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The global SaaS venture for educators | Quizzizz
Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come!
And if the product you are building is an idea whose time has come, then what you really need to get right is your product-market fit.
Product Market Fit is the state in which a startup’s product is so powerfully useful for the market that the viral adoption loop kicks in.
This episode is a masterclass in product-market fit.
Quizzizz is the most unique ed-tech startup in India. It does not have a large sales team responsible for acquiring users. It neither spends money on Google and Facebook ads nor does it pay any celebrity to promote it.
But it’s a product with massive global adoption. It’s one of the most popular tools for teachers to make their classes more interactive and fun.
Deepak Joy Cheenath shares his journey of finding product-market fit and then scaling up through a product-led growth strategy!
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DEEPAK: Hey everybody. I'm Deepak co-founder of Quizizz.
So I was born in Ahmedabad in Gujarat so my dad was in the government. He was an IS officer and based outta Gujarat. Growing up I actually moved around quite a bit between like Gujarat and Delhi. My father even went to the US for five years, so I did some of my schooling there. Then I was in boarding schools from the 9th onwards, so I was really hopping around a lot as a kid. Barely spent more than a few years in any one place. But I think you, over the 11th and 12th even, just doing computer science in school,
you have your little projects library management app and all of that. Enjoyed that stuff. And I actually built like, website of my own, just, my personal website peoplejoy.com and still doesn't have much, but by the time I enjoyed that programming. And so by the time I was getting into college, I'd actually kind of decided I wanted to get into that line of engineering, which I think was good. Otherwise I may have just done the normal thing, go to the best college you have and take whatever branch you get. So that I think helped.
AKSHAY: Okay. And so you joined Bitz and that's where you met your co-founder and Keith also?
DEEPAK: Yes. So we actually, again, it was faith, I guess, that they randomly just paired two kids and me and and Keith were pair together. We were from, very different backgrounds and everything.
AKSHAY: Paired in a project or like as roommates?
DEEPAK: No, in as roommates. So, and we are actually often, that's not with somebody else of the same branch, but as Chance would have it, we were on the same branch too. So even second, third, fourth year we were together, because after that, you stick with your branch. So we were, we became really good friends then during college.
AKSHAY: Amazing. Okay. Okay. So what next then, once you like graduated from Bitz?
DEEPAK: I think we both had some interesting, so I think some interesting journeys, but during college, I think both of us had, done a lot of these little projects, whether it was for the college or just for our own entertainment. And but after that, it paying time for placement just like everybody else. I think we are looking for a good salary. Nice company. Interesting work. And so I ended up at Amazon as a software engineer, and Anki joined this company called Opera Solutions, which was a kinda a business no, not the browser company actually. So this is a different company, which was into business analytics and big data sort of analysis. And so he was a kind of a data researcher there. And then he, in fact an interesting part of Ankit journey before we got outta college, he actually interned at Flipkart. He was one of the very early folks there when they were just, maybe 40, 50 people. He did like, six months. so after working a little over a year, I think at opera, he joined one of our Batchmates who is doing this startup of their own. Okay. And so he did that for around a year before we ultimately, started up together.
AKSHAY: This year talking of WizenWorld?
DEEPAK: So WizenWorld was what we did after that. Yeah. Yes.
AKSHAY: So tell me about the journey, of jumping into entrepreneurship, like leaving that comfort of a job and starting that journey. Tell me about that. How did that happen? Like what's the story there?
DEEPAK: So, I think one good thing was the job itself wasn't that comfortable. I think Amazon really makes you slog. And so though I enjoyed it I had no complaints about it. And in fact, I think that's what got me thinking that, if I'm working this hard anyway, why not think of doing something on my own? We, I had actually tried a few things on my own, on the side and during, even my after joining Amazon and I realized I just wasn't able to do justice. You might as well not do it. So I think I was sort of in that state of mind when Ankit reached out and we started talking about maybe doing something together. We'd always, we had done these projects even in college, and I think we both felt like this is as good a time as any because before we invest a lot into our careers and all of that, why not give it a try?
Now I think a lot of people wonder, or ask us, like, how did you take such a big risk? But I feel like that was the least risky thing to do at that time, because what you have to lose, and the worst happens, it all goes down the drain. You come back a year or two later with this great experience under your belt and you'll probably pick up right where you would've been had you just stayed in the, corporate job even. So I didn't really see it as a risk as such. And I think we were always, we had this mindset that if is not working out, we'll just drop it. We can always come back to our job. We had that confidence, at least that we can. Clear interview was like, a safety net, I think. Yeah, that helped.
AKSHAY: What did you want to do?
