Must Read Founder's Five May 30, 2024

Founder’s Five: Justin Pincar & Tyler York, Achievable

Founder’s Five is a continuing series from Tyton Partners that invites education company founders to shed light on their own success and illuminate the landscape for other education entrepreneurs and investors by answering five basic questions.

Justin Pincar and Tyler York founded Achievable in 2016 to create a test prep tool that leveraged the best in technology and learning science.

Justin Pincar and Tyler York founded Achievable in 2016 to fill what they viewed as a deficiency in the market: a test prep tool that leveraged the best in technology and learning science.

The result was Achievable, a collection of highly effective tools to help students prepare for high-stakes exams in a growing number of content verticals, including professional licensing exams in finance and health care and popular undergraduate and graduate admissions tests. The company’s tools combine memory science with technology to ensure users reach their target score. Achievable’s courses often include supplementary videos sprinkled throughout the textbook material to reinforce crucial concepts and offer a more visual explanation of complicated topics, enabling users and learners to study effectively and reach their professional goals.

What is your company’s origin story?

Following early career success as a Google engineer, Justin left to pursue his passion for improving education through technology. He was an early and pivotal engineer and product architect at multiple tech startups during this time. In his spare time, he studied Japanese. Through his language studies and professional experience, he saw the power of adaptive learning firsthand, specifically leveraging a memory-based method called spaced repetition. When appropriately integrated into a learning experience, Justin saw how this method dramatically improved student learning outcomes. He realized there was an opportunity to build a vertically integrated solution that leveraged spaced repetition as a core part of the learning experience for maximum benefit to the student. He reached out to Tyler to explore building a new product and company. Achievable brought that vision to life.


How will the market be changed by your company’s success?

Opportunity-gating exams, such as the FINRA licensing exams for the finance industry, must be passed before you can be licensed in that field and pursue your dream career. Similarly, high-stakes exams like the GRE or ACT can determine where you can go to college and graduate school. Conquering these exams can dramatically change the outcome of someone’s life.

Yet almost everyone we talked to who was preparing for these high-stakes exams was still uncertain about the preparation process and whether they could reach their target score. Most other test providers serve the content, providing little guidance or feedback on preparing effectively and whether you’re ready to take the exam.

Achievable solves these problems like a personal trainer – by providing personalized guidance, support, and metrics. The result is that students complete our courses twice as fast as the competition, and our courses are incredibly effective – our flagship course, the FINRA SIE, has an industry-best 98% first-time pass rate vs. a 70% national average.

This should be the standard. These exams test a well-understood body of content, and the learners are highly motivated—everyone should pass their required tests or reach their target score if they work. Our goal as a company is to make this achievement accessible to all.


Justin Pincar and Tyler York

These exams test a well-understood body of content, and the learners are highly motivated—everyone should pass their required tests or reach their target score if they work. Our goal as a company is to make this achievement accessible to all.

Justin Pincar and Tyler York


By declaring ‘everyone should succeed’ as the new standard, we hope to raise the expectations of preparation services for the entire market.


What do you know now that you wish you had known when you began?

When we began, we were excited about the power of spaced repetition, which had been repeatedly proven in peer-reviewed studies. We went to market singing the praises of the pedagogical benefits of this learning method. We quickly found that customers don’t care how they reach their destination – they just want it to be effective, reliable, and accessible. We spent too much time chasing what we thought was a unique and differentiated message. But for better or worse, what learners want is more straightforward than that: an acceptable outcome as quickly and cheaply as possible. We adapted our messaging once we let that sink in and have seen much better growth as a result.


What non-intuitive insight have you gained through this work?

Education is all about engagement. It may seem obvious to say that “learners who read more and study more do better,” but the reality is that this is still the primary challenge facing educators, especially with online learning. People are fed dopamine-triggering stimuli all day by their phones, televisions, and video games, so studying for your legalese licensing exam is dull by comparison. Our job as educators is to combat dullness by making the platform and content as engaging as possible.

Once we had this insight, we attacked the problem head-on through our two main levers: product and content. On the product side, we combined Justin’s user experience expertise from building multiple education products with Tyler’s experience in the video game industry to create a streamlined, easy-to-use product with engagement and retention hooks that keep users motivated and engaged. On the content side, we work with our author partners to develop the content in an approachable, “snackable” way. Every chapter is short and to the point, and the language is understandable and free from jargon or unnecessary exposition. Our approach has contributed dramatically to our traction and brand, especially in markets like career licensing.

You have mid-level and senior-level people creating goals for their direct reports and they literally don’t understand how their business works. It’s just startling to me. The good news is that it’s also an opportunity because we teach those skills.


What other education company besides your own do you wish you had started?

It’s hard not to admire the learning company founded by our fellow Carnegie Mellon graduate Luis von Ahn: Duolingo.

Duolingo has taken the gamification approach to the extreme, evolving into what I view as a mobile game with light learning elements. I don’t mean this as a pejorative, but I agree with Gagan Biyani that Duolingo does more for language learning than other apps because people use it. This reinforces the lesson that engagement is king and that your ability to educate begins and ends with commanding your customer’s attention and time. Duolingo has been massively successful at engaging and retaining users through its iterative product development approach, executing it more effectively than most mobile game companies.