Looking at Tom Rose MBA ’11 and Miro Kazakoff MBA ’11, you’d see entrepreneurs, startup gurus, and standardized test prep experts. Their company is Testive, which combines free SAT and ACT software with inexpensive coaching services. Their product has already helped over 130,000 college-bound students so far, and a recent CBS Boston feature spotlighted Testive as a key resource. But five short years ago, these Sloan MBA students were known simply as the producers and hosts of a fun, quirky video series.
Through The MBA Show, Rose and Kazakoff gave advice to MBA students at MIT and other business schools. They expounded on topics that ranged from the serious (How MBAs Can Save Thousands of Dollars on Taxes) to the silly (4 Must Know Tips for Drinking at MBA Recruiting Events). Eventually, they grew their audience to 30,000 subscribers.
“Just doing something and getting good at it opens up more doors than you can possibly image,” Kazakoff says. “I learned how special a place this is. You’re encouraged to not ask permission.”
Rose adds, “The other big thing we took away from that was a super-strong cultural sense of personal reflection: going through the painful process of forcing ourselves to watch every show.”
In fact, they brought this sense of accountability to Testive. “That’s one of the main drivers of student success: every time they fail at any of the challenges we give them, we force them to write out in plain text what they would do differently next time. If you do that enough times, you get better,” says Rose.
Rose and Kazakoff came to Sloan knowing they wanted to become entrepreneurs, but unsure exactly which direction they’d take. MIT helped them expand and stretch their interests. Kazakoff says, “Being forced to think through systems many times in many different ways and the complex interactions that systems have helped us see motivation as the real problem in achieving educational success. MIT helped us develop an awareness of all the factors that impact outcomes and to not constrain yourself to what you think the answer should be.”
Testive provides customized content that is tailored to a student’s learning level, and increases the speed at which students learn. It all comes down to the holy grail, for both MIT and start-up culture: JFDI (Just Effing Do It). Rose says, “The idea is that you shouldn’t plan it forever, at some point you just have to jump in the pool.”
In combining education and technology for students, Rose and Kazakoff join other MIT alumni including Idit Harel PhD ’88, who created the game-making STEM platform Globaloria, and Salman Khan '98, MEng '98, who founded the free academic video service Khan Academy. The key difference for Testive is that it provides a hybrid approach, combining self-direction with a personal touch to improve motivation.
As Testive continues to grow, they hope to expand into new subjects for students and keep online educational help affordable. And they continue to teach their students the same lesson they learned at MIT: JFDI.
Rose says, “You have to sign up for that first test and then jump into the pool.”