ApplyBoard expands internationally with educational business

ApplyBoard is the first worldwide, online application tool for international students to apply to universities and colleges in North America. They use a web-based platform to help students make informed decisions and enrol in the post-secondary program of their choice as smoothly, and painlessly as possible.

We sat down with Co-founder Meti Basiri to discuss ApplyBoard’s rapid growth, the trials and tribulations associated with running a startup in the education industry, and the future plans for the company.

ApplyBoard was founded by a group of international students who faced the obstacles applying to universities and colleges in North America first-hand, and decided to revolutionize the recruitment process. In 2011, Martin Basiri came to Canada and it took him between up to a year to get settled and enrol in courses at the University of Waterloo. As Martin’s younger brothers, twins Meti and Masi Basiri grew up, they wanted to follow in Martin’s footsteps and attend university abroad as well. Under Martin’s guidance, it took them only one month to complete the acceptance and enrollment process for their universities. This process became very interesting to them; and thus, ApplyBoard was conceived.

Incorporated in 2012 as a normal agent, brothers Martin and Meti were operating ApplyBoard as a hobby. Meti describes their transition towards working on the business full-time:

“For years we helped people integrate into Canadian schooling systems and aided them through the admission process, before we decided enough was enough. We wanted to help 50,000 students, not just 50.”

So, in 2015 they built the software for the current version of ApplyBoard and met their current CTO, Co-founder Sina Sadeghian, and joined Velocity in May 2015. “It was August onwards that we released the first version of the software and started seeing ApplyBoard take off,” he continued. “What makes us unique is that we don’t charge the students, everything is free and students only pay application fees to their respective schools. Compared to other agents who charge a consultation and process fee of $2000-$5000 CAD, we work entirely through mutually beneficial partnerships.”

The company has grown rapidly, expanding from working with 8 schools to over 165 schools in North America. The team has also grown from just 3 employees last summer to 20 current employees, and is expected to expand to 37 by this summer. To provide 24/7 customer service, some of the team will work the graveyard shift to balance operations with time differences around the globe. With over 400,000 followers on Facebook, 30,000 registered users on their website which is growing 105% monthly, ApplyBoard is one of the fastest growing companies within Velocity.

“This is still only 1% of the growth we want to see, so we have a long way to go,” Basiri adds.

As one of the few companies operating in the educational market, there are unique challenges and opportunities for success. The number of international students applying and attending universities and colleges is predicted to double, with Canada alone growing from 300,000 currently enrolled international students, to a projected 600,000 in a few years. Meti describes their unique struggles: “Time difference is one of our biggest concerns, but we are overcoming it. Language barriers can also pose a problem, so we have an online-chat set in place. Our current struggle is to expand our international user base further through social media marketing. We’re not spending money in the US or Canada, but are in Ghana for example. To manage and leverage the inbound marketing in remote countries is our next task that we aim to tackle, and will definitely succeed.” Meti credits his hard-working team with the company’s success. “They don’t care about working an 8-hour shift, they will work 11 hours if needed of their own volition. The people in our team aren’t considered employees, I look at them as partners.” Meti was actually hard at work after a grueling root canal treatment to set an example for his team. His advice to other startups is to fuel that competitive fire:

“Work hard, and when you see someone not working as hard, that’s the best motivation to work even harder. If you believe you’re solving a problem, that’s all that matters. Just make it happen.”

To date, the ApplyBoard team has helped thousands of students realize their dreams of studying abroad, and are only growing from here. Stay tuned for more updates on their Twitter!