DEEPAK: So I think, yeah, where, how this idea itself came about. We were actually thinking about different types of ideas, to be honest, it wasn't that we had decided upon education as the only thing. So we actually spent a couple of months before we actually took the plunge and quit our job, just brainstorming on ideas, not building anything. And we tested upon finance and, ticket booking and all the usual suspects. And ultimately, I think at that time I was also volunteering as a teacher. And I got to see the technology available to teachers to work with their students. And it was very uninspiring to say the least. I think we've all seen You were like a teach for India, like a formal not a formal thing, just volunteering program or just like, yeah, it was this thing called youth for Seva, where I would just go occasionally. It wasn't like full as serious as like a full Teach for India fellowship, but I went for a few, and I think that gave me this idea, the seed maybe. And then I discussed with Ankit and he was also pretty excited. I think it seemed like this really interesting problem to work on and also an underserved market, like at that time they were great. Things being built there was YouTube and social media and all kinds of other, email these great tools, but we didn't see that level of polish in the education domain,
so we thought, even we could probably build something that will be useful to people. And that's where, it got started. I think we were just excited about this space in general and without anything more, I think we decided to, just take the plunge we, put in our papers and decided to shift to Bangalore. So Ankit that time was in Delhi I was in Hyderabad, so we both sort of shifted into my brother's spare room in Bangalore and even in a few weeks colonized the living room also. That became our office for, well over a year, I guess. And yeah, I think like one of the smart thing I think in that respect that we did was we started by finding a school that we could work with. So that became sort of our initial phase of just discovery was every week we would go to the school and work with a small group of students and a teacher and start building things and just showing them, and that's actually where Visa sort of. And ended up building WizenWorld and all of that.
AKSHAY: What did you discover in that period of that one year when you were doing the discovery?
DEEPAK: It was interesting cause it was for us at that time, two years out of college, we really didn't know anything about much and. So I think what that really helped us with is just to get that feedback, because going every week and working with this very different type of audience. So the great thing about kids is they don't really hold back, when it comes to, you can just see the feedback on their face. They're not really concerned too much about your feelings. So, we started with this idea of building games, we thought that would be the best way to engage a student. And so we make these mini games and show them to the students.
AKSHAY: And this is for like, six to 10 age group or something like that. This was middle schoolers.
DEEPAK: So yeah, I'd say like, yeah, eight to 11, that kind of range. And so they were, old enough that they could kind of articulate what they were thinking and all of that. And so actually we learned a lot of interesting things, which seemed maybe obvious, but that we made these very simple games. And then we started elevating to more complex thinking. There's going to really level up the experience, but then we found sometimes kids would not at all engage with those more complicated things, it was too complicated. So there's, value of keeping things simple, how long you know somebody, like ultimately learning something is a hard process, and nothing can take away from that. But I think what we realized is we are making that experience a little more digestible, a little more entertaining and rewarding, breaking it into chunks that make it a little less painful, so that's really what we.
AKSHAY: Was it like a story in which there are questions coming in the middle, like something like that?
DEEPAK: Like it was kind of that Yeah. Like you would, start, we had made this, that's actually out there on YouTube, the intro video, really quite bad. Made on PowerPoint background. But yeah, the whole, the real idea was that we wanted to make this immersive, this real epic story where you would, as you went through it, you would have to, apply yourself to learn these new concepts, all questions, and move through it. Ultimately, of course, building something like that is no easy task for two guys, who've never done it before. So what ended up being built was this progression of levels where you would solve problems essentially to progress, and each level had a theme and all of that, but that story part was something we were still trying to, get into it. And we never did.
AKSHAY: You would need like graphic design, animation, all of those skillsets, which among the two of you, you didn't really have to.
DEEPAK: Yeah. And at that stage. So we cobbled things together using free resources and all of that. But yeah, we didn't even have money to, pay anybody literally, we were running on our savings from our, short stints at working. Yeah.
AKSHAY: So, you built like a test or an assessment kind of a product?
DEEPAK: Well, you could say it was a practice product where students could, pick a topic and sort of, play this game that helped them solve questions and they would, hint send things like that. And so I think in those early days, because also how we, sort of built it. But even as soon as we put the link out there, I think we realized that this is something that teachers were going to use with their students. Though that wasn't something we knew before launch, but as soon as we looked at the analytics, we would see, like 25 people pop up in one place. And we knew it's teacher and students, a teacher is using it in and it started picking up, in the US in these other countries where they had that sort of infrastructure.
AKSHAY: So were your topics like global topics on which you had the tests?
DEEPAK: Yeah, definitely global, like maths. It was all maths,
AKSHAY: like simple, like amatic and reading.
DEEPAK: Yeah. So you could say, yeah, from like third, fourth to seventh, eighth, smattering of, popular topics. Yeah. Okay.
AKSHAY: Okay. And this was like a web app which you started and you called it Quizizz or like, what did you call it?
DEEPAK: No, so this was called WizenWorld. So this was around 2013. June was when we, quit our jobs and started, and till around the end of 2014, we worked on Quizizz WizenWorld, which was this math learning game kinda thing where, we were making the content and creating these game levels and all of that ourselves.
AKSHAY: It was only focused on math?
DEEPAK: Only on math, yeah.
AKSHAY: Got it. Okay. So, then what, like how did Wizen become Quizizz?
DEEPAK: Yeah, so that was so around, during this journey, we also got into this accelerator program, GSF, India, and Okay. There, we got this opportunity to pitch our product to a lot of investors and I think the great thing about that program was we just really were forced to do a lot of pitches to a lot of VCs and get a lot of rejections, so I think helped us refine that pitch. But we also, add towards the end of it, we realized, this product is not clicking with investors. We we were quite happy with our pitch by that time but just the scale of it, and we were personally struggling with just keeping up with the content demands because users were actually engaging and enjoying the product. We had, I think around towards the end hit maybe 45,000 registered users, teachers and students, but they would drop off in a couple of weeks or a month because that was all the content we had, and so creating, and this was, yeah. And there was a monetization. No, it was completely free as well, so there was no monetization either, and so we couldn't even, pump in money or anything to churn out more. And also, it took, it was more than just creating questions, you had to create this game experience and all of that.
