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BenchPrep’s Amazing Turnaround Story - Ashish Rangnekar / Co-Founder of BenchPrep

Ashish Rangnekar Paul Lee

Ashish Rangnekar is the CEO and Co-Founder of BenchPrep, a SaaS learning platform for education and training companies to create and deliver personalized digital learning programs across multiple devices.

They have helped millions of people all around the world learn better and faster by leveraging the power of technology.

The world’s leading education organizations, including ACT, Hobsons, McGraw Hill Education, HR Certification Institute, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Cliffsnotes use BenchPrep to help learners improve outcomes.

The company has raised more than $22M in venture capital funding from industry leading investors including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Jump Capital, Revolution Ventures and Lightbank.

Ashish is interviewed by Paul Lee, Founder and General Partner of Builders VC, a $200M early stage venture fund, and formerly a General Partner at Lightbank, an early investor in BenchPrep.

Colin Keeley:                 Hello and welcome back to Tech in Chicago. I'm Colin Keeley and I interview Chicago's top founders and investors on the show. Today, we have a really special episode for you guys. We have Ashish Rangnekar here. He's the CEO and Co-Founder of BenchPrep. BenchPrep has raised over $22 million from many of the leading investors around, including NEA, Jump Capital, Revolution, and Lightbank.

Colin Keeley:                 Today's a bit of a unique episode. I actually decided to hand over the mic to Paul Lee. He's the Founder and General Partner of Builders VC, a $200 million early stage venture fund. Before that, he was a General Partner at Lightbank where he actually invested in BenchPrep. He has a ton of familiarity with their story and he does a great job leading Ashish through their trials and tribulations. This is an awesome story and I hope you guys enjoy it. Here you go.

Paul Lee:                       Hi, everyone. This is Paul Lee, Founder and Managing Partner at Builders VC. We're a $200 million early stage venture fund. Prior to Builders, I was a General Partner at a firm called Lightbank here in Chicago, and while I was at Lightbank, I had the pleasure of working with today's guest, Ashish Rangnekar, Founder and CEO of BenchPrep. With that, I'll hand it off to Ashish.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Thanks, Paul. My name is Ashish Rangnekar. I'm the Co-Founder and CEO of BenchPrep. Thanks for having me here. BenchPrep is an Enterprise SaaS learning platform company based in Chicago. We are on a mission to enable today's education and training companies digitally transform themselves and enter into the world of online learning. We have been around for almost 10 years now and have gone through multiple incarnations and have been funded by some of the best venture capital funds around. For our first CVs it was Lightbank and then NEA and Revolution came in. We recently raised a $20 million round co-led by Jump Capital and Owl Ventures.

Paul Lee:                       Talking about that today, the thing that strikes me is how polished that message is and if you understand the history of the company, I think the most amazing thing about the company is how it started, what it went through, and where it ended up today. Obviously, still a ways to go from the standpoint of meaningful traction in upside because the company is kicking ass right now, but talk a little bit, because frankly you glossed over it a little bit. You said, "We had some ups and downs," and that I would say is not giving enough credit to what you guys went through. Let's start from the beginning. If you're okay with it, I'd love to hear the backstory. For the audience, just a quick asterisk. The company actually did not start out as BenchPrep. We can talk a little bit about that, but Ashish, tell me a little bit about how you met your co-founder, Ujjwal, and give us a little bit of that backstory.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. A lot of credit goes to my co-founder. His name is Ujjwal Gupta. I have known him for almost 20 years now. We went to undergrad together back in Mumbai, India. We were roommates for the first couple of years. It surprises me that we are still friends after being roommates, but here we are. I've known him for 20 years and the story of BenchPrep starts about 10 years ago, roughly around 2008 time period. I was working with Capital One Financial in Corporate Strategy and I was planning to go back to business school. As part of that, I was preparing for my GMAT exam. On the other hand, Ujjwal was finishing up his PhD from Penn State in Chemistry. We were still friends, kind of talking and traveling together and all that good stuff.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I'm living in New York, preparing for my GMAT exam and the options available to me at that time were either I could buy a $20 book and lug it around with me and sneak in conference rooms to study or I have to kind of pay thousands of dollars to walk into a classroom every Tuesday evening. Neither of those options really fit my lifestyle or preferences, so I was always this like ... I was bothered and I was frustrated and it was one of those, like I just want to get done with this whole GMAT prep experience mode.

Ashish Rangnekar:         At the same time, iPhone had just opened up, so Apple had opened up the platform to allow developers to develop apps. If you guys would remember, the kind of apps that were over on the platform early on were very weird. There was this kind of beer drinking app that you can show that you are chugging a beer or kind of making crazy sounds. Ujjwal and I were kind of, you know, we're in New York once and we saw how people were just fascinated by this device and were heads-down looking at their iPhones all the time. Here I was, trying to look for a solution for my GMAT prep and couldn't find one.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I put two and two together, I was like, I think that would be pretty cool for us to have a GMAT prep app or me to have a GMAT prep app that I can use on the go. We looked on the App Store and there was nothing, so we decided maybe we should just build an app and see where it goes.

Paul Lee:                       Tell me a little bit more about that conversation. Like, you pitch Ujjwal and say, "I'm thinking about this." How do you convince him, because at that point, he was working full-time on something else? Right?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. If you know the chemistry between Ujjwal and I, we push each other a lot. I mean, eventually we get on the same page, but the first thing that I would say, he would play the devil's advocate and we would argue back ... or discuss back and forth to get to the answer. It was the same, so it was my need where I saw, oh, it would be cool to have an app, and he pushed back. Then, we're kind of days and days and weeks of discussion until we got to the point where we said it has enough legs for us to test it out. Even at that point, the funny thing is, we were not sitting there and saying, oh, this can actually kind of become a multi-million-dollar business and we will raise venture capital and here's the business plan and so on and so forth. Both of us had the kind of mindset that let's actually do it and see what happens. Then, based on that, we'll take it from there.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. Walk me through that. How long is that time period because I believe the audience here that's listening to this, there are probably several of them that are contemplating starting a company and they probably have potential co-founders in mind. What was that time length like? What did that look like? Your first conversation with Ujjwal to, all the way to, hey, I think we have something. What did that time period look like?

