3 min read

Martin Basiri of Newly-Minted Unicorn ApplyBoard on the Future of Edtech

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 highlights three areas where he sees major opportunities.
Photo courtesy of ApplyBoard

Christine Tsai

Founding Partner and CEO

Published

17.07.20

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:

1- Experience

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.

2- Assessment

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. 

3- Personalization

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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Christine Tsai

Founding Partner and CEO

Christine Tsai co-founded 500 Global in 2010, and led the firm’s growth over the past decade from a startup accelerator to a multi-stage venture capital firm with $2.7B in assets under management, and more than 2,700 investments in 81 countries. 500 Global regularly ranks as one of the most active venture capital firms in the world, according to PitchBook, with a top number of exits. The firm’s diversified portfolio includes 49 companies valued at more than $1B, such as Talkdesk, Canva, Grab, GitLab, and Intercom. Private Equity International has named Christine one of 10 Women of Influence in venture capital. She currently serves on the venture capital committee of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers, the Global Tech VC Council of the Global Private Capital Association, and is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Christine is also an honoree of Gold House’s 2021 A100 List, recognizing the most impactful Asian and Pacific Islander leaders across business and technology, entertainment, advocacy and politics, lifestyle, and sports. Prior to founding 500 Global, she held product marketing and operating roles at Google, including monetization and developer products such as Google AdSense, Google Analytics, YouTube APIs and syndication, and Google Developer Platform Tools. Christine holds a B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

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