AKSHAY: Yeah. You took build in those hints and all the okay. Yeah, the interactive layer on top of that set of questions.
DEEPAK: Exactly. So we were really struggling with kind of churning out content and we also kept hearing from students that they wanted to play with their friends. They wanted to be multiplayer, which WizenWorld wasn't was the single player experience. So we were at this crossroads pretty much where we weren't really getting to where we wanted to be on WizenWorld.
And so we could have either, thrown in the towel as they say at that time. Or, we thought we were excited about, exploring this idea though, can we make something multiplayer that also is crowdsourced opens it up for teachers to Okay. Sort of fill in the content. And that's where really Quizizz was literally the simplest way we could achieve those two things, because we wanted to do it in WizenWorld, but to make a system where teachers can kind of build that themselves would've been a lot of work, so we thought, okay, let's make this simple quiz game, make it fun and competitive. We know how to build a nice experience there and let teachers put in the questions and we'll make it just engaging and, leverage this multiplayer dynamic. And we, I think, built it in like a month or a month and a half. And put out, as opposed to Eisen world, where we worked on it for six months plus before we even put out anything. I think more than nine months probably. And we had really built out the whole experience, with Quizizz. We made this really bare bones thing, which though, had something useful like this fun quiz experience that's multiplayer and where students can do the questions at their own pace. And that was something that wasn't really available at the time, like a student pace, multiplayer quiz. Most of the things that were out there had, it go one question for the whole class at the same time, and by then we knew a little bit about how to get the early word out, like to how we can get to at least a few thousand teachers. We had all these forums and we built, some friends among teachers, so we just put it out to them. In fact, we actually didn't even leverage the Wen world audience because we were like, let's not, ruin WizenWorld. We've got something good there.
This Quizizz thing may or may not really take off, so let's try it out as this separate experiment. But yeah. The interesting thing was a couple of months into it, we could just see the trajectory being so different, this users were a lot more sticky. They were, we had removed the shackles, that you can only use this for the content we've made. So teachers just dived in, started making their own content, and they just made it their own platform, and I think that's what unlocked our growth. I think within two months we had us surpassed whatever numbers we had on WizenWorld in, year and a half rate.
AKSHAY: I wanna like, zoom in on a couple of things. Did you raise funds from GSF then? Like you, you joined the GSF accelerator?
DEEPAK: So GSF happened, in the middle of or early part of 2014. And we did get a little funding there, but that was again, maybe, enough to just pay us a salary. After we launched Quizizz, we actually got back with two our investors. Who we had pitched WizenWorld too. And through GSF, through we had got in touch with these investors through GSF. So, and then we just had to reach out to them again. And so then Prime Ventures, which was our, first real investor, they had seen us during WizenWorld and they liked what we were doing, but they weren't really seeing the growth that, they were looking for, but we had told them that we're going to build this, multiplayer thing, and when we went back to them three months later and said, here, it's built and it's, bigger than WizenWorld and it's growing. I think they, really appreciated that. And we, pretty much got the term sheet within, days I think we just hired one person after we did that fundraise around. And this one software engineer, I mean, so the three of us then, were building it for the next nine months before So, and our kinda subsequent hire after nine months was a recruiter, who then helped us build out the rest of the team because we realized by that time, this is not really our strength. We need somebody to keep the gas on growing up the team.
AKSHAY: I also wanna zoom in on the product. Now you said it was a quiz product was it like a Google Forms where there's a authoring interface where teachers can do the authoring and create the questions yeah. And the correct answers, and then there is a student interface where they have questions with like, say it could be multiple choice or fill in the blank or so on, like something like that?
DEEPAK: Yeah. Pretty much that, so the only thing I, so it is kind of like that forms interface for a teacher, where they create the questions in this tool. And I think where it differs is when you actually shared that with students. Forms, and all of these things are a very independent experience, you get your form link, you fill it up, and you're done. Whereas in Quizizz, you would do that together as a class. So everyone would join this game, the teacher would hit start, and then you would see a live leaderboard. And that was really the experience that clicked.
AKSHAY: Okay. So like in Google forms, it shows you a progress tracker, which is your solo progress tracker. In Quizizz, it would show you like progress tracker of multiple people and.
DEEPAK: Yeah, you would see your rank going up and down and you would, on the board, you could see, what's happening and all of that. So teachers often had a projector. So that's when the real, there was music and animations and all of that. Okay.
AKSHAY: And you give teachers the ability to add hints and stuff like that and to make the learning.
DEEPAK: So over time, yes, we added like the ability to add an explanation if somebody gets it wrong, and add various types of questions. And these features that you allow a student to redo a question perhaps, and we attempt the whole quiz and all of that so that for a feature, it's sort happens automatically to an extent.
AKSHAY: Ok. Interesting. This was like what was the volatilization here? Like a free model that teachers could?
