Martin Basiri and his two brothers came to Waterloo Region from Iran to attend school. Now their Kitchener-based startup, ApplyBoard, is schooling students from around the world in how to do the same.
ApplyBoard’s web-based AI portal streamlines the process of applying for university, college and high school for international students. Its platform is a one-stop shop. It matches students and their academic background, financial circumstances and desired field of study with appropriate schools, and additionally streamlines the visa process.
The company says its process is so effective that it achieves a 95 per cent student acceptance rate.
“There is a massively underserved market for international study,” says Martin Basiri, CEO and co-founder of ApplyBoard.
Aiming to feed that market, ApplyBoard Thursday announced a US$13 million Series A raise, led by Silicon Valley-based Artiman Ventures, with participation from 500 Startups and Candou Ventures, which are also Valley based.
The money, Basiri said, will be used to fuel growth and expansion into more countries. The company, which currently has 62 employees, is aiming for 80 by the end of the year. It now works with 750 educational institutions worldwide, serving a market that, this year, resulted in seven million students attending schools outside their home countries, the company said.
“The majority of the seven million international students will struggle to find their ideal colleges, and instead will select where they spend the next four years and potentially the rest of their lives, based upon internet searches and random chance,” said Akhil Saklecha, Partner at Artiman Ventures. “ApplyBoard applies technology to a very manual process.”
ApplyBoard’s inception can be traced back to 2010, the year Basiri came to Canada to attend University of Waterloo. Little about his student application and the necessary visa research was straightforward, he said.
“The process was very hard. Application, visa, information. It’s so fragmented. [You go] website by website to gain information. There’s not a trusted source that you just go and gain all your information.”
Not long after Basiri arrived at Waterloo, his brothers, twins named Meti and Masih, took advantage of the trail blazed by their brother and arrived here to attend Conestoga College.
The trio soon started getting requests from others to help them apply to Canadian schools. Basiri turned to his brothers and said, “Guys, I think we could code the hell out of this process.”
ApplyBoard was the ultimate result. Basiri likens the service to Expedia, but for education.
“It’s the same thing that Expedia does for your when you want to find a hotel. Our website does [that] when you want to find an education destination in Canada or the U.S.
“[We thought], why not make all this information consolidated in one place? That’s how the idea started. To help students. Education is right for a human being, not a privilege.”
The company’s revenue, Basiri says, stems from students and schools. The company offers two tiers of products for each, one free, one paid.
Basiri says their work has identified trends. A stiffening of immigration rules in the U.S., post-Trump, has resulted in total international student enrolment dropping in the U.S. by four per cent last year. In Canada, meanwhile, there was an increase in foreign student enrolment of 20 per cent in 2017 versus the year before.