Magoosh Core Values

By Bhavin Parikh, November 21, 2013

At Magoosh, our culture and values define how we approach our work, interact with students and each other, and much more. Contrary to popular belief, culture isn’t about whether or not you drink Blue Bottle coffee, are good at foosball, or like certain movies. A good set of values is a decision-making framework—values should help team members make decisions between two good options.

In true nerd fashion, we’ve turned our values into inequalities—we are test prep experts after all! The left side representing the Magoosh way, and the right side representing another good way, just not our way. Knowing what you aren’t is as important as knowing what you are.

Done > Perfect

  • We have a bias toward action. We don’t delay for perfect tomorrow what can be done well today.
  • We believe in the Pareto principle. We try to achieve 80% of the impact with 20% of the effort.

Data > Intuition

  • We run experiments to test ideas and gather data. We’re scientists!
  • We collect feedback often since we don’t read minds…well.
  • We confirm (or disprove!) our intuitions with data.

Passion > Balance

  • We love what we do–helping students is too much fun to be considered work.
  • We enjoy thinking about Magoosh and our students whether at work or home.
  • We help our teammates and students in times of need, even if we have to leave a dinner party to do it.

Diversity > Uniformity

  • We encourage ideas from everyone—the best ideas can come from anywhere!
  • We create an environment that supports our diverse interests and work styles.

Challenge > Comfort

  • We tackle tasks that we’ve never done before.
  • We understand the best progress often comes from uncomfortable situations.
  • We challenge ourselves to learn new skills—we are always students.

Communication > Efficiency

  • We set clear expectations and don’t oversell to students, partners, and teammates.
  • We let people know when we’ve completed a task, closing the “communication loop.”
  • We follow up and send reminders–we don’t pass the buck.
  • We value direct, person-to-person feedback and communication.

Friendly > Formal

  • We respond to and talk about colleagues, customers, and partners in a friendly and positive tone.
  • We take responsibility for our mistakes and don’t harp on the mistakes of others.
  • We trust each other and don’t engage in politicking.

Change > Status Quo

  • We will always be a work in progress.
  • We adapt to difficult and unplanned situations with a positive attitude.
  • We constantly re-evaluate our priorities.

Accessible > Exclusive

  • We are available for our customers and teammates.
  • We are open to ideas from everyone, inside and outside of Magoosh.
  • We look for help and look to help.

Wow > Profit

  • We WOW customers and each other with service even at the expense of short-term profit.
  • We go above and beyond in our work and never say, “It’s not my job.”
  • We readily share and give credit.

magoosh-values-signs

By no means is this our last and final list. It’s done but not perfect, and we know there’s room for change. However, these values help us collectively make hundreds of decisions of every day. We not only trust each other to follow them, but we also hold each other accountable when we don’t. I’ve even been able to adopt some of our values in my personal life—I now make faster decisions (though still slower than many on the Magoosh team…still working on that), and I’ve learned to embrace change and unplanned situations.

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Bhavin Parikh, a Haas-Berkeley graduate with a Masters of Business Administration degree, is the co-founder and CEO of Magoosh. Parikh frequently attends Cal Founders meetings. This blog post originally appeared on the Magoosh, Inc. website on November 21, 2013. This post was republished on this blog with the advance written permission of Parikh.

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Student Entrepreneurship Is Humming At Elite Universities

Jason Ma headshot from Forbes dot com website

University of California Berkeley graduate Jason Ma is a contributor to Forbes.com.

On May 14, 2013, Ma spoke at a Cal Founders meeting.

The moderator of Cal Founders, Michael Berolzheimer, asked Ma to talk about the article he wrote that Forbes posted to its site earlier that day.

Ma’s piece, Student Entrepreneurship Is Humming At Elite Universities, offers readers a lively introduction to eight elite US universities. Besides Berkeley, which is prominently featured first, Ma touches on the entrepreneurial activities at Columbia, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, Juilliard School, MIT, Stanford and University of Pennsylvania. Ma also briefly mentions Tsinghua University in China.

Ma spoke with Timothy Lee, a mechanical engineering student at Berkeley. Lee characterized the strong appeal of entrepreneurship like this:

“I’ve got no kids, no mortgage, no family responsibility. I’m not interested in being just a dot in a large workforce, a huge bureaucratic structure. I want to apply what I’ve learned directly from classes to something I’m passionate about.”

Lee is a co-founder at Vires Engineering, which, among other things, is developing a new kind of automotive transmission that improves the delivery of torque to the wheels and is able to store energy in its flywheel, presumably for use moments later such as when a driver accelerates from a stop sign.