Ashish Rangnekar:         The interesting part here is, and this part of the story we haven't actually thought about a lot, when we started, we were four co-founders, Ujjwal, myself, and two other friends that both of us have known for a decade and all four of us had to gone to undergrad together. When this conversation was happening there was four of us, and I think it might have taken us maybe a couple of months to get to the point between four of us to say, "Okay, we are kind of ready to jump in."

Paul Lee:                       Was there a catalyzing event where that caused that or was it a gradual process and all four of you just realized now is the time?

Ashish Rangnekar:         I think the catalyzing event was us seeing around and Apple opening up the iPhone platform because this conversation was going on even before, but when we saw that, then we said, "Okay, we know exactly how we're going to solve the problem." Then, it took us two months to get to the point around like what are we going to do about it. That was the two months. Then, as we started working on it, we quickly realized that the two other co-founders, I mean, they were extremely smart and kind of committed to the idea, but just did not have enough time. On the other hand, Ujjwal, who was actually doing his PhD full-time and PhD in Chemistry is no joke, but his level of commitment was just at a totally different level.

Ashish Rangnekar:         He figured out how to be engaged and drove a lot of this effort. I was trying to solve a problem that was very kind of [inaudible 00:09:02] to me, so both of us stuck around and, I mean, [crosstalk 00:09:06].

Paul Lee:                       The other people just kind of naturally dropped out. Yeah. That's interesting, because from a process perspective, I actually tend to see that a lot. People that come in with groups of four or five, I push them and several months later, they come back and it turns out it's like two of them. That actually is a common story in terms of people who are committed diving in and actually spending more time. Then, it kind of becomes self-evident.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. Hindsight is 20/20, but when I look at it, it was like my way of, or our way of picking co-founders was, oh, we are friends and these are smart guys, so let's do it. We actually didn't really think about the chemistry between four of us or the level of commitment. Now, it so happens that I got really lucky that Ujjwal's working style and my working style is very complementary to each other and there's a lot of trust between us, so it worked out well, but the way we picked the four of us was not really [crosstalk 00:10:02].

Paul Lee:                       Kind of random. What advice would you have for people that are thinking about starting a company with their friends? It sounds like you feel like in hindsight you've got a little bit lucky, but knowing that now, what advice, if any, would you have?

Ashish Rangnekar:         A couple of things. First is, you really got to think about the complementary skills. Just being smart and just being willing to do it doesn't cut it. I think it's almost like putting together a founding team, so let's be very candid about what you are bringing to the table and what other skills that you will need. Second, I think the biggest one is commitment. Make sure that everyone has the same level of commitment, and it comes from maybe it's the level of passion, maybe they are, where they are in the life cycle. Those are difficult decisions because everyone would love to jump in and start a company, but do they have the same level of commitment or not? Third, we actually did not do, but I would highly recommend everyone to do, is think of this not as, okay, day one, four of us are co-founders, equal equity, and take it from there. It has to be at least one year of earning the equity because it takes time for everyone to figure out what they're getting into. Give that formation some time to evolve.

Paul Lee:                       Your advice would be to not formally divvy up the equity at the beginning, but hold off on that.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. Have some framework, but let everyone earn their equity over a year timeframe.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. Interesting. You get started, you publish the app. Can you talk a little bit about the division of labor on that? Was that Ujjwal primarily building, was that you helping? What does that look like?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Absolutely. There's a great story there as well because contrary to popular belief, neither of us are software developers. We did not write one single line of code. Here we are, two of us, trying to do this on iOS and none of us know how to do that. Right?

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Also, at that time in 2018, iOS development was a very, very new thing, so we couldn't just go in and hire for iOS developer, so how do we do? We tried to talk to a few people. Weren't really getting some traction around who should we hire to build this. Then, Ujjwal came up with an idea that he had someone working in the lab that he was working at Penn State and here is this undergraduate kid, extremely smart, didn't know iOS development, but in general, happy to learn and pick up stuff. We went to him, or Ujjwal went to him and said, "Here's what we want to do and I know that you don't know how to code on iOS, but we'll buy you a MacBook and here is a project and we'll pay you. If you can do it, then it's great. If you can't, MacBook is yours."

Ashish Rangnekar:         He was ecstatic because for him, at like 17 ... he was like 17 or 18 years old, and getting a MacBook was phenomenal. He's also trying to learn to do something new. We gave him two months to do it. Within a month, he comes back and he goes like, "Okay, I'm ready to do it. What do you want me to do?" This is how it all started. Ujjwal and I worked together on the product design and prototyping and writing some of the content. Then, he built the app. We released the app in December and we didn't really have-

Paul Lee:                       Had you incorporated at that point, like your company formation? Did it happen before the app or did it happen after the app?

Ashish Rangnekar:         It happened like as this was all coming along because we didn't know what to do, so we actually ended up incorporating it as an LLC in New Jersey.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. What was the name?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Watermelon Express.

Paul Lee:                       A little bit of context on that name.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Absolutely. It's one of those things where we were so engrossed in thinking about the app and the product and the design, we actually never stopped to think about what's going to be the name of the company. Maybe a week before we had to submit it to the App Store, now we are scrambling to figure out the name. We spent countless hours trying to figure out a name where we can actually get the dot com domain, and it doesn't mean something weird in some different language or something. We just couldn't find anything.

Ashish Rangnekar:         There are a couple of elements that we were excited about. Because it was an iPhone app, things were kind of on-the-go learning, so we wanted express or something mobile to be in the name, but nothing beyond that. Then, one evening, Ujjwal and I were sitting in a bar, for some reason I can't recall we order watermelon martinis. The only thing that we were talking about at that point was names. We came up with some names and just weren't really happy and Ujjwal said, "What about Watermelon Express?" I was like, I'm sure I was down two martinis at that point, so it seemed really good name. At the same moment, we checked if the dot com domain was available. It was, and the rest is history.

Paul Lee:                       Basically, the formation of the company happened while you were inebriated, that's the punchline.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. Worked out well.

Paul Lee:                       You submit the app, it gets approved. Then what happens?

