What inspired you to start Magoosh?
I founded Magoosh with a few classmates and friends when I was in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. While studying for the GMAT, we all had grown frustrated with our prep options. Classes and tutors are expensive, inconvenient, and of variable quality. And books, while more accessible and good for practice, are ineffective at teaching. With Magoosh, we wanted to create a product that combines the effectiveness of the best teachers with the convenience and accessibility of a book. We believe that everyone should have access to fun, convenient, and effective ways to learn.
Magoosh currently provides hundreds of short, animated lesson videos created by expert teachers. We also offer practice questions tailored to students based on their performance on our adaptive platform. The entire product is available online, accessible anytime, anywhere–we even have mobile apps for those who like to study on the go. We currently have products for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, and English..
Ok. Help us out … what’s Magoosh mean?
Magoosh is a play on an Old Persian word, magush, one who is highly-learned, wise, and generous. It actually comes from the same root as the English word “magic.” Neat, huh?
So, how is the company doing?
The past 18 months have been filled with ups and downs. In early 2012, we were concerned about the long-term viability of the business, but we finished the year with tremendous growth and nearly six straight cash-flow positive months. Now in 2013, we’re more confident than ever about the potential impact of Magoosh. We’re a team of nine and hope to add a few new members soon. But even more important than business success is the success of our customers. Students using our GRE product have seen amazing score improvements. You can read the success stories here. The favorite part of my day is seeing survey responses from students who recently completed their exams and achieved their target scores.
How did Berkeley help you with your startup journey?
Magoosh was essentially founded on Berkeley’s campus. We built the product while most of the founding team was attending Haas, so we were frequenting startup and entrepreneurship events held on campus. We placed 2nd in the Intel Global Challenge and won the Venture Lab competition put on by the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology and. The Venture Lab was also an on-campus incubator of sorts. In addition to the cash prize, we received free office space and mentorship. We also received guidance and mentorship from the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas. Haas and UC Berkeley community were instrumental in helping us developing Magoosh.
What major struggles has Magoosh faced?
In December of 2011, my 33 year-old, non-smoking, and health-conscious co-founder, Hansoo Lee, was diagnosed with lung cancer. The diagnosis came as a shock to everyone in his life. And on March 4, 2013, he passed away. Hansoo was a fearless visionary who left an indelible mark on those around him. Magoosh wouldn’t be where it is today without him. I wrote about his story in more detail here.
Why did you decide to stay in Berkeley?
Honestly, it was a bit of inertia. After graduating from Haas in 2010, Hansoo and I both still lived in Berkeley, and we had won a year of free office space, so why leave? Others often told us to relocate to San Francisco or the South Bay to increase our chance at success, but as we spent more time in Berkeley, we realized how much the city had to offer. First off, we had a recruiting advantage being so close to campus–we currently have 5 UC Berkeley alums on the full-time team. Rent for office space is far cheaper in Berkeley than in SF, and we knew our free space wouldn’t last forever. By the way, we just moved from 1900 Addison to 2020 Milvia and love the new space (shout out to Shamszad Group our property managers at both spaces!) And Berkeley was just beginning to hit it’s stride in becoming a startup hub with spaces like SkyDeck and organizations like the Berkeley Startup Cluster. I couldn’t be happier.
What’s your favorite lunch spot?
That’s a tough one. We have a regular rotation in Downtown Berkeley, and I’d be remiss to not mention all of the following:
- Ben & Jerry’s (for birthday ice cream cakes)
- Biryani House
- Bobby G’s
- Brazil Cafe
- Gecko Gecko
- Udupi Palace
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, we’re hiring! I recommend checking out our jobs page to see a list of open positions. We even have a general application for those who think they’d be a good fit but don’t see an opening that matches their skill set.