Ma wrote about UC Berkeley Startup Accelerator@Skydeck, the University owned and operated startup accelerator located just off campus just at the top of the escalator from the Berkeley Bart station. This central and appealing location helps draw entrepreneurs to start operations in Berkeley, which the city of Berkeley strongly desires.

Ma writes about leadership and also about the admissions process at elite universities. You can quickly read summaries of his work for Forbes by visiting his profile page at that site, here. The photograph of Ma that accompanies this post is from Ma’s Forbes profile.

Cal Founders meetings are held monthly except in December at changing locations around the San Francisco Bay Area. The May 14th meeting was held at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler. Special thanks to startup attorneys Matt Kirmayer and John Liu for providing meeting space at their office, and to Glenn Ballard of Marpé Finance & Accounting for his firm’s financial sponsorship.

About Cal Founders

Cal Founders is a forum for experienced alumni to have confidential and informative discussions about pressing business issues. The group is open to University of California Berkeley graduates pursuing a new venture.

By Kevin L. Warnock

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Farewell Hansoo Lee, We’ll Miss You

About Cal Founders

Cal Founders is a forum for experienced alumni to have confidential and informative discussions about pressing business issues in a risk-free setting. The group is open to University of California Berkeley Alumni who are actively pursuing a new venture, or are a founder/co-founder at an early stage company.

By Bhavin Parikh, co-founder and CEO of Magoosh — March 19, 2013

Hansoo Lee was a visionary, a close friend, and my co-founder at Magoosh. On March 4, 2013, at the age of 35, he lost his 15-month battle with lung cancer. Hansoo changed my life, and I will be forever grateful.

Photograph of Hansoo Lee cofounder of Magoosh dot com Picture 2

Hansoo Lee

The beginning

Hansoo and I were classmates in the full-time MBA program at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He came to Berkeley-Haas fully aware that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. In fact, he wrote the following in his MBA application:

“I believe in the power of a well-operated, sophisticated organization that generates social and economic value. My career goal is to found and lead this type of organization.”

In our first semester at Haas, Hansoo and I joined Pejman, another Haas classmate, and his friend Vikram in creating Magoosh, an online education product initially focused on test preparation. Hansoo quickly emerged as a leader among the group. He was deeply passionate about changing the world through education. He served on the Board of World Savvy, an education non-profit, for several years prior to Haas and continued to do so during and after. Unlike the rest of us, Hansoo had worked at a startup before and knew what it took. He acted with conviction and focused on getting things done instead of trying to make the perfect decision. He had a bias towards action, a value we hold dear at Magoosh today.

Hansoo and I pursued Magoosh full-time during the summer, foregoing traditional paid internships. We worked out of the basement of his apartment for 10+ hours a day. That summer, we released Magoosh in small iterations, from just one page with a question, video explanations, and a text box for email addresses, to over 200 GMAT math questions with full-on video explanations. Early into the first semester of our 2nd year, Hansoo and I were the only remaining full-time members of Magoosh. We were at a crossroads: Should we go back to corporate America or continue to work on Magoosh full-time after graduation?

Hansoo, the visionary

Hansoo was fearless. The decision to pursue Magoosh full-time was a no-brainer for him despite the company having very modest revenue and no funding. His confidence was unparalleled and often led to tension between us. But I later realized that while I could only see what was right in front of us, Hansoo could see through the fog. He had a vision for Magoosh of making high quality educational material accessible to all, and he had confidence in us to see that vision through.

He dragged me, often kicking and screaming, through many of Magoosh’s milestones. In October 2010, Hansoo spent weeks convincing me that we should raise a seed round. I still recall a three hour walk we took around Berkeley’s campus debating the merits of fundraising that ultimately he won out. And the process was easier than I expected, thanks to the previous 12 months that Hansoo spent building relationships with potential investors. I could always come up with thousands of reasons to defer a decision, but he would usually get his way, and we would take action. His way was the right way — make decisions and move forward — it’s why Magoosh is successful today.

Hansoo’s cancer

In late December of 2011, I received a crushing email from Hansoo. “Hey Bhavin. I’ve been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer…” I could barely read on. I was 3,000 miles away visiting my wife’s family in Massachusetts, but my heart was with Hansoo in California. I didn’t understand. He was fit, active, and a non-smoker. He did everything right. How could this happen to him?