Ashish Rangnekar:         When we submitted the app, we wanted to make sure that it's a good app and rather than going for, hey, this is free, we actually priced it at $10. We said, we want to make a premium product, premium pricing, we'll do it the right way. We launched the app in I think it was December. Then, during the Christmas, New Year's break, Ujjwal and I and a few other friends went snowboarding. We were not even like ... we were like, we'll see what happens in a month or two, maybe we'll get some downloads. We hadn't really thought about an option at that point.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Then, first week of January, we come back from the snowboarding trip and we look at our bank account. There was like $10,000. Both of us were like, "What happened?" Apparently, a thousand people all across the world, and I think we looked at, there were about 15 or 17 countries, had paid $10 each within the first 30 days to download the app. That was our first aha moment where both of us realized that, oh, it's not just this one pet project that both of us are excited about, there are thousands of people out there who want a product like this and deriving value. That's where we actually started to think about this more of a business than just a project.

Paul Lee:                       Give a little bit of context on that. For those of you who aren't familiar with the history of the iPhone, at that time that they launched the app ecosystem, Ashish touched upon it a little bit, but majority of the apps were things like fart noises and location check-ins that were generally 99% free. For these guys to come in and, I don't know if it's naivete or boldness, but to price an app at $9.99 was just unheard of. The fact that they were getting success at that price point is pretty remarkable.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. I would say one of the primary reasons we did that was also the fact that when we thought about this, going out and raising capital was not a consideration. It was like, just basic math that we just invested a few thousands of dollars building this, how are we going to get that back? We're going to charge you this for that. It was just like a basic kind of idea and it actually worked out really well because for the first couple of years after that, we just bootstrapped the company and that was a phenomenal foundation that we built this upon.

Paul Lee:                       When you started the company, you were not thinking about venture or receiving investment. At what point does that enter the equation and you start thinking about it?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. What ended up happening after that December blockbuster month was both of us were excited, so we said, okay, let's keep doing this. Now, I ended up at University of Chicago Booth School of Business to do my MBA, so now I'm a full-time student at Booth and Ujjwal is a full-time PhD student at Penn State and we are running this. In 2010, we entered the New Venture Challenge Business Plan Competition at Booth. Until then, and this like a year into our starting the business, until then, all that we were doing, we weren't really thinking about the scale of this. After going through that three-month program, after meeting a lot of advisors and angel investors and VC funds, we began to realize the scale of how big this can be and the bigger opportunity. That's when we actually started to think ... I mean, the part was, how are we actually going to grow this because there's a big market opportunity and what do we need to be able to do that? Then, raising funds became ... that's when the [inaudible 00:19:29] came in.

Paul Lee:                       Got it. To give a little bit of context, the New Venture Challenge is not like a small, local, business school competition. Some really big companies have actually come out of that. I believe Grubhub, Braintree, a number of companies that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars originated out of that competition. As you're entering that, is that what you were thinking? Is that your aspiration?

Ashish Rangnekar:         To raise capital?

Paul Lee:                       No, just to build a company on that scale or was it like hey, I am trying to figure out what this is?

Ashish Rangnekar:         No. A hundred percent. I think the reason that I was excited about entering that competition was exactly looking up to the companies like Grubhub and Groupon and Braintree and so on and so forth. Ujjwal and I felt that things that we were doing were amazing and it was a great product, but we need to be able to have a much bigger vision and a good framework if we want to really make it big. The program allowed us to answer some of those key questions.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Even things like marketing and customer development, I mean, sometimes entrepreneurs know that they have to do it, but they just get sucked into putting out fires every day and they don't get to it. I'm actually a big fan of a part of these structured programs that we're just going to force you to do some of those things. You'd be surprised, I mean, you kind of get great answers coming out of those.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. Those are the learnings. You entered the competition and then what happens?

Ashish Rangnekar:         We enter the competition and we win. That was phenomenal for two reasons. First was that was just a great validation from people who were in the business that there is a much bigger opportunity ahead of us. Second, it helped Ujjwal and me figure out where the bottlenecks were in our business.

Paul Lee:                       Based on feedback from these judges.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Based on feedback.

Paul Lee:                       Got it.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We won the competition. It's a very big deal. I think it's considered to be if not the best, but definitely one of the best business plans/venture competitions in the country. We got a lot of exposure coming out of it. We were able to meet a lot of really amazing advisors, mentors, angel funds, venture capital funds, and that's when we actually kind of start actively talking to investors to raise capital.

Paul Lee:                       Okay.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It helped us a lot because I think we already ... we made some kind of great connections. We had [inaudible 00:22:12] pitching and that's when we got connected to Lightbank. That's how kind of our series A happened.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. He's glossing over this and it's an unbelievable story, but I'm going to press on you a little bit and ask you to give a little bit more detail. How does that happen?

Ashish Rangnekar:         That's a great story actually. Of course, we had heard about Lightbank and Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. This is 2010 summer, so Groupon was blowing up and not just kind of Groupon, but Eric and Brad had started multiple companies before, and they were the people to know how to work with in Chicago. We knew about Lightbank, but we were trying to figure out who to meet and we were talking to people, going to a lot of conferences, and meeting people and so on, so forth.

Ashish Rangnekar:         One day, I am ... I think this is like some weekday afternoon, I'm sitting in my studio apartment, maybe I was doing some homework or something, and I get a phone call. I pick up the call and you know like sometimes you pick up the phone, but you aren't really paying attention who the next person is or what they're saying. The person on the other end says something and then he goes like, "I've heard a lot about Watermelon Express and it's pretty cool what you guys are doing. I want you to come and pitch us."

Paul Lee:                       Who was it?

Ashish Rangnekar:         At that moment I was like, "Whoa, hold on. I'm sorry, I didn't get your name. Who is this?" He goes, "My name is Eric Lefkofsky. I don't know if you've ever heard of Groupon." I mean, he was very humble on the call and I had [inaudible 00:23:48] and I was like, "Eric, I of course know you and it's great talking to you. I'm sorry I missed your name," and so on, so forth. I was like, "Absolutely, would be delighted and honored to come and meet you. When do you want me to come?"

