When I decided to study abroad, I had a Masters in Biotechnology and wanted to further pursue an MBA in the USA. In the process of finding the right university and talking to education consultants, I discovered that there were immense bias and ambiguity involved in the university recommendation process. Using AI to eliminate that bias and make the university application process hassle-free for international students, is what lead to the formation of iSchoolConnect.
How did you get Google to back it?
Networking while I pursued my MBA at Bentley University is what made iSchoolConnect possible. I met Asif Hasan through the alumni network at Bentley and joined Quantiphi Analytics and AI and ML cloud solutions company based in Boston, Massachusetts. Quantiphi already had Google’s attention. So when I decided to launch iSchoolConnect and its various AI-based use cases, Google Cloud sponsored it as a startup.
How did you get your first three signups?
Since our platform was all about helping students study abroad, we went to the direct source i.e events at the local colleges. Therefore, while we were also building our brand presence online, our first 3 signups were from our activities in the local colleges.
Have you raised any money? How much?
We received $400,000 in pre-seed investment in January 2018 and seed funding of $400,000 in June 2019. We were also granted $200,000 in credits by Google in 2018.
Who is your target demographic?
Our target demographic is international students who intend to pursue their higher education abroad. Our organization focuses on students originating in Asia and traveling to the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK for their further education.
I’ve always believed that the most effective way of attracting our clients is by providing them with genuine, informative content. That translates across mediums such as blogs, forums, social media, and other communication platforms. We also regularly organize information sessions and seminars at schools across India.
Where did you meet your founding team?
Now, we’re a team of 35 members. However, I co-founded iSchoolConnect with an MBA classmate Don Kphury in 2017. However, Don had to leave the startup to pursue other responsibilities so I now run iSchoolConnect myself.
Any tips for finding first employees?
The best advice for finding first employees is to strengthen your network and hire individuals that share your vision and goals for your organization’s future. My team is incredibly important to me and iSchoolConnect is a reflection of their effort and contribution.
What is the most common service you sell?
Offering end-to-end services to students applying for their education abroad is the ultimate and the most common service we offer. To make that process easier, we’ve developed a unique suite of tools such as the Recommendation engine, Essay and SOP analyzer, Video interview analyzer, etc.
Did you run any companies prior?
I had no prior experience in running companies, just my MBA to stand on. Before starting iSchoolConnect, I was an employee at Quantiphi Analytics managing the Data Science and Engineering business.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I was determined to use AI and Machine Learning to build a platform that allowed students to find all the information they needed, in one single place. The only way I could do so on my own terms was to start my own business.
My family was incredibly supportive and provided help and guidance with every step of the way.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
The only advice for people starting out and thinking of starting out is to take that leap of faith and be persistent in spite of various ups and downs. There are many that thin of an idea, those who act on it, own the world.
I feel that every mistake or misstep you take is an arrow in your quiver. It helps you protect and prepare yourself for any upcoming misadventures.
What is stopping you from being 3x the size you are now?
The first year of business is the most critical and in order to create a solid foundation and foothold, sometimes you need to go a little slow. Furthermore, the space in which iSchoolConnect is working in rampant with misinformation. This needs to be resolved with care. Once solved, we expected to grow not by 3x but 10x.
What apps could your business not run without?
Softwares such as Hubspot or Google Analytics for lead management and data analysis, Google Cloud Platform, Gitlab, etc. are some of the most essential software utilized by iSchoolConnect.
What is current revenue?
With the way our organization is currently expanding, we have an expected ARR of 1.2 million USD by December 2020.
Are there any new services you’re working on?
All our use cases are built to work independently. We’re deploying our use cases such as the Video interview analyzer for employee recruitment and our chatbots for institutions; and as far as I’m concerned, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Would you ever sell the company?
I can honestly say that the thought of selling iSchoolConnect has never even occurred to me. Along with our work in the B2C space, we’re also delving deeper into the B2B market and making immense headway there. Neither my team nor I, have plans of stopping anytime soon.