He stepped away from Magoosh operations as of January 2012, but he remained fearless about his prognosis and the company’s future. His positive attitude was infectious. I still can’t believe that during this time he provided me with support because he knew running the company as a sole founder would be difficult.

Unfortunately, his condition worsened throughout the year. Despite going through various advanced treatments, he faced complication after complication. Our weekly walks turned into monthly phone calls and then just the occasional email. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through, and I wanted to do more for him. But whenever we spoke, he told me to focus on Magoosh. He was watching from a distance and loved seeing the team’s progress.

On Monday March 4, 2013, Hansoo passed away due to complications from his cancer. He died in the arms of his fiancee and was surrounded by his family. We had spoken for nearly an hour just two weeks prior, and I’m grateful that we were able to chat then. I was able to tell him about his impact on me and on Magoosh.

Hansoo’s impact on Magoosh

Hansoo left a lasting impact on our daily lives at Magoosh. He was the impetus behind our daily standup meetings and the weekly one on ones between managers and employees. He cared so deeply about crafting an amazing culture and brand that he led us through an exercise to define our core values when we had only 4 full-time team members — we still hold those values dear today. He was transparent with our vision and finances because he believed in providing everyone with purpose and autonomy in their work.

I’m reminded of Hansoo everyday when I walk into the Magoosh office. Without him, Magoosh would not be what it is today, and I would not be who I am. We’ve grown into a successful business and have helped thousands of students improve their GRE and GMAT scores thanks to Hansoo. He was our leader, and we’ll miss him.

Magoosh team photo 2011

Magoosh team photo 2011

How you can help

To honor Hansoo’s memory, we have created the Hansoo Lee Fellowship. The Fellowship will provide a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. Students will receive:

  • A summer stipend of $5 – $10K
  • Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship
  • Office space donated by Magoosh

This fellowship is a realization of Hansoo’s vision. He always looked for opportunities to give back, and this is our way of celebrating him. To donate to the Fellowship, click here.

Update as of March 23, 2013

Hansoo’s fiancee, family, friends, and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and donations. Thank you. Please continue to help us spread Hansoo’s story by sharing it with your friends and followers. Also feel free to re-post this article. Lastly, if you have any other ideas on how to help or would like to send a personal note, you can email me directly at bhavin (at) magoosh (dot) com.

Editor’s note: Posted here on March 26, 2013 with permission from Bhavin Parikh. This memorial first appeared here. Hansoo Lee attended many Cal Founders meetings. Magoosh is a play on the Persian word magush — one who is highly learned, wise and generous.

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Cal Founders loses a friend, Hansoo Lee, cofounder of Magoosh.com, to cancer

Cal Founders is a forum for experienced alumni to have confidential and informative discussions about pressing business issues in a risk-free setting. The group is open to University of California Berkeley Alumni who are actively pursuing a new venture, or are a founder/co-founder at an early stage company.

Photograph of Hansoo Lee cofounder of Magoosh dot com

Hansoo Lee

Two days ago, Cal Founders lost a friend and partner.  After a year+ long battle with cancer, Hansoo Lee died March 4, 2013.

I knew Hansoo as a founder first, and a friend second.  We met in early 2009 while he was a student at the Haas School of Business, sharing an affiliation with the Haas Venture Fellows, a group of students eager to seek opportunities either in venture or entrepreneurship.  Magoosh didn’t even exist at that time, and it wasn’t until early 2010, as he and Bhavin Parikh seriously decided to pursue their venture full-time, and that Hansoo started attending Cal Founders events that we started to talk more about his business.  In all, I think he attended about eight events – what a blessing to have him there as we both learned our way.

We met across the Bay – in Emeryville, on campus, in San Francisco and Berkeley – I remember leisurely chatting on a street corner on a sunny day about his future and contemplating how long to give himself to Magoosh before finding a “real job.”  Thankfully for all of us, they continued to pursue the startup dream.  I recall a lively negotiation on their initial term sheet and being impressed with Hansoo’s poise.  I remember lunch at the Lake Chalet and the many paces/footsteps in various locations over countless phone calls. And I remember hearing the news about his diagnosis.

We agreed to terms in January 2011 and I co-lead the round in Hansoo & Bhavin via Magoosh on February 14, 2011.  Hansoo taught me how to evaluate founders for perseverance.  Through the financing and with his patience, I learned how to lead a round (my first), what diligence was important, and what wasn’t. Hansoo, thank you for being present in my life. May you rest in peace. We take solace in the fact that your suffering is over, and we miss you.

By Michael Berolzheimer

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