Paul Lee:                       A little bit of context on this. Most listeners here will know the name Eric Lefkofsky, but at the time ... Today, he's really known for Tempus, which is a phenomenal company, but prior to Tempus, he was really known for Groupon. What most people don't know about, Eric is a legendary investor, actually prior to Groupon had started and taken two companies public. This is not some random schmo that says, "I'm interested." I actually, when I heard this story, I was blown away that he didn't email you, he didn't reach out in any form or fashion. How did he get your phone number?

Ashish Rangnekar:         I think one of his associates had met us or saw a demo at some of the showcases and I might have given him my card. That's how he got in touch, but yeah, it was phenomenal that he didn't ... He just picked up the phone and called me.

Paul Lee:                       Amazing. What is that conversation like? He says, "Come on in and pitch."

Ashish Rangnekar:         Come on in and pitch and I was, of course, super excited. At that time, Ujjwal was at a conference in New York and Eric had asked me to come in the next couple of days or so. I had a chat with Ujjwal and I figured it might take us multiple meetings, maybe like five, six meetings to get to a point. Maybe the first meeting is just like meet and greet or something. I told Ujjwal, "You know what? I'm just going take care of it. For the second meeting, we'll go together." Ujjwal was like, "Fine, sure."

Ashish Rangnekar:         I show up to Lightbank's offices maybe a day or two later and it was just me and Eric. Eric comes in and, I mean, he has a lot of energy around him. He comes in and goes like, "Okay, let's go. Pitch it." I have kind of rehearsed this multiple times, I've pitched my company multiple times, so I start my monologue and go on for 15 minutes. He stops me a couple of times, asks very pointed and great questions and I answer them. Maybe like 20 minutes into this, he goes, "Okay, stop." Then he goes out and brings in maybe three, four of his teammates, so investment associates, if you will. He goes, "Ashish, whatever you told me, repeat it to these guys again."

Ashish Rangnekar:         I do my, again, like 15-minute monologue and these guys are asking questions and stuff. That's like [inaudible 00:26:27] minute and he goes like, "Everyone out." It was just Eric and myself. Then, he goes on to the whiteboard and writes out the term sheet. He goes, "Will you take it?" I was blown away and I had no idea that this is going to happen and I didn't know how to even respond, so I'm sure I stumbled a little bit and said, "I have to talk to my co-founder, Ujjwal, about this, so can I take a couple of days?" Eric was like, "Sure. Two days, call me and we'll take it from there."

Paul Lee:                       You have to appreciate, for those listening in the audience, how unusual that approach is. Venture capital firms, when they make investments, will typically do several meetings, weeks of diligence, and lots and lots of research to get conviction. I think one of Eric's greatest strengths, having worked with him for a number of years, is actually his intuition as a founder. Actually, I think it's jarring to a lot of people when they take that first meeting and he does his famous walk to the whiteboard. I don't know how they do it anymore, but it was extremely effective early on because he was really able to rely on his ability to get that founder empathy of hey, let's not waste time. I have a great feeling about you. You gloss over the pointed questions, but the things that I've seen from him is in those pointed questions, it's not so much the answer what he's looking for, it's the thinking about a founder that he wants to back, how are they thinking about those types of issues, so it doesn't surprise me at all.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. To be candid, I was inclining to just say yes because here we are, we're very passionate about what we were doing and raising capital is like, okay, we've got to do that, so that we can achieve our mission. I'm talking to a serial entrepreneur who has done it multiple times. I mean, who else would I want to be on board? Yeah, I mean, I think it was fascinating to meet him and it's amazing how it unfolded. We ended up taking the investment and one of the best things that we did. I think it took us a few weeks to agree on those things, but even at that pace, it was very, very fast compared to what we actually had heard of or were even prepared to do.

Paul Lee:                       Right. We'll come back to that. You raise the seed, now you have ... The first round was roughly a million dollars?

Ashish Rangnekar:         $1.2 million. Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. You raise a million ... then what? It's the two of you, you now have 1.2 million of cash on your balance sheet. Now what?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Now, there were two goals. One was to start building a team because until then, we were two guys working remotely with a bunch of contractors. Second was, at that point, from a product perspective, we had realized that mobile is important, but it's not sufficient. We, to really make a dent or get to the scale that we wanted to, we had to build an omnichannel platform. Something that would work on desktop, web, tablet, mobile, anytime, anywhere.

Paul Lee:                       At this point, the business was entirely direct to consumer. You were selling to individuals that were buying the app.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It was all direct to consumers, selling to individuals and we were actually coming along well. I think in that year we made roughly around $300,000 in revenue, just two of us, and now we actually have the capital to scale up our B2C business. It wasn't really to reinvent our business model, it was just like let's build a more robust product and start pumping money in marketing.

Paul Lee:                       Got it. 12 months go by, the business is growing at a healthy clip, and it's doing well. Then what happens?

Ashish Rangnekar:         About 12 months go by, the product is good, but we begin to see some of the challenges in the unit economics as we're trying to scale up because now, we wanted to go from $300,000 in revenue, to a million in revenue. We were trying to test out a lot of marketing channels offline, online, and so on, so forth. It was going, but really the unit economics were not working the way we would have wanted them to work. Of course, we were running out of cash, so we had to figure out what direction to take. We were so convinced about the business model and the product that the way we thought about the solution was let's go and raise another round and let's take more capital because in our minds, more capital would actually help us to figure out the marketing challenges that we were facing.

Paul Lee:                       Right. Just on a personal note, after Lightbank shortly made the investment, I actually joined Lightbank to run the venture platform. That's actually when I met Ashish and Ujjwal. I actually remember this time vividly because they had just closed on the capital, it was working at an early stage, and the bulk of our discussion actually throughout that year, I remember were around the marketing challenges and looking at the unit economics and understanding if it was working or not.

