Standardized tests can always be a headache. Whether it is a MBA, the GMAT or GRE, the sight of those stardardized tests is usually an eyesore. For entrepreneur like Bhavin Parikh, the CEO and founder of Magoosh, these tests were an opportunity to start his business. Hearpreneur interviewed Bhavin to speak about his business, future plans, and why Berkely is a good place to be an entrepreneur.
Why did you start your business?
I co-founded Magoosh with a few friends and classmates while I was getting my MBA at UC Berkeley-Haas. We had all recently taken the GMAT and were frustrated with prep options; classes and tutors were expensive and inconvenient, and books were not very effective. After talking with classmates, we realized almost everyone had frustrating GMAT prep experiences. We started Magoosh to make test prep more accessible, enjoyable, and effective.
How did you come up with your business name?
Magoosh is a play on an Old Persian word, magush: one who is highly-learned, wise, and generous. Pejman, one of the original founders, pulled from his Persian roots to come up with name. It actually comes from the same root as the English word magic.
What are some future plans for Magoosh?
From the early days til now, we’ve primarily focused on helping students prepare for the GRE and the GMAT. This year, we’re expanding into the SAT and the TOEFL. Studies have shown that children of families with higher income typically perform better on the SAT, and we want to change that. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had the same access to tools that would help them do well on their standardized tests, get great educations, and succeed in their careers? We want to make this possible for everyone, everywhere.
What advice would you give to those that want to start a business?
Test, test, test your idea. When we started Magoosh, we created a mock website using Powerpoint, and we asked people to click through the “website” and share their feedback with us. We were able to find the weak points in our idea quickly and make changes based on the feedback. Even today we test our new ideas as early and cheaply as possible before investing significant time or money.
I see entrepreneurs spending hundreds or thousands to file trademarks and patents before they’ve done anything to validate their idea. Remember the wise words of field marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Or in an entrepreneur’s case, no plan survives contact with the customer. The earlier you can get out in front of potential customers, even with a half-baked product, the better.
What are some future trends in the test preparation industry?
Test prep historically has favored those that can afford the best classes and tutors. Most online and low-cost offerings have been sorely lacking in effectiveness, further widening the gap between the haves and have-nots . But we’re on the cusp of a test prep revolution: the SAT is undergoing significant changes and the College Board has even partnered with Khan Academy to provide free online test prep. Over the next few years, I expect an increasing number of students to realize they can get high quality and highly effective preparation from online offerings, such as Magoosh and Khan Academy, and I imagine we’ll see more and more of the lower quality classes and tutors going out of business as a result.
Why is Berkeley a good place to start a business?
Berkeley is just a short drive from the biggest entrepreneurial hub in the world. We have access to top investors and a strong network of entrepreneurs. But we have an advantage over San Francisco and Silicon Valley: rent is cheaper and talent is more accessible. We’re a 5 minute walk from UC Berkeley, a world-class college, and of our 16-person team, 8 employees are recent UC Berkeley alumni. I highly recommend Berkeley as a place to start a new business.
Bhavin is CEO and co-founder of Magoosh, a company that creates web and mobile apps to help students prepare for standardized tests such as the GRE and GMAT. He loves advising startups on growing their ideas and building great cultures. Years ago, Bhavin played on several Nationals-level ultimate frisbee teams. Now, he eats gelato.