DEEPAK: So we actually kept it completely free for the first five years, since we launched Quizizz. So we had a long journey of keeping it free, and I think we could sustain that because the growth was really tremendous. So I think investors saw that and were ready to back us. And we also had a very low burn. So we had this small, team of, for the first year, investors would actually tell us like, why aren't you, like utilizing this money more effectively, which was a fair call out. And eventually also we grew to 10, 15 people who were still a very small team. Mostly, young folks straight out of college or one or two years experience. And so it was a very lean, low burn team. You are not spending on marketing or any of that stuff, so we, that became actually our growth lever, having this great free project that people would to share and talk about.
AKSHAY: And you initially got it kickstarted by like, personally going onto various groups and forums of teachers and like spreading the word through more of those organic outreach efforts.
DEEPAK: Yes, exactly. That's how we got started because we didn't know anything else. So we thought, how do we get people to try this? Let's see, where teachers hang out and post it there. And thankfully there were these different forums where mostly us teachers would be engaging. And also they also they were engaging on other platforms like Twitter and things like that, so, yes. We then started, figuring those things out. We would go reach out to some of these, influencers on Twitter, at tech influencers, and I think one of the great things, especially in those days was it was just this very close-knit community, you could just reach out to somebody, even if they had like a hundred thousand followers and say, would check out this thing we're building, it's this free for teachers, and they would, get on call with you. And then they'd actually, Champion your product, if they liked it.
And we, I think in those early days, we really leaned into teacher feedback, we would be on chat support, we had the simple chat support widget and 24/7 we were online, so, in those initial days, I don't even know when I slept because I was so excited. We were working in the day and at night, I working from India, and US would come in towards the evening and we would just stay up and then sort off somewhere in between that. That really helped us to actually figure out how to evolve the project because we had very little idea, were teachers. So, but we just listened to teacher and everything they said. We just tried to do it as soon as possible. I think that was our strength of building like a nice project experience and doing it quickly. Engineering I think has always been kind of our core strength at Quizizz. We just leaned into that. Like we would be so desperate to retain that user. We'd be like, oh, this guy bothered to give us feedback. Let's, build it quickly. And sometimes the same day we would, email them back saying, Hey, now you're, what you asked for is there, or that problem, you had this fixed now.
AKSHAY: Give me examples of this evolution journey. Like what were some of those things which you learned that we need to incorporate these features.
DEEPAK: Yeah, there were so many. All kinds of little things, I remember we used let students, teachers set the time. We had up two, like from five seconds to five minutes. And this one teacher said, can you add a bigger, longer time option, like 15 minutes? And we thought, like, my name CQ question F and this multiplayer experience, 15 minutes is a crazy amount of time. But we were like, fine what, what do we lose? We just add an option. And interestingly, after that we started seeing people say that, you can use Quizizz for long form questions. If you wanna do like a deeper sort of a quiz, you can use this platform. So all these other little things, I remember, in our initial three, four years, the most popular tweet that we had was that we had this feature to print a quiz, where. You could basically print it as a pdf, the content, and that was very, the whole point of Quizizz is so that you don't have to do that. But teachers, so we never thought about that feature. Would your bunch of teachers said, please, I add the answer sheet. The answer key to that list of questions. And so we added that little thing and it became, our most popular to each
AKSHAY: Why is that?
DEEPAK: Yeah, so now the thing is, that's the thing when you, I think just listen to users, you, what we realized later was that it wasn't that teachers were just printing out Quizizz and giving to their students, was that they would do an activity with their class, but two kids would not be there. Okay. They'd be at home or something, and they wanted to give them the same quiz and they didn't want to make a separate game for them that just felt, though they could do that, they could just make another game, two clicks and send it to those kids, but they felt like these kids were left out, so I need give them, so we just all for that.
AKSHAY: So that quiz became study material in a way, basically.
DEEPAK: Yeah. It became like a, makeup assignment for them.
AKSHAY: Fascinating. Does the checking happen automatically? Like you can only do like limited type of questions, which are easy to check, or can you also do like questions where people can write a full sentence? Because the moment you go into writing full sentence, then that's not something which can be automatically checked.
DEEPAK: So that still remains like limitation of Quizizz, that largely you can only do objective type of questions, but we've tried to at least add variety in that, where you can do, match the columns or you can do a fill in the blank or a dragon drop or drawing type of questions.
And there are certain questions where we just can't evaluate. So the teacher, like by default, like we let the teacher grade those manually, but I think that's one area where we're you looking.
AKSHAY: That's the, leader board at all will not be real time if the teacher has to evaluate manually.
DEEPAK: Yes. So in those, so typically what we see is there'll be a couple of those questions in a quiz, but not the entire quiz of that kind. And though we also do see where teachers have the whole quiz that way, and then usually they're not using it in that competitive way so teachers can actually turn off the board and those sort of things.
AKSHAY: Okay. There's a more serious like a, what we used to have in our school days, like a class quiz and a we used to have every Monday used to be a quiz or like a test, some Monday test kind of a thing. We used to have here. And what kind of traction were you seeing? Like what was the peak traction, which you saw at WizenWorld? And then tell me like, this is, what kinda traction did you see?