Paul Lee:                       We get through that piece; the business is still growing at a healthy clip. Talk about your series A because you went out and talk about the difference in process in raising a series A versus your seed round, what that looked like.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It was, first of all, extremely challenging for us to raise our series A round. I remember that we took multiple trips to west coast and east coast. We will have met at least, if not more, 25 firms and by met-

Paul Lee:                       Per trip. Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         ... I meant actually had hour-long meetings with them. It was night and day. I mean, seed or series A, our Lightbank round was more around here's our vision, here are the founders, we know each other for a long time, we have some early traction. This round was all about metrics. What's the unit economics, how is it scaling, what channels are working, what channels are not working? We had to really get very quickly into the black and white, not just kind of the big picture vision. Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       Number of meetings, and I remember at that time, early on there was a sense of frustration from Ujjwal and Ashish. I recall this vividly. I think the amazing thing through that process is how much they got better. Each meeting, they were actually trading notes, they were updating their deck, so it wasn't, hey, we've got a static pitch and we're just going to tell our story. These guys were really good in terms of iterating on the story, integrating the feedback that they were hearing from investors, and then the entire process took, I want to say about three months.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. Easily. I think it must have taken three, four months of pitching and [inaudible 00:33:43] and so on. Another two or three months to actually close the round. The whole thing was easily six months.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. Talk about that. You end up closing ... was it $8 million?

Ashish Rangnekar:         It was a $6 million round, led by NEA and Revolution ventures participate.

Paul Lee:                       That's right. Okay. Now, you've raised a real [inaudible 00:34:03] of capital. The company has at that point $7 million of cash on the balance sheet, you've demonstrated that you have a handle on the metrics of the business. What happens at that point?

Ashish Rangnekar:         This was a time to go, go, go, so now we have cash and the hypothesis was that now we have cash and will pump it into marketing, scale up revenue, and figure out unit economics, and so on, so forth. It was all cylinders on scaling up marketing. We spent a lot of money on trying out new marketing channels and tested out a bunch of things. I would say that almost 18 months or ... yeah, 18 months into this is when we started to realize that, hey, just pumping in more money is not going to really help us solve our unit economics. In fact, it just amplified the disconnect that trying to scale would actually lead to worse unit economics.

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I think that's where we actually started to have a lot of conversations with the board and Paul, I remember us having a lot of conversations around just the core notion of the B2C model and is that the right model that we should be focused on.

Paul Lee:                       Right. The internal dynamics are we're looking at the business, they're definitely having some challenges. In the meanwhile, it's still continuing to grow, so it's not like the business is flat lining at this point, but it's growing at a healthy clip. If I recall, you were approaching seven figures a month in terms of your top line revenue, but the unit economics were starting to be challenged from a customer acquisition perspective. At about this time, I want you to give a little color on this, something interesting happens. Someone reaches out to you.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. About this time, as we're trying to find all possible ways to grow revenue, one of the things that I've started focusing on is building some scalable BD relationships. I reach out to a bunch of organizations and one specific organization that has enormous scale in this high school and college segment becomes really interested in figuring out a way to partner with us. Those conversations started off as typical BD conversations where they'll help us distribute the courses or the programs at a much larger scale, but interestingly, very quickly turned into a potential acquisition [crosstalk 00:36:36].

Paul Lee:                       How did that happen because I think a lot of questions for founders that are running their business today is like how does that evolve from a commercial relationship into, hey, let's have a discussion about something bigger?

Ashish Rangnekar:         In general, as a side note, I'm actually a big fan of acquisition conversations starting off as a commercial relationship [inaudible 00:36:57] because in our case, that gave us an opportunity to really talk about the value proposition without really getting into the numbers of where our revenue is at and our unit economics and so on. We were able to generate so much excitement within that organization about what this technology would be able to do, not just in the segment that we are in, but internally for them, that very quickly it escalated to almost a C-level conversation. When that happened, they started to look at it with a totally different lens.

Paul Lee:                       You're having meetings, you're having lots of conversations, and then all of a sudden, your point of contact says, hey, I want to pull in who?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Our point of contact was someone who focused on one business unit. We had multiple conversations with them and then, what I started to see was he started to bring in people from other business units, which in our mind actually did not make sense for the BD partnership.

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We thought, actually, the more the better, so why not? We actually did this dog and pony show telling our value proposition to multiple business units and at some point, he comes to us and said, "Hey, the applicability of this goes beyond just my segment and there is a lot of excitement all around, so there is a conversation around potentially just acquiring the company and using it at a much larger scale. Would you be open to that conversation?"

Paul Lee:                       Your answer is what?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Actually, we were not ready for that. I think, I will be candid and say secretly I was like, oh, this is actually very interesting because internally we knew that there were challenges in the unit economics of our business, but we knew that I couldn't just jump on it. I said, "Actually, this is interesting. We are actually not looking for an exit of any sort. We are seeing a lot of growth and there's a lot of excitement. We are thinking long-term, but this is something that ... it's my fiduciary responsibility to go back to the board and talk about it."

Paul Lee:                       That's a nuance answer, but that actually is the perfect answer. The reason I say it's nuanced is on the one hand, you don't want to open up your arms, say I'd love to be acquired because that actually would be a red flag for a potential acquirer. On the other hand, you can't say, Ashish's point about fiduciary duty, you can't say I absolutely don't want to be acquired because then the acquirer feels like they're wasting their time. It's nuanced, but that actually was the perfect answer.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. It worked out well because I think we also ... it was one of those things where we needed to take a step back and look at that as a viable option. I mean, we didn't really a thesis going into this conversation that what would we do if this comes up. I was able to buy some time and say, "Why don't we actually keep pushing on the commercial relationship while I talk to a lot of people internally and see what the level of interest is?"

Paul Lee:                       Right. The conversations develop. What does your board say at that point?

Ashish Rangnekar:         The board was also beginning to see the challenges that we were facing in terms of scaling our B2C business and the board was very supportive. The board said the action was we will do what you guys would want to do, Ujjwal and myself, but let's acknowledge the challenges that we're having. They kind of like, the spoke from their experience, but they let Ujjwal and myself decide. Then, Ujjwal and I had a lot of conversations. For most of them, we were actually not on the same page because this is something that we had really not discussed. We had multiple conversations and then both of realized that this might actually be the best thing for the company to do although the idea of us working for a larger company, for another three, four more years wasn't really that enticing.

Ashish Rangnekar:         The thing that was most ... the reason that why we were the most hesitant was the fact that we were really passionate about getting this company to the scale that we really wanted to. Monetarily, maybe it would have been okay, but it was one of those things where we knew that the vision would be lost.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I think that's why it took us a long time to get to the point where we were like, okay, we have made peace with the decision that we are taking.

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We are open to the conversation.

