In May, Ontario-based ApplyBoard announced that it raised $75 million, making it 500 Startups’ latest unicorn with a valuation of $1.4 billion. This was a feat for a couple of reasons: the edtech company is only five years old, and it managed to raise money as the stock market was taking a dive in March. Fundraising in this environment was the toughest thing ApplyBoard’s co-founder and CEO Martin Basiri tells me he has done, but he is charging on.
Martin and his brothers Meti and Massi founded ApplyBoard to help students from around the world select the right college outside of their home country, and navigate the application process. More than 100,000 students from countries such as China, India and Vietnam have applied to colleges through ApplyBoard, making it a useful recruitment platform for universities looking to attract international students.
Like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has roiled the world of education. We have our eyes on the global $5 trillion-plus edtech market, as the pandemic accelerates the advent of new technologies to facilitate remote learning. But Martin has an interesting take on the limitations of remote learning. In a remote (what else?) webinar chat, he highlighted the following opportunities:
Human beings are social animals. How do you recreate campus life remotely? “We don’t go to college just because we learn, we go because we want to find friends,” says Martin. “There’s a huge opportunity to look at soft skills.” The goal is to recreate that sense of bonding and community.
Colleges can deliver classes over Zoom, but it’s not so easy to replicate traditional testing online. “The assessment piece is going to become big,” he says.
To reproduce the one-on-one experience that a quality college education provides, there’s an opportunity to create communities for peer-to-peer education, where students can learn from each other or from professionals.
“Education is not going to decline, it will change formats” says Martin. “Whether in person or not, people will still want to go to college.”
For more on my conversation with Martin, please visit our YouTube channel.
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