Sanjay Swamy, Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners chats with Ankit Gupta, Co-Founder Quizizz, one of our portfolio companies.
In this conversation, they chat about how Quizizz has successfully pivoted into a learning platform that turns homework and test into the game, how they were able to mark their presence in 50% US schools without spending a dollar on marketing and importance of design on digital products
Listen to the podcast to learn about
1:00 - How the childhood experiences of the founders sparked the idea for Quizizz
4:30 - 2 user feedbacks that led to the birth of Quizizz
7:30 - When will we see Quizizz in Indian classrooms?
8:30 - Why Quizizz’s marketing spend has always been $0?
10:30 - What role did design play in the success of Quizizz?
Podcast Transcript below:
Sanjay Swamy 0:21
Hi this is Sanjay Swamy with Prime, welcome to our podcast series. Prime Venture Partners is an early stage VC fund investing in technology and product focused businesses. Today, we have Ankit Gupta, Co-Founder of Quizizz. Ankit, delighted to have you on the show. I would like to cover a few areas for our audience to hear about what Quizizz is, what scale you're operating at, how long the company is been around, how did you get started, and then talk about literally the scale and what's next over the next couple of years for the company ? So, tell us a little bit about your background, your Co-Founder, Deepak's background and what led to Quizizz and a bit of the early days.
Ankit Gupta 0:59
So first of all, thank you so much for this opportunity. To begin with our journey, both me and Deepak, we're batchmates and we met first time back in our engineering days. And both of us had this common story where during our middle school time period, we basically got a bit distracted. There're video games, there're cartoons, and it was really hard for us to stay focused. We had this core hypothesis, when we were kids, we didn't have access to internet, we didn't have smartphones. Imagine what would be happening for kids now. Where they have 24x7 access to internet, they have smartphones in their pocket. How do you get them excited about learning? How do you keep them motivated to learn. So, that was our core hypothesis. And after finishing our college, both of us worked for a couple of years but, we really wanted to solve a big problem. That was when we decided that, hey, let's work on this problem. Both of us came to Bangalore. And the first point there was that, okay, we were kids, but that was like, maybe 10 years back, things have changed a lot. So, the first thing for us was to get access to real kids, where we can understand what they need what they want. And that was a place where we collaborated with the nonprofit school in Bangalore. So, we used to go there. We used to build small prototypes. And I have to say the sixth graders are the most honest feedback givers. So, if they like it, they will tell you, "hey ! I love this" or they'll give you a feedback on things are not working. So, we continued this process for a few months, and then we got some confidence on what are the needs and requirements for both teachers and students. And that was the time when we felt that, we were ready to invest time in building our first product. And, I think the journey started from there. Both of us then locked our self down, and just started coding, we launched our first product, it was actually a different product. It was not Quizizz to us called Wizen World, where the core hypothesis was still the same. But, we had built this virtual world covering mathematics for students. And, we put that platform out on the internet. And, then we realized, hey internet happens to be in U.S.. We started seeing a lot of teachers, started using the product. And that was the foundation story for Quizizz.
Sanjay Swamy 3:41
So, Wizen World itself, the games that you had for maths, I remember, that was when we first met. It seemed quite exciting. But, I think you also said that, we would create new versions of the game and the students would, consume all the levels very quickly and then they would be waiting for more. And that was sort of the Aha ! moment when you said, we need to pivot to way, crowdsource thing, so that we don't become the bottlenecks. I remember you came back three months later and said, let me show you guys Quizizz.
Ankit Gupta 4:09
So, I think Sanjay was this very interesting story there, where we put our hearts out on the Wizen World, we felt this is the perfect solution. But, as we started working more closely with the classroom and students, we started learning more and more about the pain points of the teachers. That was a time when we got these two common feedbacks. One was from teachers where they said that, hey, I need some control on the content and the questions which you are putting out. I don't mind putting in some questions there. The other thing which we learned from students was that, this is great virtual world, but I want to be in that world with my friends which happens to be my classmate. So, I think those were the two main learnings from our previous product. Which then we said that, hey, let's try this new product and then move forward with Quizizz.
Sanjay Swamy 4:57
Great ! So, now tell us about Quizizz. What is Quizizz ? Where is it used? Who uses it ? What scale is it at today ?
Ankit Gupta 5:02
Quizizz is a learning platform, which helps a teacher to motivate their classrooms, by turning any of their test, practice sessions, homeworks into a game. So, imagine the time when we used to study, we used to answer worksheets, paper worksheets, but, imagine that turning into a competition between your friends. So, that is what Quizizz does to your homework, your assignments. So, it not only helps like students get excited about the whole thing, but also ends up helping teachers a lot in terms of telling them, which are the knowledge gaps for individual students or for the classroom. So, it sort of acts like a feedback piece for teachers. I'd say we struck a chord between both students and teachers and it ended up becoming like a win win situation for both the parties. And I'd say in past few years, we have seen a lot of love coming from classrooms around the world. We are currently serving over 20 million students and teachers every month. We are one of the fastest growing Ed-Tech platform at this point. U.S. seems to be our geography where we see most of our traffic coming from. We are currently present in over 50% of the U.S. schools at this point.