DEEPAK: So. I remember like in, after a couple of months of launch, I think two months or so, we hit this milestone of a million questions solved on Quizizz. Right. We were way more than what we had done on WizenWorld, and like today I could say that we end up doing that within like, a couple of minutes so that is sort of the progression we've seen over the years. But if I talk about like 2015, we hit roughly like a hundred K users, then we in 2016 we kinda really, in terms of percentage we went, grew more than 10 x to around like, one, one to 2 million monthly actives. Then we, the next year we went to, five, 6 million, then 10 million, in 2018. So it was sort of in a way this very gradual growth, I would say, people tend to look at where you are now, but it took us, like five years to really get to, like 20, 25 million active users. So it was this very gradual growth where every month we would just grow a little grow, but steadily growing.
AKSHAY: And so today you're at 25 million MAU?
DEEPAK: So now we are at actually over around 70 million MAUs. So, then after the initial five years, we've now had two mergers since we started monetizing and all of that. And that also coincided with the pandemic and everything. So very interesting. Very different two years for sure. Ok. Yeah.
AKSHAY: So, and in your users, the student is also a user?
DEEPAK: When I talk about this, these users I'm talking about students as well.
AKSHAY: Students plus teachers. Okay. So students have their own login where they can see the history of scores, like their journey. They can see over there, like something like that?
DEEPAK: They can see their history and things like that. The word we've seen is students don't really, want to sit and analyze that a lot because largely it's guided by the teacher and we see most of the engagement is driven by a teacher assigning it either in class or as a homework assignment, that kind of thing.
AKSHAY: Okay. So in case of homework assignment, it'll not be like start, stop by teacher, but teacher will say that over the next 24 hours you have to complete this. Something like that.
DEEPAK: They can set some timeline or even just keep, some teachers have a list of, 20 Quizizz, which their students can come anytime and play. So Okay. Quizizz that way. Now, over the years, we've really tried to solve for a lot of different ways in which teachers, you can use this platform. And but we still try to keep.
AKSHAY: I got it. Amazing. So yeah, let's talk about monetization. So, when did you decide you wanna monetize? You were at what number of MAUs when you decided to monetize, and which year was it?
DEEPAK: yes, I'd say we actually were starting to think about it from our kind of third, fourth year itself, of operation. And by that point, we knew we had a sizable sort of, we were getting to be even one of the biggest in the world. And
AKSHAY: And so far just that 500K from Prime was sustaining you 500K dollars for.
DEEPAK: No. So in 2018, we also raised another 3 million from Nexus Venture Partners. Okay. And, okay. So, yeah, but we did have another fundraising between, but this was all way before we started monetizing. But we did have that solid growth already going. what I think, so after that, next fundraise right from Nexus, we that's when we started really thinking about it and. What we were actually hoping to do was to not charge teachers at that time. We knew that teachers add, so much value to our platform, yeah. They're creating, so one of the things we didn't talk about, just that all the content is created by, and we did talk about that. It's all created by teachers, so, that really is what has allowed Quizizz to be used in so many different countries and for all types of subjects. In fact, we have right from school teachers to, bank employees and Fortune 500, company users and, casual people just doing a pub quiz, just because it's this flexible tool. We tried ad based monetization, we had this huge user base, but pretty soon we realized that's not something we wanted to do, just because, the audience we were working with, students and teachers. So we pivoted away from that. We then we tried actually building experiences for students, like, we thought if we could get even one student in a classroom to pay, they have essentially the same paying capacity as a teacher, the parent of the student. So that could be this great monetization, but I don't think we were ready for that because we didn't have parents on our platform in teaching at that time especially.
So then we took that as a learning that, we, we tried premium content, which students could pay for. We tried these, more fancy power ups that, wouldn't allow you to win, but just allowed you to create like a moment in the class, like, draw attention to yourself or just create this fun moment for everybody. Again, we saw good engagement on those sort of things, but the willingness to pay wasn't there. Cause I think ultimately, If a student has, $10, they're going to spend it on some actual game or some, chocolate or whatever. Absolutely. Platform that the teacher is using in fact, so when we launched our paid product, we didn't take anything away from the free experience. We just added some new functionality, a couple of things, which we knew teachers wanted, which we hadn't been able to build which took some, heavy investments. So we kinda built those over a couple of months, package this thing, set a pretty much like around number $5 a month as the price point and just put it out there. And, I think to we were thrilled to see that a lot of teachers, just picked that up, they started paying out of their own pocket because they just, enjoyed using Quizizz, I think. And this was something within their price range. And so we saw a lot of, we pretty much became profitable overnight as soon as we launched that there was also this pen up demand and all of that. I think that was when we became a sustainable company.
AKSHAY: Covid must have like really given you wings, because the need for tools which allow you to do remote learning, remote teaching, rather like must have exploded.
DEEPAK: Yes, for sure. And though we were actually not building that, we were building for teachers and students to engage online, but it was mostly happening in the classroom. But again, I think just because we always had that engineering hat on, we always built it like it should also work if they're remote and whatever. They're one kid at home and all that. So we had built everything to work well in this remote setting. And I think when the pandemic happened, all of a sudden, like teachers just found like, there's this great platform that's, I can largely use even for free. And we saw this, amazing growth and I think even a great growth in our revenue as well because those additional features were also quite valuable to teachers. Yeah.
AKSHAY: And like, did you have to build special stuff once Covid hit or like, how did Covid impact the way your business was running?
DEEPAK: Luckily we were able to keep the site running, that didn't become an issue. We, literally in countries we grew like 10X overnight, like wow.