Paul Lee:                       The number of employees in the company at this point?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Roughly around 22-23 employees at this point.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. I thought it was actually a little bit more than that, but I think you guys actually went and hired a little bit more right before the acquisition.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. At the peak of it, I think we were about 31-32 employees.

Paul Lee:                       Okay.

Ashish Rangnekar:         At that point, yeah.

Paul Lee:                       You have to appreciate the challenge of the situation, which is one thing that we'll talk about a little bit later in this conversation is how passionate these guys are about their employees and the culture and the environment that they provide. You can attest to anyone that is either currently working at BenchPrep or has ever worked at BenchPrep and ask for feedback on what that's like, but it was very obvious from a board member perspective that this is paramount and really important to these guys. They're weighing this. The offer is developing and it's crystallizing. You guys kind of get to final terms. You're negotiating the final details of the thing. Then ...

Ashish Rangnekar:         Then, it just goes away. Yeah. I mean-

Paul Lee:                       Sorry. I need to interrupt. A little bit more context on this. This was a drawn-out negotiation. This was not broad strokes negotiation. This was, numbers were finalized, docs were finalized, the company had spent mid six figures in negotiating legal documents to get this thing done.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yep.

Paul Lee:                       If I recall, it was supposed to close on Tuesday of a very specific week and the deal fell apart Monday, the night before.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. It was within a day of the close date. This is, I mean, yes, Paul, you are absolutely right. I mean, this is not early stages. This is the terms have kind of been agreed on, legal documents are ready, spent like countless hours negotiating on the legal terms.

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Not just the financial terms. We are 24 hours away from this.

Paul Lee:                       Right. To set the backdrop here, like Ashish touched up on this, but this was not like a course we're going to sell. They actually went through a long process between the founders to figure out if an exit at this point made sense. The exit just, we don't necessarily have to get into the numbers. If you want to, you can, but the exit I would characterize was a good return for investors-

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yep.

Paul Lee:                       ... and life-changing money for the founders.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Definitely.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. I remember we were talking about the numbers and I specifically remember telling you, "Hey, this is what you need to think about after the event."

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       The deal falls apart and then what happens?

Ashish Rangnekar:         That just shook us very hard, very hard, because although Ujjwal and me were really not jumping to exit the business, but this was a long-drawn process that took us three, four months and all that we were doing during those months is negotiating and planning for future and we need to think about what our roles and our lives are going to be post the acquisition. We were emotionally, mentally invested in the process and the idea that this won't go through at that point was just not on the table. When that happened, we were shook to the core.

Paul Lee:                       It was not like a let's renegotiate. It was a final, we're not going to be doing this, type email and phone call.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. It was very definitive.

Paul Lee:                       Okay.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah, there was no going back.

Paul Lee:                       How many months of runway did you have at that point?

Ashish Rangnekar:         We had roughly six months of runway, maybe even less. Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       Six months of runway and actually, we weren't counting the legal bill, so once you factor in the legal bill, actually paying-

Ashish Rangnekar:         Maybe like three months then.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       You had like two or three months of runway left. Right? Your head count is in the mid-20s at this point, you just realized that you're not going to have this acquisition happening and you have two, two and a half months of runway. What's going through your mind?

Ashish Rangnekar:         There were a couple of things already clear at that point. One is we can't just do business as usual. One, we just had three months of runway left, two or three months of runway left. There is no way that we could survive out of that and with that notion, it was also very clear that runway aside, what we were trying to do with B2C was just not working. I specifically remember that some of our board members we had multiple conversations about this and Ujjwal and I were just very adamant about not changing our business model whatsoever. This event just challenged all of that. In a way, it kind of humbled us a lot that if this is where we are at, we need to challenge everything that we are doing and rediscover the company, but the most important thing ahead of us was the fact that we need to make some quick decision because now we have three months of cash left and what do we do?

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. For the listeners in the audience, what normally happens in this scenario is typically one of three things. At this point, it would perfectly understandable for the founders to say we tried our best and we're calling it a day, so we're going to fold up shop. Let's go through an orderly wind down and make sure that we pay out all the people we're supposed to pay out and make sure that we help our employees find other jobs. We see that. That's not a great, but understandable outcome.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yep.

Paul Lee:                       The other scenario that you see is the successful, we've been acquired, acqui-hire type press release, which is like fire sale, no one makes any money, but you end up getting tucked in to a larger company. You scramble to do that over the next three months and basically, count it as a win. Then, the founder goes off and says, "Great job. Really appreciate everything," and everyone gives high fives on Twitter. Okay?

Paul Lee:                       The third thing that I have seen happen and actually is understandable as well, and we talked about this, is this notion of going back to the investors and saying, "Here's what's happened. We need to restructure the company. We need to recapitalize. We need to talk about adjusting the economics of the deal." Which of those three did you do?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Actually, neither of those.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. This is actually where the story gets amazing and remarkable and I think really speaks to the character of Ashish and Ujjwal. It's not that they were naïve. They knew of all of these options, and yet they picked the fourth option. Let's talk about that a little bit.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. We decided to give it another go because we were just extremely passionate about the vision that we had. We just realized that we owe it to ourselves to make one last run at it. Shutting down or returning the capital that we had was of course on the table, acqui-hire we were kind of very jaded about the whole acquisition thing, so that was definitely not on the table. We knew of the option of restructuring, but both of us felt that we need to do our job first before we actually are going to go to investors and ask something. We had multiple conversations with the board members, amongst ourselves, and we said we want to give it six, nine more things, make one last push, and see what happens.

Paul Lee:                       How did you do that because normally that discussion actually entails going to the board and saying, "Can we have some more money?" You guys didn't do that.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. We did not do that and I don't think that given that we had just come out of a fallen acquisition that would have even been an option. The option that we had that we considered and definitely one of the most [inaudible 00:50:31] things was to scale down the company and get into a cash preservation mode until we figure out what's the right business model that will get us to the next stage.

