Though my memory might fail me, the first person I remember meeting at the MIT Sloan School of Management was fellow first-year MBA student Tom Rose. Though we’re both the kind of students that enjoy classroom learning, it was the exciting and creative environment outside of class that really motivated us to try to build something from scratch. That’s why we launched “The MBA Show,” a weekly live web show about MBA news. We never asked permission, the two of us just started shooting it every week in front of a red curtain taped onto the cafeteria wall. At Sloan, you were able to just kind of do those things without asking permission. You had the space and the freedom to be able to develop ideas and operate like that without having to ask anyone first..
Because Tom and I were interested in education and entrepreneurship, as the end of school approached we went on a campaign to talk to anyone we could find about possible business concepts. The owner of one mid-sized test prep firm told us how hard it was to get students started in test prep; how students needed to know where they stood in order to get better. But that required taking a full length, five-hour, paper and pencil exam. Tom, whose work had been in algorithmic testing, knew he could build a test that would accurately predict students’ scores much faster than that. Tom and I soon co-founded Testive, which combines software and human coaches to help students improve their scores on life changing exams, like the SAT. Based in Cambridge, we are now graduates of TechStars, a technology accelerator program and have received $500,000 in seed funding from a group of Boston angels.
So far, over 30,000 students have used one of Testive’s products, which deliver a personalized one-on-one educational experience for less than half the cost of traditional private tutoring. We call on our Sloan education every day, whether it be to think about the tradeoffs, raise money, help us get into TechStars and generally seek out people who can be mentors as we perfect the product before we push to scale.
We’re pleased that we are doing well. But there is something about the MIT Sloan ecosystem that says it’s ok to take chances and it’s OK to fail.
Miro Kazakoff, MBA ’11, is a lecturer at MIT Sloan, and the CEO of Testive, which blends technology and human teachers to deliver personalized education at a fraction of the cost of traditional tutoring and private education.