AKSHAY: Literally overnight where they would announce a lockdown and the next day, and over a period of like a month where all the lockdowns happened, globally, we just had this huge surge. I remember India 2019 to 2020 was 30x growth for us.
DEEPAK: Like you had built it in a way that it was scalable, like easily scalable. Right. We built it all on like cloud services like AWS, Google Cloud, and all that. So that we were able to scale up pretty easily.
AKSHAY: And what did you include in the premium plant? What were those extra things that people paid for?
DEEPAK: Yeah, so it's interesting. It was actually. Really, it wasn't about powerful new features. It and like, we didn't know that at the time. So we had a mix of those. Like we had the ability to add video and audio.
AKSHAY: We had like the question could be a video question. The teacher could be Yeah. Speaking out the question. And so it would make it more engaging, especially if you're doing remotely.
DEEPAK: Yep. And especially like for language learning and those sort of things. Oh, audio becomes big. The ability to even have the student, speak out. Or video and then just I think it was around these new types of questions that you could create. And just the ability to say, keep an assignment open for longer, and things like that. And, little things like, if your assignment runs out, then being able to reopen that for, say, some students who are late. So, eventually even yeah, access to our full library of content, things like that. It ultimately, we realize that. Teachers wanted to save time, they wanted convenience. So things that gave them that really worked well. Okay. So if I don't have to submit, send out a new assignment, every two weeks, cause that was a limit we had, the length of the assignment, so they would pay for that. Or if I just find this really great quiz. Features would pay to get access to our full library so that they can, save that kinda time. And so, some things around bulk, grading questions, things like that is what sort of eventually made it into it. But I'd say in the early days there were just a few features.
AKSHAY: How did you create this library of Quizizz that teachers could just like, use as templates?
DEEPAK: So we actually didn't create it at all, it was made by our users. So, what we really focused on was giving them those really easy, intuitive tools to create this interesting content and building that interface to, create this varied content, so different question types or adding an explanation or, and a lot of the details in that, like a lot of the popular platforms in those days had a limit for the length of the question, let's say, it would be 250 characters or something. We would say, just put it as long as you want. And we the other side of the interface that would automatically resize the text and maybe add a scroll bar if needed. So we really went deep into solving these, I mean, seem like small problems, but not really, if you have to give a, 500 character question and. That is beyond the limit, you're really stuck in that becomes a blocker. For a English comprehension question. So those were the things, and so then what were the workarounds? They would take a photo of that passage and upload it. But that's not nice to read and doesn't, render well across mobile and desktop, and now you can't read that out. So we had a feature that would say, use the browsers, read aloud, functionality, all that will fit in if this whole thing worked. Right what we are really doing is leveraging technology in the most effective way to solve these problems.
AKSHAY: Yeah. So these Quizizz that were created by other users, so you like licensed them out so that you can offer it to the rest of the or like how did that library of content, like how did that, you could think of it like YouTube.
DEEPAK: Where on these creators come on the platform and upload their stuff further.
AKSHAY: So as a teacher, you had an option to keep it for their audience, basically.
DEEPAK: Yeah. You could keep it private like you can on YouTube, for yourself. Okay. Or you can, and give access to, your students and things, or you can just put it out there for the world to leverage. And teachers would do that because they were also saving so much time utilizing the content made by others.
AKSHAY: Percentage conversion. Do you see out of free users getting converted into paid users? And you have a very large base, so I'm sure this will be a small number.
DEEPAK: So see if I talk about globally, it's really small number, I'd say in the US where we've, you has been our mainstay for a long time, we have a really healthy percentage there, so, in this 5 to 10% range of our users. End up upgrading in the us And so, there we have, a really good product market fit.
AKSHAY: And globally, what is the number?
DEEPAK: So that's something, I mean, I honestly don't even know the exact number. It would be, yeah, very low. So in fact, in countries like India and Southeast Asia we are pretty early, and actually the main difference is that. In these countries that decision to purchase is usually not a teacher paying out of their own pocket. It's usually the school and we don't even have the sales set up right now to capture a lot of that. It's a lot of underground selling, which we need to figure out. Like in the US we do have that aspect. So even RM is increasingly how can we get, the school or the organization to pay rather than, the teachers themselves. And so we offer them like a refund if their school upgrades. Those sort of things as well. Yeah.
AKSHAY: So that way the teacher becomes your salesperson then, because she will get a refund that's hat is..
DEEPAK: Exactly what we would hope.
AKSHAY: So, you have like a offline sales team in the US like, which does these conversations with school administrators and so on.
DEEPAK: Yes, we have a team in the US and a team in India where, because we get the majority of our leaders actually inbound. So a lot of people just coming to our website and, filling up our phone.
AKSHAY: And what is the kind of revenue you do now? Like what's your ARR currently or what do you expect you will end this year at and what is your number of paying users currently like? Are you between 10 million and 50 million ARR? Like, just that range?
DEEPAK: I think you could say, yeah, you could put us in that bracket shirt.
AKSHAY: So, do you consciously follow this strategy known as PLG product led growth ? So what is PLG? Can you do like a PLG 1:1 for our listeners?
DEEPAK: Sure. Yeah. So I'd say at least what I understand of it is where you, leverage your product to drive your growth, you don't try to grow it through inorganic performance marketing and all of that.
