Weiqiong “Wendy” Sun, an entrepreneurial campus leader, wanted to reform China’s education system to foster cross-cultural understanding. A Master’s Degree from an American University was her top priority. She was confident but her major worry was to pick from the array of choices. Brainstorming on the personalised essays, which demand a certain type of writing, was never practiced by her. The problems grew with refining resume and preparing for interviews.
Soon, she came across ChaseFuture, a Shanghai-based admission consulting platform that connects top international applicants with admissions experts for paid consulting services. Founded by Greg Nance, the startup pitched at the Echelon Top 100 Qualifiers in Malaysia and was honoured with the People’s Choice and Braintree_Paypal Awards at Echelon Asia Summit.
As a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, Nance completed a research project on China’s overseas admissions market and realised that there must be a better way for Chinese students to apply and for universities to identify the right international talent.
China is responsible for more than one in four foreign students on US campuses, more than any other country. Bloomberg estimates that the global private tutoring market is nearing US$100 billion annually. Over 250,000 Chinese students apply for overseas education and there are numerous NASDAQ-listed companies that cater to their English training and test preparation needs.
“There is a dearth of quality admissions consultation resources and ChaseFuture is filling an important gap at an affordable price point. Our vision is to become a hub for students navigating the application process, as they transition to university life and prepare for professional success,” says Greg Nance, the Founder and CEO.
How ChaseFuture is helping 10 million students in 120 countries
ChaseFuture’s library of instructional articles and videos provide students with actionable insights on preparing to apply and study abroad.
The platform connects clients to admissions experts at their target universities, who help them showcase their accomplishments with a polished CV and topics for an engaging personal statement drawn from their life experiences. In many cases, the startup also equips applicants with strategies to prepare for standardised exams, find available scholarships and build relationships with professors. “All of this is accomplished through our online workspace, where students and admissions experts can look over their materials together and connect for digital face-to-face meetings,” Nance explains.
About 10 million students from 120 countries have accessed the startup’s instructional articles and videos online. “Our 207 admissions experts have advised over 1,500 paid clients. Fifty six clients have been admitted to Columbia, 27 to LSE, 21 to UPenn, 19 at Cornell, and 14 at OxBridge,” Nance says.
ChaseFuture works on a freemium model. After engaging with the free instructional materials and AppTracker tool, many students elect to become paying clients. “They select the number of universities they would like expert mentorship on before we begin the engagement. Almost 30 per cent of our clients are repeat customers and we do not charge the mentors,” he states.
All it takes is one mentor to champion your project
“In our early days, I pitched dozens of prospective angel investors to no avail before William Bao Bean, Investment Partner, Asia at SOSventures, took my meeting and agreed to lead our seed round. Sometimes, all it takes is one mentor to champion your project before a round comes together and your vision takes flight. He joined our Board and has been an invaluable strategist and advisor,” Nance says.
It has now raised US$600K from investors including SOSventures, Banyan Capital, Harbor Pacific Capital, Artesian Capital Management, and several Silicon Valley angels including Joshua Motta, Special Projects at CloudFlare.
According to Nance, Echelon Asia Summit was also an incredible opportunity to connect with investors, advisors, prospective partners and staff. “Every entrepreneur in Asia can benefit from the resources,” he says.
Educational consulting is full of unscrupulous characters
There are hundreds of brick-and-mortar boutiques, several huge education companies, and dozens of web platform copycats in the education consulting sector. Admission officers have pointed out that as many as one in 10 applications to US colleges by Chinese students may include fraudulent material, including phony essays and high-school transcripts. Moreover, it is difficult to establish business in a country where university admission is largely carried out by a single test.
ChaseFuture wants to create trust and survive in this challenging market by focusing on building a quality experience.
“Educational consulting is full of unscrupulous characters that will do anything to make a dollar – and we want to drive them out of business. Our job is to help you tell your own story in the most compelling and effective way; for your own long term success, it is vital that it’s you telling your story, not someone else,” he says. The DIY model of the startup has helped reap benefits.
Expansion to India
“We’re focussed on developing better automation systems to match client and mentors while managing deadlines, ensuring quality control, and streamlining workflows. We’re refining free tools like AppTracker and our instructional content viewing platforms to boost engagement and learning outcomes,” Nance shares.
ChaseFuture is excited to expand to India and throughout ASEAN. “We are attracted to the favourable demographics (large, young populations) and the high value these societies place on education. We already have over 25,000 Facebook fans from India and our wins at the Malaysia and Singapore Echelon competitions have helped put us on the map in ASEAN,” he concludes.