Tony Leonard’s new business, on track to make $1.5 million in revenue in 2016, started when his daughter was failing nursing school; fear of her not passing the NCLEX exam—and never leaving home—began to haunt him. A programmer by trade, Leonard and his educator wife developed a simple flashcard application to help her study for the test, which she passed on her first attempt. Now transformed into an “intelligent exam prep platform,” Jeffersonville-based NurseVersity says it’s helped more than 10,000 students pass their boards.
“When our daughter passed with her first attempt, one of the universities called us and said, ‘Hey, can we use your application?’ I said, ‘You don’t want to use that; it’s not pretty,’ and it wasn’t super feature-rich and functional at that point,” says Leonard, VersityEdu founder and chief executive officer. “That’s when I realized, hey, I think maybe we have a business here.”
Leonard describes NurseVersity as online, interactive exam prep software that’s customized to each individual user. The company says students who commit 10 hours per week for six weeks and follow the program’s personalized recommendations have a 100 percent passage rate.
After paying a subscription fee, the user will have access to some 500 video and audio clips, 40,000 questions, practice exams, flashcards and a “performance dashboard” that generates a predictive exam score. A NurseVersity three-month subscription is $179, and about 10,000 students used the program in 2015.
“What makes us stand apart from our competitors—what we call the secret sauce—is our built-in study calendar that incorporates the students’ current curriculum and books and our proprietary technology called The Advisor,” says Leonard. “It tells you where you’re strong and where you’re weak, and based on how much time you have before you take the exam, what you should be studying.”
With about 500,000 people sitting for the NCLEX exam in the U.S. each year—and nearly half failing the first time—Leonard says the need is great. Leonard believes NurseVersity has found a sweet spot in the market; the company had $12,000 in revenue in January 2016, and Leonard expects $1.5 million in sales by the end of the year. While Leonard says its original customer base was within a 100-mile radius of its southern Indiana headquarters, NurseVersity now has clients in every state.
NurseVersity is only the first of several platforms; parent company VersityEdu also launched ptVersity to help physical therapy students pass the licensure exam. VersityEdu plans to soon launch MDVersity for medical students, DentalVersity and a platform for veterinarian students.
While adding new models, Leonard says the formula will remain the same by continuing to “crowdsource” its content. The company uses a network comprised of doctors, students who have taken the exam recently, “students who are taking their exam today,” university educators and industry consultants. Leonard says the team continuously writes and moderates the thousands of questions used in the study preps.
Leonard notes the company doesn’t do “any real advertising,” instead marketing the tool directly to college co-eds through student ambassadors who receive stipends and prizes for selling subscriptions on their campus. The company currently has ambassadors at 40 universities.
VersityEdu is now working to raise $1.5 million and, driven by the additional three training platforms in the pipeline, grow revenue to $5 million annually.
“We’re new and trying to get our name out into the market,” says Leonard. “We’re excited to help students reach their goals in becoming a nurse, doctor, dentist or physical therapist. That’s what drives our business; our goal is to help them.”
Leonard says VersityEdu has provided thousands of scholarships, allowing students to use the study preps for free.
Leonard says VersityEdu “crowdsources” its study material.