Even at a young age, Ulupreneur Parsa Rezvani understood that education, like learning languages, opens doors. His parents left Iran separately during the revolution in pursuit of educational and work opportunities in the US. They met at Virginia Tech and proceeded to tutor their peers in math and science. Born in Tennessee, Parsa grew up in the Bay Area. As a youngster, he realized that following in his parents’ footsteps and becoming a tutor would earn him triple the money that he could make at a fast food restaurant which was the go-to part time job for teenagers like Parsa. And besides, he knew he’d be helping the educational progress of other kids.
After graduating from UCLA with a degree in economics and entrepreneurship, he met his now co-founder Alejandro Mendoza. In 2018 they joined forces as co-founders to start Tutorfly, a peer tutoring education program, and built a platform serving thousands of families with student tutors. Then the pandemic hit and they let schools and nonprofit organizations use the software for free, but these beneficiaries were only interested in the platform and not in leveraging their pool of tutors. So they created GoSchoolBox, a tutoring management platform. They tried to run both companies simultaneously but realized it was unworkable and sold Tutorfly in 2021 to Kip McGrath Education Centres (ASX: KME). GoSchoolBox has a menu of plug-and-play features for school districts or tutoring companies.
We caught up with Parsa as the company passed the milestone of supporting more than a half million students.
How did you get your first customers?
We worked our networks and complemented that with cold outreach, so it’s not just people you know, it’s not just friends of friends, it’s not even third-degree connections. You reach out cold to a group that you somehow find a connection with.
“ I think that always finding a way to connect to a human being, whether that’s your ethnicity or struggles you’ve gone through or similarities in the past—commonalities in terms of struggles can often allow you to connect with that person.”
Getting the early customers for any business can still be done with cold outreach, as long as you can find a personal connection.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Right now it’s the healthy tension of trying to keep up between sales and product and engineering. We pride ourselves on having great cross-departmental relationships with shared accountability, but then product engineering will build something that’s really powerful and the onus is on sales to really push that through, so it’s a big challenge. Another one is prioritizing, especially as we have a little bit of traction now—so, do we launch in the UK and do we launch another offering? Or do we just focus on tutoring management systems and accountability dashboards? Staying focused is always a challenge.
Any fundraising tips for other early-stage founders?
Reaching out to groups that I have spoken with before just to make sure to track all those conversations is always useful.
“We also use our diversity as a competitive advantage, even when it comes to the fundraising process.”
For example, I’m an Iranian American and Alejandro is Mexican American, so we’ll identify folks that we can immediately connect with because of our ethnicities. I love to play volleyball and soccer; he loves running and roller coasters, and we often find little quirky things that we can leverage to connect with folks. Then, we can target those communities that are very welcoming to people within their community, but might have doors that are pretty difficult to penetrate in terms of who they would refer to as outsiders. This works for hiring people as well, especially when you are fully remote.
What are your dreams for GoSchoolBox?
We want to be the educational infrastructure for all learning communities. That’s how we see ourselves for school districts and tutoring companies. We want school districts, governments, and tutoring companies to just continue to pile on these GoSchoolBox modules to allow for scale. Those groups can then focus on educating their kids or their learners, and all the challenges that they have, and leave the technology to us.