We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Larriva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It occurred to me that test-prep and tutoring was this massive billion-dollar industry that was plagued by informational asymmetry. Parents and students have no idea what to ask for or expect of their tutors in terms of results. The tutoring companies benefit disproportionately from this relationship, turning the whole exercise into a gamble. As a result, people were hiring tutors like they hire plumbers, they would ask: Are you reasonably priced?; Are you available near me? When they should be hiring them like they hire doctors and lawyers: Are you well-educated, experienced, and do you specialize in my needs?
I believed there was a niche for the latter, and Powerful Prep was born with the goal of producing the nation’s best academic point-gains and publishing them for transparency. We achieved this through our feature product: one-on-one test-prep from Ivy League graduates. All of our teachers have 99.9% scores on their tests, are graduates of one of the nation’s top 20 schools, and have prior teaching experience before coming to work with us. We release all of our students’ results on our site so parents can know what’s reasonable to expect.
In a space that’s otherwise dominated by one-size-fits-all conveyer belt style programs, our clients have come to see us as partners in the process. We guide families in addressing all areas of prep, from test selection to timing to test-anxiety solutions, and of course, tutoring.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
This is the most challenging time the test-prep industry has ever faced. There is societal pressure to eliminate the tests for their socioeconomic bias; there is a university trend toward testing-optional and there is the COVID19 crisis which has closed most testing centers.
What test-prep looks like on the other side of this is a mystery. Whether or not tests remain as an admission prerequisite is totally inconsequential. If all universities said that tests were optional tomorrow, then the SAT and ACT would become the most common ‘extracurricular activity.’ This is because universities cannot use grades alone for admission criteria due to inflation, the disparity of coursework offered and international student curricula. If, on the more extreme side, schools became test-blind tomorrow, then students would lean into some other form of test-based credentialing–think Mensa admission or National Merit Scholarships. here would be test-prep firms standing by to assist. So, the interesting part of the current shift is figuring out how to be helpful to students and families during this transition and beyond, as we map a new testing landscape.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First, we’d go to the In-N-Out by LAX before heading to the ACE for a concert in their theater–one of the best in the city. I saw Billy Corgan do an unplugged set there, and it was devastatingly good. We’d follow this up with a night-cap on their rooftop. Saturday, we’d head to the baby Getty in Malibu, then end up somewhere celestial for dinner, like Dialogue, before bottle service at The Bungalow. Sunday we would obviously go to the farmer’s market because Reese Witherspoon might be there and she has a new French bulldog puppy, which would make my day. After that, we would move on and take in one of the odder museums in LA–Ice Cream, Motion Picture or Automotive. Then we would hop on the Surfliner and get to Santa Barbara in time to watch the sunset at The Four Seasons Biltmore, sipping that amazing whiskey-honey-lavender-strawberry cocktail they make with ingredients from their garden. That would be a good weekend.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents let me use a spare room in their house as my office, where I worked and housed the giant printer that I needed to print hundred-page tests all the time. In addition to being massively supportive in a thousand other ways, their generosity in the early stages of the business was so gracious.