These experiences have been invaluable and have helped me tremendously in making ProProfs.com, one of the leaders in online training.
Do you have a business philosophy that you follow which allows you to approach and solve problems with ProProfs?
Our brand promise is simplicity. We look at how we can make the product simple enough for anyone to use with no prior training. Our focus is on understanding the requirements of our customers and then building products which help them get the job done in the easiest and fastest way possible. We also conduct thorough usability tests, prior to the launch of a product, to ensure that our products are easy to use.
How has the vision for ProProfs changed since you launched?
We started off a quiz company but have grown into a larger provider of web based tools in the knowledge management space. The principle of simplicity that helped make our initial quiz offering a success is now our brand promise. For every offering we look at how we can develop simple to use tools that offer high quality user experience.
Can you talk about the company culture at ProProfs and how it may reflect the objectives or vision of ProProfs?
We’re a young organization with a lot of emphasis around learning and growth. We encourage everyone in our organization to teach and train each other and also organize external training courses for knowledge growth. We use our own tools for this purpose – right from the hiring process, which is done using our quiz product, to employee training where our training software comes into play.
By using our own products in real case scenarios, we create a sense of ownership amongst the team, which also results in a lot of high quality feedback coming from first hand use.
Any surprises regarding who your customers are at ProProfs?
Initially, our quiz tool was for students, who would come to our site to take free quizzes. When [corporations] started to ask us for a paid service with certain added features, we realized we were really solving a high value use case for enterprises. Since then we have pivoted and today we are the largest library of online quizzes with over 3 million quizzes created and we also have a number of e-learning software for a variety of purposes like creating courses, creating surveys, and more.
Into what group or context do you think ProProfs could expand (that it hasn’t already)?
We are expanding into the area of knowledge management and have developed knowledge base software, which allows users and companies to create an online FAQ & knowledge base to retain, share and maximize their organization’s collective knowledge as well as improve customer support.
What impact has ProProfs had that you are most proud of?
We do over a million page views per day – this is mostly coming from all the free educational content we have on the site including free training and online courses and tests. We get many emails from learners the world over including many rural /developing regions about how we helped them pass a certain exam and move forward in their life.
What’s ahead for ProProfs?
One of the biggest areas of our focus for this year is mobile training and solutions. We will be adding many customer acquisition channels and going into mobile in a big way. Besides that we are also launching new products such an online knowledge-base and many more.
What motivates you?
We’re encouraged by the social impact our business is having and how we are making the world a better place by providing simple-to-use software. We’re excited about applying our learning to many other avenues.
How do you relax / take a break from ProProfs?
Love to read and have a good size library at home – everything from technology [and] business to self improvement. Tennis and music are two other areas.
If you like to travel, where would you go tomorrow if it were that easy?
Tahiti – I’ve had some friends who went there – it’s gorgeous.
Any advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Understand your customers and what a day in their life looks like. Once you can really understand them, what tasks they spend their time on – you get a real understanding of their pain points and how your products and solutions can help improve their life.