Testive Press Release: Testive Raises 500k

TechStars alum has helped over 10K+ students on their test preparation journey.

Testive (http://www.testive.com), a 2012 TechStars Boston alumnus, announced a $500K seed round lead by prominent Boston angels. Testive builds educational testing and test prep software. Testive’s TurboTest™ platform was developed at MIT and can accurately predict students’ scores on the SAT® and other tests 3x faster than traditional practice tests.

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@Testive in OnStartups: How To Help Startup Ecosystems: Be An EarlyAdopter

I just finished reading Brad Feld’s new book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in your City. In it, Brad states that sustainable entrepreneurial communities must have:

  • Active entrepreneurs who will be the leaders to drive the community forward,
  • A long-term view and commitment to build the community,
  • A continual set of activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack, and
  • An inherent view of inclusiveness that ensures that anyone is welcome to participate — not just …

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Full Story: OnStartups – How To Help Startup Ecosystems_ Be An Early Adopter

I am thankful for my team…

The Testive Team:
Tom, Facundo, Lee, JP, Arjun, David, Miro

Happy Thanksgiving. I want to begin by thanking Miro for the idea to create this wonderful tradition. That is, committing to writing the things we are thankful for in our team. I understand that it actually comes from Don McLagan, our current board observer. Great idea.

Let’s see, other than food, sex, and booze. I’m also thankful for…

Our latest addition to the team, David, is fun and whimsical. In fact, David actually increases the whimsicality of Lee, and together they have become a two-headed, singing duo. David, I’m thankful that you have the guts to sing acapella on Skype.

David’s roommate, Lee, was actually the first person we ever hired for realz. Lee, thankyou for taking a chance on us. I hope you find it’s paying off. We often talk about how lucky we were to find you and we wonder what it will take to “find another lee”. You have a passion for learning and you’re always so receptive to coaching. It’s a really important quality.

Arjun is a bowl of firey hot passion. His title changes weekly, but he has a license to compel. (Compel people to visit SAT Habit, that is.) For those who don’t know, Arjun got his job at Testive by writing a cold email! The email has become legend. I’m thankful that you have the magic touch on ad copy Arjun, and that you have chosen to use your powers for good.

Facundo is a spicey Argentinian. (I suspect that he doesn’t like it when I say that.) My wife is jealous that I have a man crush on him. Thanks to facundo, I have a finer taste for Aesthetics, I dress differently, eat differently, use different tools, go to the gym more, and understand more code. It’s been a wonderful relationship so far. Facundo, I’m thankful that you have really made Testive your own.

Miro, is the closest thing that I have to a business marriage. We went through business school together, tech-stars together, and made The MBA Show together. He’s an emotional rock. Other than my wife, he’s the only person in the world who can explain why I’m acting a certain why when I don’t even understand it myself. Miro invested in TheRealTomRose before Testive even existed, and if he were the only thing I got from my time at MIT, it would still have been worth it. Miro, thank you for being an excel god. Thank you for understanding people the way you do. Thank you for keeping me going when I need a pick-me-up.

Thank you all. Truly yours,
-Tommy

(p.s. I have purposefully waited to read Miro’s note until after writing this one so that I could be pre-forgiven for some of the duplicate thankfulness that I’m sure will come up. We have a great team going here. I love coming to work and the more people are there, the more enjoyable it becomes.)

What _is_ a nor’easter?

what is a noreaster
Many people associate the concept of a nor’easter with loads and loads of snow being dropped on the north easter part of the United States.  In fact, you typically only hear people complaining about nor’easters in the north eastern part of the United States.

The term nor’easter is actually referring to the wind direction of that a storm approaches with.  In the case of a nor’easter, that would be from the north east.  Wind directions are strangely named for where they come from, rather than where they blow to.

The nor’easter has a bit of legend to it because it typically brings serious inclement weather with including loads of precipitation.  This is not surprising if you consider what is to the north east: the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  Storms that form over the water tend to contain more moisture due to their proximity to the water.  This moisture is dumped, in the form of rain or snow during the storm thus creating the stuff legends are made of.

The typical weather in Boston (and most US north east) comes from the west.  Due to the prevailing winds of the region.

