A small but mighty team that produces an out-of-this-world service. That's ORION in a nutshell.
Based out of our Santa Monica offices, ORION helps grad school hopefuls seeking to ace the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) by providing personalized test prep that guarantees score improvement. We'll let the testimonials speak for themselves. We sat down with Director of User Experience Marc Feder to learn more about what goes into providing elite GMAT prep.
Q. In one sentence, describe what your company does.
A. ORION is a self-paced, computer-adaptive GMAT prep course that customizes a study mission for each student, adapting to their needs with every practice test they take.
Q. What is the problem you're solving?
A. There are two problems we’re addressing with ORION: one-size-fits-all curricula and the cost of quality content. Elite education isn't cheap, even in the online world. You can record videos or stick a camera in an MIT classroom and let people watch, but they suffer from a lack of accountability, interaction, and retention.
We're working to change that by empowering great instructors with A.I. to create customized study missions for every student, combined with motivational psychology and game mechanics to emphasize accountability metrics.
Q. What brought your company to Los Angeles, and what do you like about the startup ecosystem here?
A. As a spinoff from Veritas Prep (formerly headquartered in Malibu), we’ve been fortunate to call LA home since day one. We love this city as a whole, especially the community at and around Cross Campus Santa Monica. The energy and enthusiasm from all the other startups around here is palpable. Everyone is willing to help each other out, which is great.
Q. Cross Campus's motto is #worklifebalanced. How does your team stay #worklifebalanced?
A. As anyone who works at a startup can attest to, it’s impossible to "turn off" at 5 or 6 pm everyday. Whether it’s at the gym, in the shower, or somewhere in between, we can’t help but think of ORION at all hours of the day. That’s just the name of the game. But it’s important to balance out the hustle. We love the #worklifebalanced motto at Cross Campus and try to live by it with our weekly Free Lunch Wednesdays and Work From Home Fridays. We also love taking advantage of the Cross Campus perks, like the meditation room and regular social hours.
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A. It may sound cliche, but since we’re in a service industry, the answer is hands down when we receive a review from one of our students exclaiming that we literally changed their life. For example, one of our students recently exceeded his target GMAT score, and was subsequently accepted to his dream business school (INSEAD) and awarded tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money. We got to help make that happen!
Q. Talk about a time you or your team failed at a goal you needed to achieve.
A. The first response that comes to mind is hitting deadlines. As a small tech startup, we often find ourselves behind schedule on our product roadmap because, well, nothing ever goes according to plan when you’re working with software. It can be tempting to rush a new feature to market, whether it be from sheer excitement to share what we’re building or because of business objectives we set for ourselves. But we’ve learned through these small failures that, despite the desire to go live with a new feature ASAP, it’s worth taking the time to perform proper quality assurance testing. After all, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Q. How do you and your team define success?
A. We define success by asking ourselves, "does this help our students?" It may sound overly simple or obvious, but it’s easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of ideas that, despite all having their own merits, may not serve the core purpose of adding value for the end user. While we are confident that ORION in its current form is an outstanding product, we like to stay humble and acknowledge that there are always to improve our user experience and the results they see after using our product. Using their success to define our own is paramount to how we operate.
Q. If your company was a Marvel superhero, who would it be and why?
A. At ORION, we strive to be like Professor X. We know that we can’t be with students when they face their biggest testing challenges, but we can and do give students the tools they need to address their weaknesses and to identify their academic superpowers so they can do their best come test day.
Q. Who do you respect the most, and why?
A. We’ve actually asked ourselves this question in a slightly different form, and that’s "if ORION were a person, who would we be and why?" One answer we really like is Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He’s incredibly smart but not stuffy or pretentious about it. He’s approachable, enthusiastic, and really enjoys teaching and explaining what he knows. Being in EdTech, he seems to perfectly embody the qualities we strive to emulate as a company. Plus, his passion for the cosmos fits perfectly with ORION’s intergalactic theme.
Q. Where do you see your organization in 10 years?
A. Ten years is a long time, so I’ll first say that we will be where our users tell us they want to go. GMAT prep is just the beginning for ORION. In the not-too-distant future, we would like to be a household name amongst middle and high school families, considered the de facto "autonomous" study companion for students looking to get an edge in the most competitive academic subjects and standardized tests.
Learn more about ORION here.
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