AKSHAY: And like, like what you have never spent on performance marketing,
DEEPAK: Yeah, we've never spent any on any of that. Yeah.
AKSHAY: So, for founders who wanna use this kind of an approach of product led growth, not spend on performance marketing, what's your advice to them? Like, do you sure have some broad principles you can share?
DEEPAK: Yeah. So one, I would say the most important thing is, it's not really a hack at all, but care about your users, I think, and that'll reflect in everything you do, so I think that is one thing because the people who end up using you in those early days, I'm sure you'll find somebody through forums and those few, dozen, few hundred early users, they're people who are early adopters, they'll try something just because it's good and they're curious. And if you engage with those people, they'll become real champions for you. The other I would say is Try to reduce the friction, in your onboarding experience. So like if I talk about what's a little even different today, when you're in the early stages, nobody knows who you are, what your product does, it probably doesn't even do it that well, so to make somebody fill up a big form and collect, what is your role and this, and that is really overkill, and you should, so one of the things we did in early days was you could use the whole platform without getting any login prompt even, the teacher could do a whole class game without even signing up, they just found a quiz, start the game. Kids would get a game code. You just join with that and you get your report, which you can download. And so we really just tried to eliminate the friction and then sort of, once they've got that value, we say, Hey, why don't you log in? This report will get stored to your account.
AKSHAY: You told me that you also fixed your onboarding experience once pandemic hit. Like, what did you fix?
DEEPAK: I think a lot of it was just, I mean, we did a lot of experiments to just, lay out of the landing page. Things around, there were core parts of our flow, where once you, you essentially sign up and then you search for a quiz that you, just the CTAs on that page, things like that. And some parts around, classroom creation and those sort of things.
AKSHAY: Okay. Coming back to PLG, any other principles your was purely word of mouth. No, there was no incentive for. People to, like, there was no incentive led viral strategy.
DEEPAK: Yeah. There was no incentive. Yeah. I think one thing I could say though, which again is a little hard to achieve, but, create that, that inspiring moment for a user, something which they like to share, so that if you don't have that incentive, like, how we achieved that, this was a little feature we had from the very first release.
After every question, you would have this funny meme that would pop up, it was just a random, like a funny image, which is if you got it it would be something about that if you got it wrong, it would be some joke around it's OK that you got it wrong or just making light of it. I remember like in MailChimp, when you would have to send out your, like MailChimp is like an email campaign tool. And so they would have this monkey mascot, and so when you would have to send out your campaign, it's always this moment of slight, nervousness, did I get it all correct? Yeah. And so they would have this animation of this, finger sort of, shivering over this red button.
AKSHAY: And so it's like be making your parents a little quirky, and it depends on your industry. But I think definitely, yeah. Yeah. What about starting your revenue flywheel? Any advice on that? What is the stage at which you monetize a user?
Like after how many days of signing up or is there a milestone after which you feel, yes, this is high likelihood of conversion? And how do you push them? Is it like gentle nudge or what is it?
DEEPAK: I think, I mean honestly I'd say I don't think we are the best at that. Right. We took a long lot longer probably than we should have to monetize. What we've seen working is like Once you've, launched your monetization plan, I think it's definitely a bit of a gamble, you take a bet on something that you think will and to figure that out. We had, five years of feedback, people asking for features and things like that. And we knew there were these three, four things that they want that we had then decided, these are the top requests. We'll, put these into the paid plans. And I mean, not just the top requests, like a lot of the top requests we put for free also, but some, which, were heavy investments for us or we felt were very differentiated features or hard to build and sustained.
So those sort of things went into the paid plan, but ultimately I think that, Of course what is tough for you to build isn't necessarily what teach, a user wants to pay for. But really just keep looking at what's working, so we had a lot of learnings in that journey as well, we realized that, some of lot of these powerful features were not things teachers wanted to pay for because that's still more work for them, if I give you a more fancy type of question that you can create, it's probably more work to make that type of question also. And that's, that we realize not necessarily something people are really excited about.
AKSHAY: Do you get an SEO benefit? Like, so you said you are like a YouTube of Quizizz where there are these creators who are essentially like education creators, you can see who create these Quizizz. And so does that give you like a benefit in traffic?
DEEPAK: We show up for like millions of, Google queries for all types of content. Again, that became a great thing for us because it was, again, our users who were doing this for us, so they were creating probably the questions they needed, which chances are other people also need. So the questions, the, title of the thing. And now we have actually gone beyond just Quizizz as well, where teachers can create lessons or more instructional content. So all of this is now kind of showing up on on Google and it becomes a huge source of new users. So I'd say like, especially outside the US, a lot of our growth came from seo, people either searching for a quiz platform or an online, teaching platform. And then Also searching for the content itself, which is a huge part of, the traffic that comes in.
AKSHAY: Tell me about this, like, are you now pivoting into becoming an LMS, like a learning management system from just a quizzing platform?
DEEPAK: So not a learning management system? What we want to really focus on is the, the learning journey itself, okay. So I would say One is just building out these interactive experiences, like we want to be the tool that integrates with your elements, but that you actually use for learning, for teaching, for practice, for homework, for, assessment and for checking the pulse, all of that, we want to own that teacher student engagement around learning. I think what we are building for, that a lot of other companies aren't doing is for that classroom experience, like, or that classroom environment, students and teachers, whether it's physically in the classroom or at home, or, remotely and all of that. But solving for that, really making that teacher student interaction more meaningful and delightful.
