Disruptors have a certain way of seeing change before change actually takes place. J.Y. Ping is one of those individuals. During the last three years he has been working tirelessly to build 7sage.com, an online LSAT prep company that is offering shorter, more engaging courses at a fraction of the cost. JY’s goal: to disrupt legal education.
Three years in, he’s doing a heck of a job accomplishing this goal. I caught up with him last week to discuss the genesis of 7sage, the biggest professional mistake he has made and his advice for aspiring disruptors, among other topics.
Below is a record of our conversation. I hope you enjoy.
What was the moment when you realized that a resource such as 7Sage.com was necessary for students who were studying for the LSAT? Did you realize at the time that you were disrupting the tutoring industry?
There wasn’t a moment per se that I realized 7sage.com was necessary. Instead, that fact materialized over the course of building the company. I had a sense, from my own tutoring days and teaching live classes, that there had to be a better way. Students pay tutors one to two hundred dollars an hour to explain concepts, like the same core concepts. (Or thousands for live classes.) Obviously, these are important concepts and these are new concepts to each student and these concepts will improve their score, but come on. There’s a more affordable and better way to communicate. It’s called the Internet.
Just to highlight one major improvement: our lessons range from 2-15 minutes each, about the length of a person’s attention span. You can rewatch anything that you didn’t understand. In a live classroom setting, the sessions are 4 ungodly hours of sit there in that uncomfortable chair, don’t talk, listen to this person standing in front of you ramble on and on. Oh what’s that you didn’t catch that last bit about bi-conditionals? Would you like to raise your hand and explain to the class that you’re just a little bit slower than everyone else and would like to use up everyone else’s time to have the instructor repeat herself?
What was the biggest mistake you made as you have built and scaled 7Sage since 2011?
Wow, we’ve made so many mistakes. I guess the one that takes the cake is having our YouTube channel shut down (thank you DMCA) in 2011. We had just started to see the amazing “hockey stick” growth curve in viewership and bloopity bloop, the channel was gone. The only “good” thing that came out of it was the outpouring of anguish from our viewers. I got so many frantic, scared, angry and empathetic emails. I vividly remember one viewer said that she had one last video open in a tab, already buffered and she didn’t want to restart her computer because the video would be gone forever. That was when I was like “Alright, f***ing fix this.” We essentially had to start over.
How have students received 7Sage? How has 7Sage grown and evolved during the last 3 years?
- Oh wow, we are grateful every day for how much our students love us. On our review page, we have a unbroken chain of 96 5-star reviews. 96! Now, we have a total of 108/109 5-star reviews. (The other one was a 4-star review.)
- Students have resorted to all sorts of metaphors and hyperbole to describe what it’s like to have found 7Sage: “Feel like I’m One with the Matrix” | “The LSAT dragon slayer” | “7Sage is God’s gift to LSAT takers!” | “display a mastery of the art of teaching” | “without a doubt the future of LSAT = 7sage” | “My only regret is not finding 7Sage sooner”
- I love this one because it’s irreverent and it’s a pun: “I don’t use drugs, so it’s really not a fair statement to say 7Sage is like crack or crystal meth, but god damn, this shit will make you score high.”
- You can see this all here: http://7sage.com/lsat-course-reviews/
How has 7Sage evolved during the last 3 years? Have you pivoted the product? Has 7Sage grown into a business unlike what you hatched three years ago?
It’s far exceeded my expectations and grown faster than we ever thought it would. But I’m not going to show you what “version 1” looked like cause it’s embarrassing.
Has the tutoring industry pushed back on you as you have grown and taken more and more of their share?
The LSAT is a highly price inelastic good. That means the market is not sensitive to price changes. So even though we’re offering a way better product at a teeny tiny fraction the cost of private tutors and traditional in-person classes, people still want to pay for someone to be their drill sergeant. Okay. But if you couldn’t afford that, we got you covered. And for those of you that can, we still got you covered, because we’re so affordable and accessible. Sooner or later, you’ll realize that our lessons are just better and you could have spent those thousands of tutoring or in-person class dollars on a boat.
Be patient. If you want to do something big, you have to start with something small and incrementally work your way there. This could take decades. Resist the temptation to buy into the traditional Silicon valley start-up narrative of overnight riches.
What’s next for 7Sage and for JY Ping?
Disrupt legal education.