For more on how nor’easters form consult How Stuff Works.  For more on Prevailing winds, consult the Massachusetts State Secretary

Photography courtesy of: brianbeirne

Shop Safe: How to Easily Cancel Online Accounts #lifehack

shopsafe

Why is it so hard to cancel accounts online? That’s easy, the companies don’t want you to shut them down, so there is never going to be a “cancel my account” button when you need one. Instead you find yourself jumping through hoops trying to figure out how to get out of this damned agreement.

Well, I have an answer. You can use the provider’s own ‘update billing information’ option to provide CC information that doesn’t work. The only challenge: Most software won’t accept invalid CC information. Instead you need a credit card that appears valid, but can never be charged. Such a thing IS possible using Bank of America’s online service “Shop Safe”.

Here is how it works:
(1) Create a “Shop Safe” credit card number at Bank of America
(2) “Update” your billing information with the provider you want to cancel.
(3) Shut down the Shop Safe credit card

Like God, I Have Created Man

Kaya Rose in Chair
The big news in this quarter is the birth of my first child: Kaya Rose.  It’s been about two months since her birth and I am starting to love her dearly already.  As of today, she has developed a single redeeming quality: she smiles.  It sounds like a small offering, but warning, this is not just any smile.  It is the smile of innocence.  She has no personal agenda.  Her smile is big and pure.  Getting one is like being hit with a love laser!

I have also learned a valuable lesson that I am ashamed to admit I didn’t understand already. The amount of love in the world is not finite. Actually, I should say, the amount of love in MY world is not finite.  Let’s assume that I am primarily concerned with the love that is available to me. You might expect that I would be worried that the addition of a family member would mean that the allotment of love that I get from my wife would now be split between me and the new member. Well it is. And that might seem like a loss, and it is worrisome.  But there is another quantity that I didn’t consider. The new family member is also capable of generating love. So now instead of one source of love, I have two!  My love allotment hasn’t diminished, it has been redistributed.  Now I have a love portfolio.  For those of you with economics training, you’ll understand that like many things, love is subject to diminishing marginal returns.  All this is to say two loves are better than one.

So maybe it is that I have actually learned what a family really is.  It’s a love portfolio.  When I think of it that way, it makes me want to have another child.

(Bonus points to the first one who figures out who I am quoting in the title.)

Build for Everyone and Delight No One


What is the optimal flavor of ice cream?  Well, it depends.  What are you trying to achieve?

If you are buying ice cream for a big birthday party, people typically buy vanilla.  Why?  Simple, they know that everyone can tolerate vanilla.  Only a small minority of people would list it as their favorite flavor, but more people have no problem with it.

Vanilla is what you get if you try to design a product for every possible user in your market.

What does it take to really knock the socks off of an ice cream eater?  You need to make their favorite flavor.  And what is that flavor?  You can’t possibly know without working to understand who they are and what delights them.  Then you must work to make something perfect for that particular person.

Do they like crunchy or smooth?  Do they want chunks of things mixed in, or would they want the mixture to be uniform?  What flavors do they like, and what flavors to they hate?  Do they want low-cal-low-fat-low-taste, or do they want the full-fat-full-taste experience?

My wife’s favorite flavor of ice cream can only be bought from from Ben and Jerry’s and is called Maple and Brown Sugar.  It’s a rare flavor that you can’t find just anywhere.  But that’s what it takes to really knock her socks off.

This analogy extends to many types of product development.  It is critical to pick a set of customers with common characteristics, so that you can make something that truly delights them.

Real User Love

Here is a real, unsolicited comment from one of the users of a product I’m working on called SAT Habit:

“It rocks. Can I just say that again? It rocks. So much. It’s saving my life. I love you. Thank you so much. It’s amazing. If you can think of any other, higher compliments, feel free to add them on. Biggest. fan. ever.”

Does that sound like someone who is eating vanilla ice cream?  I don’t think so.  Do you want customers to say things like this about your product?  Well, make sure you pick a good target.

But what about the rest of the market?

Aren’t we losing sales by excluding the rest of the customers in this market?  For the time being, yes, you will be.  But consider the alternative.  The alternative is not capturing great sales in ANY part of the market.  You can always expand your product offering later to capture more of the market, but if you make something mediocre, you might never get off the ground, and that’s a tragedy.

Start with Maple Brown Sugar, then you can make Rocky Road, then Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  One day, when you are built a mountain of success, you’ll be happy you started with something that really rocks.