AKSHAY: So you're not building a video, like a prerecorded video lesson tool, but you're building an interactive video class tool, essentially.
DEEPAK: So, in fact, we don't even do the whole video part, that they still use Zoom or whatever they use, but we are building the engagement tools that work with all of this, so, yeah.
AKSHAY: Okay. So while on the Zoom calls, they can be a link which is shared with everybody, and which can open up a whiteboard for them, and you can have all of these interactive features. Got it.
DEEPAK: So you can have a, like a lesson where the teachers going through slides then pops up a question. So like, again, usually teaching becomes this one way broadcast and usually just zone out after a point. So now the teacher can ask a question, they can we have this fun feature where they can just spin a wheel and pick the next student who gets to answer a question. All of these, just add some level of, just wake kids up, by keeping them en engaging, with that experience.
AKSHAY: So instead of using PowerPoint to project, you use Quizizz to project, like you can upload your presentation on Quizizz and project that and intersperse it with interactive, all these interactive tools. Yeah. So you have like a authoring tool for creating these slides.
DEEPAK: Yeah. So we have that authoring tool, or you can even import from your existing, slides. And so really what we are not trying to innovate on being the best slides creation tool, there are great tools out there, like use them and then, but you can import those and then make it interactive is what, we are really trying to do.
AKSHAY: Do you do stuff to for community building, like, know, allowing people to comment and like, and all of that, like the typical social media techniques, like, what social media does?
DEEPAK: One of the challenges is just the whole safety issue, that ultimately when you're working with students you have to be a little careful about. So, we do a lot of, we do a lot of automated checks and, on our content that's created, to make sure that nothing inappropriate comes in and. So there can be a lot of negativity also, when and the thing is it just takes, one bad actor, somebody who, criticizes the creator of a quiz or that sort of thing. So we want to be really careful about opening up that kinda one.
AKSHAY: Commenting is a double sword. It could backfire, so you don't wanna risk that. The signup process for teachers and students is different. Like they have a different onboarding flow.
DEEPAK: Yeah. There is a different experience there. And in fact, they don't even need to sign up. So again, this, we've always tried to keep, just put their name and start Yeah. Just put their name and get in or put any name really.
AKSHAY: So, like, your homepage right now is not really like a YouTube kind of an approach, but it's more to get teachers to sign up instead of Yeah. Having a homepage which directly shows you Quizizz of teachers. Why did you take that call?
DEEPAK: So we, I mean we, what we've seen is that if we just directly rob them onto, I mean, as, as soon as you sign up, that's actually what you land on. It's something like the UQ company. Okay. Okay. But before that it's quite a lot to figure out on your own, like that this is a platform to engage a group of students and all of that. So that's kind of why we've gone with this approach, plus this approach would give you better conversion rates in the long run. We've seen that.
AKSHAY: Okay. Got it. Amazing. So, and you just had a pretty big fundraise last year. Tell me about that.
DEEPAK: Oh, sure. I think one of the things we had not done a good job is growing the team during this journey. We kind of, in our first, year and a half, we got to a certain size and then pretty much just. With that team we built sort of, it grew a little, of course, but like two, three people every year sort of a growth, and what now we ended up having to do is all of a sudden, as soon as we monetized, we were making, relatively a lot of money so we could easily justify a much larger, team.
AKSHAY: But why did you need to raise? You raised like 30 million from like Tiger Global, among others. 31.5 million I believe. So what was the need to raise this round? Like, because you were making money anywhere like..
DEEPAK: So I think we felt that this was like, one thing I'll just, if I'm being very honest is that when you're that small of a company and nobody has heard of you, you need some validation. It definitely helps with building that brand. And also that we do have, I think we need to get better at maybe thinking about growth more systematically. And how do we grow more aggressively sort to put fuel into some of these fires that are going. And that's where I think this I said that we have never spent on paid marketing. We're just not that I have anything against doing that, we just didn't have any money to do it. But there are people Yeah. It was, we were forced to do it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's been a good, learning for us. But it's not to say that tomorrow we won't look at effectively leveraging marketing.
AKSHAY: So right now US is your top market after that. Who else is it? Like what are.
AKSHAY: So what's your advice to aspiring founders?
DEEPAK: Yeah. So, I think the one thing I would tell people is that it's really a journey, not a destination. And so you need to find ways to enjoy that journey, first of all, it starts with picking something that you're excited to build, for whatever reason, we picked education, not because we had a, particular background in it, but it just felt like an interesting problem that we would love to work on, it turns out also that's a user base that's a pleasure to work for, teachers are great users to, get feedback from. They'll promote you, they'll talk about you, and they don't want anything in return, so you'll have to find those things in your journey, that really drive you and motivate you. Because without that, it's really hard to, just keep it going, day after day, because every day is not going to, even, every month or even a year might go by, and you don't really achieve anything that is meaningful to anybody outside of yourself or your team, and so, I think really just enjoy what you're doing. And care about, who you're doing it for, and I think with all startups, one, your real advantage is speed, that how quickly can you do that, and how can you do something that, a team of 50 people can't do with, three people who don't know much of anything.
AKSHAY: Amazing. Amazing.
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