Inspired, mission-driven, and leveling the playing field with better test prep tools.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Bhavin Parikh sets the vision and strategy for Magoosh, along with whatever else needs to be done. With a BS/BA in Economics and Computer Science from Duke University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, he’s on a mission to change the way people learn and how they think about learning. Years ago, he played on several Nationals-level ultimate frisbee teams. Today, he’s the company’s resident gelato connoisseur. Heading up a bunch of education nerds who get super stoked about helping students achieve their academic dreams, the company wasn’t always doing so hot, falling on tough times during their early years when Founding CEO Hanoo Lee was forced to step away from the promising startup and then at 35, passed away from non-smokers lung cancer in March of 2013. Bhavin nonetheless conjured strength, pushed forward, and now has more than two dozen employees, and a thriving edtech company.
Many of the discussions and debates inside Magoosh happen because we care so much about how to help our students, whether one individual student or our students in aggregate.
Magoosh, a play on magush, ancient Persian for highly learned, wise, and generous, is an inspired and mission-driven group. Bhavin, having been tested, is certainly wiser for it, knows tests – including life tests – aren’t always easy, and that one must push through and always move forward in order to succeed.
What’s changed about Magoosh since our interview in 2013? What’s remained the same?
Bhavin: At its core, Magoosh is the same company. We’re on a mission to level the test-prep playing field and to help as many students as possible. However, quite a bit has changed. For instance:
- Our team has doubled in size from 13 to 27
- In addition to our products for the GRE, GMAT, SAT, and TOEFL, we now have products for the ACT, LSAT, MCAT, and Praxis
- We released a Vocabulary Builder app that has been downloaded over 2 million times.
Since we last spoke, a few more online test-prep companies have arrived on the scene. What sets Magoosh apart from the other options?
Bhavin: Magoosh is different because of our focus on quality service and content. Our in-house team vets all our content and we have a system that uses both quantitative and qualitative data to regularly improve our content and, ultimately, our students’ outcomes. If our students do well, then we do well.
What kind of feedback do you hear from your students about Magoosh? What do you do with that feedback?
Bhavin: We receive a wide range of feedback from requests for new study features to stories on how our product changed a student’s life. We loosely categorize the feature requests so we can look back upon them when we decide to work on that feature, and we share many of the student stories with the entire team so all the Magooshers can see what type of impact their work has.
Here’s a quote from one of my favorite, more recent stories from a student:
“Finding Magoosh was like stumbling upon a pot of gold. I think studying with Magoosh has not only helped me in achieving a better score on the GRE but also made an influential change in my life (and I am not exaggerating).”
The student went on to explain how studying with Magoosh helped her fall in love with reading even though she always considered herself a “math person”. In fact, she ended up scoring higher on the Verbal section of the GRE than the Quant (or math) section, and still continues to explore her newfound passion for reading. It’s stories like these—stories about Magoosh having an impact beyond just scoring high on standardized tests—that really keep myself and our team moving forward.
What’s are some of the most important lessons, key lessons you’ve learned in building a business and moving your mission forward since we talked three years ago?
Bhavin: I’ve learned the importance of planning farther ahead, both in strategy and in team building. In our earlier days, we’d look at most one year ahead, now we look three years ahead. Taking a longer view let’s us focus on opportunities, such as new exams and new markets, that we might not have otherwise pursued since we usually don’t see big gains on new projects in their first year. We’ve also been able to plan further ahead with our team’s needs. During our peak season, we used to have all hands on deck to answer students’ questions, and it felt like we were constantly behind. Now we have a dedicated team to answer students’ questions and make sure students receive thorough and thoughtful responses in a timely manner.
How do you hope to see Magoosh grow and change in the coming years?
Bhavin: We’re currently well known in the GRE and GMAT markets. I’d love for Magoosh to become a household name for anyone studying for a standardized test of any kind. More broadly, I’d love for our brand to create a positive feeling for all those who’ve interacted with us in any way.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about Magoosh that they probably don’t know?
Bhavin: I wish people could see how much we truly care about our students. Many of the discussions and debates inside Magoosh happen because we care so much about how to help our students, whether one individual student or our students in aggregate. I’m hopeful, though, that those who interact with us now and in the future will be able to see how much we care.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]