As demand for information about higher education goes up, this Malaysian startup wants to be the next big one-stop solution
In a bid to find the best university — not only in terms of ranking, but also the school’s extracurricular strengths — students are spending more time on websites, newspapers, open houses and university fairs.
By 2025, the world will be home to 262 million students enrolled in higher education. A majority of these students will hail from developing nations like China and India, as reported by Geoff Maslen, University World News in 2012.
In his report, Maslen cited author Bob Goddard, who wrote that developing countries will not be able to fulfill the overwhelming demand for higher education. These wide-eyed students, however, will move to neighbouring countries like Singapore, which aims to enroll 150,000 foreign students by next year.
However, are there enough resources to better inform students about the alternatives out there?
Existing outlets aren’t good enough
Enter easyuni, a Malaysia-based online portal for information concerning higher education. Founded in December 2010, the startup, which pitched at Echelon Malaysia Satellite 2014 and will be exhibiting at Echelon Startup Marketplace, saw that “print, education fairs and radio are simply not good enough.”
Edwin Tay, Co-founder, easyuni, told e27 that the information available on the existing outlets are disparate and cannot be put together for easy comparison. He added, “… they (information) are published by the institutions themselves extolling only their strength and unique selling points naturally.”
This does not mean that existing outlets, like university fairs, should be gotten rid of. Emelyne Sng, a 21-year-old student at the University of Western Australia, said that prior to enrollment, she had visited more than four university fairs in Singapore.
She added, “… I get to talk to people from the universities and sometimes students from there. I think it’s a good gauge on the quality of students they churn out.” Furthermore, students who visit university fairs can enjoy a waiver on application fees.
Rebecca Liew, a 22-year-old undergraduate at University of Melbourne, said, “It’s generally easy, but finding specific info on course descriptions can be a bit challenging. It really depends on the university website itself though.”
Tay also said that a one-stop solution like easyuni will help students and parents avoid confusion and better compare universities, since the website is an independent entity. However, it does generate revenue from institutions that advertise for brand exposure, lead generation and student acquisition.
Currently serving more than 1.5 million students on its portal, easyuni saw a 1,161 per cent surge in terms of revenue from 2011 to 2012, and 244 per cent from 2012 to 2013.
With information on universities in 27 countries, easyuni has clients from 10 markets (China, Singapore, New Zealand, Poland, Czech Republic, UK, Macau, Hong Kong, Germany and Indonesia). The site is available in English or Bahasa Indonesia.
In less than three years, easyuni has grown from two staffers to a full team of 20 employees. Tay noted that attitude is a lot more important than aptitude when it comes to hiring.
He said, “Once a month, we have an all-hands-on-deck ‘huddle’ where each department keeps everybody else updated on their activities and the management reveals numbers and performance data transparently so that everyone is kept abreast on the organisation’s progress.”
Currently, the company has openings for student counsellors, sales associates, content specialists, Python software engineers and interns in the realm of content writing and marketing.
As a fairly young company, easyuni faces the challenge of finding the right talent with the correct expertise for a particular position. “We end up posting our vacancies on multiple platforms to have higher exposure, including social media such as Facebook,” said Tay, who added that he had worked with headhunters.
According to Digital News Asia, easyuni had previously received MYR 150,000 (approx. US$46,641) and MYR 500,000 (approx. US$155,472) from Cradle Fund, and another MYR 150,000 (approx. US$46,641) from Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC).
Additionally, it managed to sustain with funding from five angel investors, who each chipped in various amounts — MYR 20,000 to MYR 100,000 (approx US$6,219 to US$31,094).
Furthermore, in 2013, the company also secured an investment from Teak Capital, a Malaysian venture capital firm. The amount was undisclosed, but Tay said in the same report that less than 30 per cent of the stake was sold.
Going forward, easyuni is looking to meet investors at Echelon, who can provide them with both value and funds.
Future of easyuni
“After Echelon, we have some big plans,” said Tay, who added that his team is currently working on improving the technologies employed and the user interface of the website on various devices.
In the future, students will be able to connect with like-minded individuals globally. The system can link students up according to the course they are studying, the university they are in, and also their location. “With this feature in place, our student members are able to connect and ask advice (from) future classmates even before touching down,” he explained.
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By end-2014, easyuni also plans to enter four new markets to boost its revenue growth, and rev up marketing campaigns in seven new countries to increase user numbers.
Echelon 2014 is a two-day Startup, Technology and Business event where Asia’s most innovative startups, early-stage investors and tech industry leaders as well as tech media, gather to celebrate and build Asia’s growing tech industry, as well as make valuable relationships.