Craig Gehring is the founder and CEO of MasteryPrep, a Baton Rouge-based technology startup that sells ACT student training software to school districts.

MasteryPrep, a Baton Rouge-based technology startup that sells standardized testing software and training material to schools, looks to hire 15 more employees in the coming months as it expands to SAT testing in January. 

MasteryPrep, founded in 2010, has seen demand for its products grow from its roots in Louisiana to serving schools in more than 25 states — though it is most active across the Southeast. It has partnerships with more than 1,000 schools and will work with 175,000 students by the end of the year, up from 50,000 students in 2015. 

"We've been growing rapidly, there's a huge need for our program," said Craig Gehring, CEO and founder. "It's make or break for the students that we serve because it's a lot harder to get into school and it costs a lot more." 

Gehring obtained a perfect score on both his ACT and SAT tests in high school and became a tutor soon thereafter. The executive noticed that struggling students had different tutoring needs than high performers. 

MasteryPrep began selling ACT testing materials for schools with disadvantaged students who were underperforming several years ago. Now it's looking for that same niche for SAT testing materials.

The expansion enables the company more access to states like Texas, a major market for schools, where SAT and ACT is used. The startup sells its services, which includes workshops and printed materials, for a lower price point than traditional in-person private tutoring and doesn't sell products directly to consumers. MasteryPrep programs cost on average less than $50 per student, Gehring said. In contrast, 10 hours of tutoring through Princeton Review could cost more than $2,500. 

"We'll be able to go into many more states. … East Coast, West Coast and Texas emphasize the SAT," Gehring said. 

A perfect score for the SAT is 1600. About half the test is comprised of math questions. For several years the SAT was revamped to 2400 as a perfect score which included an essay but it was reverted back to the previous format in 2016. By contrast, the perfect score on the ACT is 36, and math questions comprise of only about a quarter of the test. 

Educational institutions are much more focused on standardized test results in recent years. 

"Schools are trying to move from just graduating students to graduating students who are prepared for success, one of the big ways to do that is for the student to become college ready," Gehring said. 

The startup already has 30 full-time employees and a total of 150 individuals if contractors and part-time workers are included. The new jobs are for software developers, educational assessment workers and customer service representatives. 

By the end of this year, the company expects to hit $7.5 million in revenue, up from $7 million in 2018. 

MasteryPrep has raised $3.6 million from investors, including Innovation Catalyst's The Catalyst Fund, in addition to a $600,000 bridge round in recent years. The startup anticipates to close on another funding round soon. Other notable investors include Liquid Ventures, Jennifer and Sean Reilly, Maple Leaf and Advantage Capital. It is headquartered inside the Louisiana Technology Park. 

In exchange for the expansion, the startup applied for economic incentives tied to the state Quality Jobs program, which is a cash rebate to companies up to 6% for no more than 10 years in addition to state sales and use tax rebate on capital expenditures.

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