Paul Lee:                       If I recall, you went from 25 employees down to five?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. We went from 25 down to five in one single day.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I mean, I remember the date, I remember the time. That was undoubtedly one of the most difficult things that I've done.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. You personally took sever pay cuts, if I recall, in this era and I actually recall thinking this is not wise. Is there some other possibility? You guys were adamant about it at that point.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. I mean, it was ... I think first and foremost, it was extremely painful for us to make the decision that we are letting people go who are really good at what they do, were passionate about it, were working hard, had no direct impact on how things went down. This was not performance-driven cuts, it was just like the decision that Ujjwal and I had made around business models were really not working out. That was really painful and us taking pay cuts to push our runway was, I would almost say, the easier thing to do than figuring out how to let go people.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah.

Ashish Rangnekar:         When we decided that we had to make that cut, I think the first thing that came to our minds was what can we do to make sure that these 17 people land on their feet.

Paul Lee:                       Remember this.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We spent a lot of time and Paul, we had talked about it. You had a great recommendation, which we followed and we literally made a spreadsheet of all of these people, their skillsets. On the other hand, we tapped into the network we had, a bunch of other startups that were growing fast. I mean, I remember Braintree and Sprout Social, Grubhub and so on where we were able to talk to either the founder, CEOs, or the hiring managers. We explained them the situation that here is what we are going to do in the next week or so and I would love to make some introductions. Would you be open to it? It was great to see that all of these founders or the community came along and said, "Definitely. We would love to talk to these folks."

Ashish Rangnekar:         Before we even talked to the employees, we had figured this out that for each and every one of those, we would actually make three to five introductions and that's going to be part of the conversation.

Paul Lee:                       You have to think about this. Take a step back. If you were in their shoes and you just realized that you lost the opportunity in that short time period to become a millionaire, multi-millionaire, and you had to go through the gut-wrenching action of laying off all these people, it could have very easily been, I'm going to take a couple days off. You guys didn't do that. I think it really speaks volumes to the character of the founders that in the midst of all of this, they took the time to actually prioritize the landing spots for the 20 employees that were affected.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I don't even think that taking a day off crossed our minds at all. I think the only thing that we could actually think of, we spent a couple of days talking, only and only about figuring how to help these 20 odd people who had invested in our vision. Yeah, the day was difficult. What we ended up doing was ... and it almost feels weird because it was ... we're retaining five employees and letting go 14, so I had to first talk to those five employees and Ujjwal and I sat them down and explained the whole situation. All this while we had a very transparent culture, so how the company was doing and the acquisition conversations, none of that came as a surprise to anyone. They were kind of plugged in, but of course, they had no idea about the gravity of the situation.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Those five employees, we explained it to them that this is how we're going to do things, and, I mean, I can't thank them enough that they understood and they stuck with us and they still believed us and they supported us. That gave us a little bit more confidence to go and have the conversation with the remaining 15 people. I remember that, this was end of the day and Ujjwal and I call all of them in a conference room and took half an hour and explained the entire situation end to end. When I talked about the options we had and why we did what we did, we didn't want it to be, "Hey, here's the verdict and take it or leave it." We wanted them to ... I don't know if they would understand, but I at least wanted them to know how things unfolded.

Paul Lee:                       Amazing. Amazing. On to more, or less depressing things. You're at five and then walk me through. You go through this difficult exercise, you come back into the office and there's five of you.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It's five and then two of us, a total of seven.

Paul Lee:                       Seven.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. I mean, I'm just again, I mean, I'm repeating myself here, but I'm thankful to the five who believed in our vision and I think, in a way, it's kind of this whole thing was extremely depressing and painful, but on the other side, I would also call out that I'm very proud to say that those five team members are still with us.

Paul Lee:                       Amazing.

Ashish Rangnekar:         This happened like July 2014, so we are almost four and a half years into it. Those five team members are with us, integral part of our success, but even the people that we actually couldn't bring on, those 15 still friends, we hang out here and there. Of course, they are out doing bigger and better things somewhere else.

Paul Lee:                       You've rehired a handful of those people back, have you not?

Ashish Rangnekar:         We rehired a couple of them.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah, as you grew.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes, yes.

Paul Lee:                       Not to gloss over that, so there's seven of you. You've decided to pivot.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. The big decision that we took was we couldn't keep doing what we were doing and B2C really wasn't working. We need to pivot the model to B2B. Actually, those conversations had already started before the acquisition and actually Paul, I remember me and you and Ujjwal white boarding the whole stuff. Right?

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It's one of those things where entrepreneurs need to be stubborn and irrational a little bit, and we were the same, and we didn't listen. This entire episode enforced the fact that we need to challenge everything, including the business model, and we decided to kind of start testing out the B2B model. It's a hard pivot. It's a very hard pivot. I mean, the people is one thing, but it's not just pricing changes or product features. It's like going from complete B2C to B2B and in our minds, we were like, let's flip the switch and let's go on, but I remembered that our board helped us a lot making sure that we do it step-by-step.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We still had to B2C revenue coming in, so we decided not to turn that off because that was still paying the bills and making sure that we have enough runway left, but Ujjwal and I decided to singularly focus on getting the B2B model started. The way we thought about it was we thought about it in six-month increments. We said what do we need to do in the next six months? Let's be razor focused on exactly what we need to do. We said we need to get one B2B customer, so let's now try to figure out what's the B2B market size or how do we kind of, you know, what's the segment and how many customers can we sign in the next five years? Let's get one and we did.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We were able to get the first customer in three months or so and then we got the second customer in about sixth or seventh month. I remember it was like March or April of 2015. That was a substantial customer. The second customer almost paid us half a million upfront and that just changed the-

Paul Lee:                       I remember that.

Ashish Rangnekar:         [crosstalk 00:59:38]. Yeah.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. Just a side note from a venture capitalist perspective, people always talk about makeup of a team, so when you evaluate opportunities and someone says, "We're building a B2C business versus a B2B business," the stack of the management and the co-founders and the skills that are required are very different.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yep.

Paul Lee:                       The fact that you guys could go from B2C doing almost mid eight figures in revenue to then transition into a very different company and start growing that, actually is unbelievably rare. That doesn't normally happen.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. The good news is we didn't know that doesn't normally happen, so we were like, okay, we're going to do it. There's no other option and it rolled out well, but it was such an amazing learning experience for all of us. I mean, not just me or Ujjwal, but the seven employees because it's suddenly we're changing the business model, suddenly someone who was doing customer success and consumer marketing is managing B2B customer success. Suddenly, we [inaudible 01:00:48], you know, our product team running the [inaudible 01:00:51] the marketing conversions we're talking about, kind of building enterprise grade features. It was like night and day, but we pulled it out.