Sanjay Swamy 6:22
So, 20 million monthly active users in more than 50% of U.S. schools. Wow ! And how old is the company again? about three years ?
Ankit Gupta 6:32
Yeah, it around that period.
Sanjay Swamy 6:33
Wonderful! And what about other parts of the world? I know recently, you told me a lot about South-East Asia and things like that. Tell us about where else it has been used.
Ankit Gupta 6:42
So, U.S. definitely is where we saw early growth and it continues to grow fast. However, as time progressed and technology also access and reach of technologies reached to other geographies. We've started seeing adoption coming from Asia, specially South-East Asia has been really strong for us. I'd say Indonesia is one of those geographies which is growing fast. We do have classrooms in Europe, in Australia who are also using it. We kind of feel that Quizizz a platform which would help classrooms around the world. And, we are just getting started.
Sanjay Swamy 7:21
Awesome! I remember you also share that video of a school teacher in Nairobi, who sent us a video of how their children in the classroom are enjoying using this. In all of this. You'd never mentioned India yet. So, when do you think Indian classrooms will start using Quizizz on a large scale?
Ankit Gupta 7:38
Definitely being a company in India, we all coming from the same educational system. We are also waiting for the product to start getting the kind of adoption we are seeing in other parts of the world. My current understanding is that probably the classrooms in India are couple of years behind, in terms of the technology and internet to reach classrooms. Jio, definitely has accelerated that part. And we hope to see in coming years Quizizz even helping classrooms in India.
Sanjay Swamy 8:12
Fantastic! In all of this to get to, 50% of U.S. school penetration, 20 million active users around the world, majority in the U.S. How have you all cracked the marketing part and how much have all had to spend, and what has been the big reason for this growth?
Ankit Gupta 8:28
So, I'd say on the marketing spent, that calculation has always been very simple. So, it has always been zero dollars, I'd say in terms of like the reach we were fortunate enough to get the support from our teacher community. From day zero, we worked very closely with them. And during that period, we used to work closely with them understand what their needs were. And that really helped us build the right product. Rather than, we telling others about using Quizizz, our users tell their friends and they bring in to the platform. So, it has been all through word of mouth. And it's been without any marketing spent.
Sanjay Swamy 9:07
Now, I remember at least from my school days, which is a long time ago, whenever the teacher walked in and said, hey, I've got a quiz, we would go.. Oh, No! But it seems that you guys are trying to make it entertaining and fun. How do the younger students, the students of today react to when the teacher says, we're doing quiz on Quizizz ?
Ankit Gupta 9:26
Rather than me talking about it, on Twitter itself, we everyday see hundreds of videos where teachers have shared the excitement which Quizizz platform brings to the classroom. We have heard stories from teachers telling us that, I did this Math Quiz gave it as a homework, and these kids finish it four times. Quizizz basically, convert this whole equation on being it more as a work to a game, and kids then really get engaged and excited about it.
Sanjay Swamy 9:56
So, one other comment, at least during the very early days. One of the things I always look forward to where your monthly presentations and the sense of visual design. Even whether in your case it was, you know, dashboards to the board, but it really stemmed from that core DNA, translating to the product and eventually into everything else the company does or did at the time. How important do you think that sense of design was to the success of the product? And if you were to advise other entrepreneurs today, by the early days of building a product and a team, how important is design?
Ankit Gupta 10:31
So, I think design definitely for any digital product, or anything I would say plays an important role. In case of Quizizz, we were even dealing with an audience which varied from very young teachers to teachers in their late 60s and 70s. We always felt that our design should be simple enough, where anyone can come without thinking about it, without getting any training, start using it. So, there I would say that design definitely plays a very crucial role in this whole process. And I feel the love which we received there definitely those visual elements gets the classrooms excited about it.
Sanjay Swamy 11:14
Super! What does the next two years hold for you? I mean, you have been growing almost at a WhatsApp like, scale of customer acquisition. And of course, very similar story, you also have not raised a lot of money, barely raised about $4 million. And a lot of that is in the bank, how big is the team and how do you see where do you see the company go from here ?
Ankit Gupta 11:34
So, we believe we have just scratched the surface of the problem. The amount of time and the impact which the product has been able to create in this short time, we feel that there are tons of other problem in all the students which we want to solve. So, I'd say in the past few years, we have been focusing on the classroom usage where we were helping a teacher and a student to make the whole experience in the classrooms really fun. The next transition is to help a student continue what they were doing in the classroom, and they continue learning that at home. So, that is like the next phase which we are looking for, where we become end to end solution for the students. Definitely, other phase is the growth itself, been active in many geographies. But, then still, there are other places where we want to grow.
Sanjay Swamy 12:32
And you still have about half the U.S. to still catch on to.
Ankit Gupta 12:32
Yeah we still have about half the U.S. to catch on to. In terms of the team, I'd say we have a super talented team where currently each member is serving over 2 million users. From day zero, we have built things with scale in mind.
Sanjay Swamy 12:50
Ankit, this is awesome! Great to have you on the show. And really looking forward to next couple of years for Quizizz. Congratulations and all the best.
Ankit Gupta 12:59
Thank you so much Sanjay, for having me.
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