Hi I'm Ujjwal co-founder of BenchPrep! Can't wait for this AMA at 12:00PM EST.

Since 2010, My co-founder Ashish, and my team of around 20 in Chicago have built an online test preparation and learning platform that is the first and only platform to sync across your computer, phone, and tablet. All in all, we have raised over $8 million in funding. We’re backed by NEA (the biggest venture fund in the US), Lightbank (the fund started by Groupon co-founders), and Revolution (headed by Steve Case and Ted Leonsis, former executives at AOL). We are partners with the top education publishers like McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, and Princeton Review. We have over 600,000 users, and our product has been listed in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

We’re also both immigrants. We originally came to the US to pursue advanced degrees in Chemistry, Mathematics, and Business. After gaining our degrees, we realized that technology can fundamentally transform the way learning is done. We teamed up to make our first iPhone app for studying for the GMAT, and following some early success, we’ve been growing ever since.

Edit: Thanks for the questions. That's it for now. Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/ujjwalg and visit us at https://benchprep.com

My Proof: https://twitter.com/benchprep/status/456819915500957696

Comments: 38 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

Stoooooooo5 karma

What was the process like to get all that funding? What would you have done different to make it more successful?

UjjwalGupta2 karma

We have raised 2 rounds, and our first round from Lightbank was relatively easy. We were cash flow positive at that point. The second round from NEA and Revolution ventures took us about 6 months to raise. It was not easy by any means and a lot of my time and my co-founder's time went into raising money during those 6 months. We simplified our pitch during the process and that helped us close the round. Keeping it simple is very, very important.

W_Lunsford4 karma

How do you feel that technology has influenced education so far?

UjjwalGupta5 karma

I am a huge fan of what Sal Khan is doing at Khan Academy and what companies like Coursera and Udacity are trying to do. They have already made it possible for people in developing countries to gain access to the top professors from the top universities. At a more mundane level education technology is helping administrators and teachers manage and teach more effectively. Given the proliferation of smartphones, I can see a huge disruptive potential for personalized learning software to better the educational experience for millions of students around the world.

iCARtic3 karma

Your thoughts about educational video games!

UjjwalGupta5 karma

At BenchPrep we try to keep our users on their toes with our games and fresh UX/UI. Games and gamification are essential to this.

And I do think there is a growing realization in the education sector that we can’t ignore user-centered design philosophy when designing course materials. The competition out there for an average 12 year-old’s attention is staggering and will only grow more competitive. Rather than sticking with the old-fashioned textbooks or traditional classroom models, school should embrace the trend towards gamification.

Teacher’s aren’t likely to succeed unless they’re able to get and keep their students attention. I think that’s a stark point to make, but I think that teachers, in many respects, would agree. Many games can still reward students’ to maintain their attention span for long periods of time, and may require intense concentration, so it’s not like all of our games have to be like Angry Birds. To frame it from a more optimistic point of view: don’t we think that students deserve ‘the most engaging and beautiful design that we can provide them?

Just as an iPhone game or tech startup has to listen to the customer, in the area of student-centered design, we have to to listen to the student! The student will reveal his or her preference by their activity on learning platforms and in the classroom. It’s our job to measure and respond to these preferences in a way that strikes a balance between fun, engagement, and discipline.

Ricola12343 karma

I am interested in getting venture capital for a business I've been working on. Any advice?

UjjwalGupta4 karma

The first question I will ask myself if I start a new business is "Do I need to raise venture capital?" If yes, Why? If you have already figured these questions out, I am assuming that you are seeing good traction. At this point you need to network and look for introductions. Start with people you already know. Personal introductions are still the best way to get things started while raising money.

DaYeffMaster3 karma

When will we start to se coding classes in most high school?

UjjwalGupta8 karma

High schools today already have curriculum requirements for second languages. In my opinion, learning computer languages could and should become as a standard offering in high schools. We have already seen a lot more computer science offerings in high schools but I anticipate a many fold increase in the coming decade.

NavyPilot1012 karma

Where do you think the biggest change in education has been because of technology ?

UjjwalGupta5 karma

The biggest changes are affordability and accessibility of education. With online and mobile penetration, technology offers the potential for personalization on a massive scale. MOOCs and online learning platforms are already moving in that direction. Ten years ago you would have never been able to learn about the multitude of things that you can learn about online today for free or very cheap.

ozeri152 karma

Hey Ujj, Ozzy here, say hi to the team from me!

What your future goals, and the future goals for BenchPrep as a company?

Miss you guys!

UjjwalGupta2 karma

Hey Ozzy, how are you? Long time no see.

hydro-philic2 karma

Did you guys ever think about going to an accelerator or incubator instead of running strait to VCs?

UjjwalGupta2 karma

We were not actively looking to raise money when we raised our first round, primarily, because we were bootstrapping and were cash flow positive. However, now with a lot more experience not only with our own startup but from having seen a lot of other startups, I highly recommend to go through an accelerator program like YC or Techstars before raising VC money.

phanatic892 karma

Do you have any need for an accountant of any sorts? I'd love to work for a company like this one. I'm immensely fascinated by start-up community.

How about adding the CPA exam to list?

UjjwalGupta3 karma

Our accountant Michael set this entire Reddit AMA up. You should reach out to him. :)

BaxtersMyDog1 karma

I also work at a tech star up in Chicago. What do you think the biggest challenges and advantages are being away from California ?

UjjwalGupta3 karma

Our investors come from both Chicago and the coasts. And there is a difference between how they think. Chicago is more pragmatic with a focus on revenue. Valley investors, on the other hand, are more idealistic in what a business can turn into. There are pros and cons to both. I think that we have been lucky to have both sides on our team. This has kept us grounded but also given us the imagination and ambition to pursue some long term projects which we think can really help redefine the educational space.

DarkKnight77-4 karma

What is your favorite color?

UjjwalGupta1 karma

My favorite color is Blue.