Paul Lee:                       Tell me about your first hire. You closed the half-million-dollar contract, upfront contract, and then I'm imagining you're starting to think like hey, this is working. Talk a little bit about that.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah. What ended up happening in that situation was of course we were short staffed and we're signing B2B customers. B2B customers are very demanding. Of course, if they're paying ... I mean, this is like a multi-million-dollar contract, so what ended up happening was we were signing deals, saying that here's a bunch of things that we will actually do during implementation, but we actually don't have the right people to do it or we don't have enough people to do it.

Paul Lee:                       That's the hustle. You're basically selling and assuming you'll figure out a way to fulfill it.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Exactly.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah.

Ashish Rangnekar:         It was at such a contrast to what we were doing when we had just raised $6 million that in that time, we were actually hiring for future. It's like we might need someone who can do this and let's hire that. The notion of hire smart people and they'll figure out what to do. I mean, that's great for a company like GE, but for us, we needed to know that if you're hiring someone, this is exactly what they're going to do and here's the value that we're going to get.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We were in a mode where we were actually hiring for someone who we should have hired six months ago, not like two years from now. That was a great learning experience because we continued with that model for the next two, three years.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. Fast forward, business today, broad strokes, how's the business going?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Since 2015, every year we have doubled our revenue and doubled our employee count. Not just the quantified metrics around revenue and so on, but we have done that in a very cash efficient way.

Paul Lee:                       Super cash efficient.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Until this year, a few months ago, actually November last year, we did not raise capital, we did not go for any kind of debt. We were-

Paul Lee:                       They had no outside financing and they financed three years of a hundred percent growth.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes.

Paul Lee:                       Every year.

Ashish Rangnekar:         We went from five people, or seven employees, to almost like 57 until we raised more capital.

Paul Lee:                       Okay. They've been profitable, so cash efficient, running a very lean, yet really well-run business over the last three years.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. Yes. I think the other thing that I'm very proud of is the fact that all this while we were able to also sign marquee customers. This is not like let's just preserve what we have and we'll kind of just hustle with the two customers, but we were able to sign some of the biggest names in the industry. Best in class organizations, like ACT that sells almost two million learners. Then, American Association of Medical Colleges, that has the MCAT exam, Becker Professional, McGraw Hill, Comtea, Richardson, and the list goes on and on.

Paul Lee:                       Amazing. You lightly touched upon and I like how you casually said it, but you just recently closed a substantial round of funding.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yes. We, in November last year, we closed a $20 million round of series C funding.

Paul Lee:                       In an up round, a meaningful up round.

Ashish Rangnekar:         In a meaningful up round.

Paul Lee:                       Which, for the audience, you have to appreciate how unbelievably rare that is because the company had eight million of preferences, so if you're Ashish and Ujjwal, and you're basically restarting the business and doing a complete pivot and laying off 80% to 90% of your staff, the fact is, they had to overcome $8 million of preferences before they could see a dime. They never adjusted it. Like, I'd still give them a little bit of grief about it, but they put their head down and worked their way well past it. I don't know, I mean, just as an investor, one, in the company, but frankly, outside of the company, it's a huge testament to the founders. I relay this story to everyone I meet because it just blows me away when I think about it.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Yeah, I mean, Ujjwal and I felt like this is a long game. I mean, we were not trying to do this, so that we can just meet the preferences. We always were aiming for an outcome, which was order of magnitude better and that was our happy scenario that we were trying to solve for. I could see that. I mean, I also felt that during these times our investors were extremely supportive. They could have pushed us in a direction, maybe they won't force us, but they could have pushed us in a direction where let's fold, let's kind of, you know, [inaudible 01:06:02] the capital. They did not. I mean, they let us do what we wanted to do and gave us a fair chance. We felt like we really appreciated those relationships and now we're at the point where I think we are looking at a completely different outcome, order of magnitude better than what the acquisition valuation would have been.

Paul Lee:                       Right.

Ashish Rangnekar:         I think collectively, everyone would end up at a better place.

Paul Lee:                       How do you think about the next 10 years for BenchPrep?

Ashish Rangnekar:         Oh, amazing. I feel like, I mean, although we have been doing this for the last eight, nine years now, but I feel that we are in the second inning of a nine-inning game. I feel we are still very early in the evolution of what BenchPrep can become and how it can disrupt the professional learning space. Last four years have been great, but this is still kind of the beginning. The way I look at this is the general professional learning space is dramatically changing and we are in a leadership position where we can actually drive that change. With the new investors and the board that we have and the growing team, I feel we have a very well placed to actually drive that change.

Paul Lee:                       Yeah. We didn't really touch upon this too much, but as I said earlier, for anyone listening, if you're in market, I literally can't think of a higher performing, more ethical, amazing culture, best place to work, than BenchPrep. I know that they're actively expanding the team, so if anyone is looking, I can't think of a better company to recommend.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Thank you. One of my big mandates is to build a world-class organization and it starts with people. Ujjwal and I have spent a lot of time building a culture where people come in and take a lot of pride in what they do, take a lot of ownership, and [crosstalk 01:08:04].

Paul Lee:                       It's so obvious, by the way, when you walk through their amazing office in the Sears Tower. As an investor, I actually, I told these guys, I'm generally not a huge fan of really nice offices, but knowing what these guys went through, knowing what the core team went through, frankly I think they've done an amazing job, and it's so integral in terms of their recruitment and building a world-class team. I just think it's amazing.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Thank you and just to echo that sentiment, we need a lot of great people to help us get to our vision, so we're hiring for roles across sales and marketing and product and customer success and engineering. Please reach out to us and help us change the world.

Paul Lee:                       Amazing. That's it. We'll turn it over now to Colin to finish up, but thanks again for making it out today. As always, always a pleasure spending time with you and I'm really, really excited about the future of BenchPrep.

Ashish Rangnekar:         Thanks, Paul, you've been an integral part of the story, so it's great to share these learnings with you.

Paul Lee:                       Awesome. Thank you.

 

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