Founder declines to reveal the money raised and valuation of the company
VC likes the business model and potential of the education aggregator
IT is a myth that people go to the university of their dreams. Those lucky enough to go, end up choosing one which closest fits their parents’ budget and which has a decent course of study that the student wants to pursue.
For many, this choice is an affair which involves going to visit universities that one (or likely, one’s parents) has narrowed down to. Before this visit to the universities in question, local of course, there are the visits to the many education fairs.
This is time consuming as well as bewildering to both student and parents, with every university highlighting the various stars they have that signify them as world class, the multimillion-ringgit campuses they are building, the scholarships available, the focus on industry-relevant curriculum to help students get jobs, and others.
All in, it is not an easy process. Enter Edwin Tay (pic, right) and Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah who looked at this scenario in 2009 and decided there must be an easier manner for parents and students to pick the right university.
They launched their portal, EasyUni.com, in December 2010, aiming to make it easy for students and parents to compare various programmes between universities. Tay is the hands-on operations guy while Sivapalan focuses on strategy and fundraising.
The business model is a combination of charging universities for listings and commission-based fees from pushing students towards particular universities.
On the funding part they have been very lucky as EasyUni has been the recipient of two Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd grants, RM150,000 (US$50,200) and RM500,000 (US$ 167,340), and a Multimedia Development Corporation grant of RM150,000.
And now, they have raised an undisclosed Series A round from Teak Capital, an outsourced partner of Malaysian Venture Capital Management Bhd Mavcap).
Tay declined to reveal how much he raised or what the valuation was, or how much stake was sold. “It was less that 30%,” was all he would say.
But he did share that before this round, EasyUni had five angel investors who gave amounts ranging from RM100,000 to as low as RM20,000. Tay, Sivapalan and Nurbek Jusupov, the chief technology officer (pic above, left), are the other stakeholders.
To the obvious question of why have so many angels, Tay said they were all close friends, while some had valuable skills he felt EasyUni needed. “And none of them interfered in the business.”
His latest investor, Chok Kwee Bee, the managing director of Teak Capital, meanwhile has already made her mark, says Tay. “While she feels our model is correct and we have potential, she has helped us enhance the model,” he claims.
Well known for helping her investee companies improve processes and sharpen focus, Chok has already helped him improve EasyUni’s sales processes, Tay says.
“While we were all very gung-ho before, she has now instilled milestones into that process and I can see that it works,” he adds.
With the cash infusion, Tay plans to hire eight people to augment the 11 he currently has, and ramp up his overseas expansion. EasyUni is already the top-ranked education portal in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, he claims. It now plans to expand to Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Brunei.
As for the business model, students and parents will never be charged. “That’s the reason we set up in the first place, to help them through this very tough process,” says Tay.
One interesting change to the model is the publishing of a book this month, The Ultimate University Guidebook. While other players in education started with print and moved online, Tay says that EasyUni went the other way.
In a way, this is counter-intuitive as he admits himself that universities are now increasingly shifting their budgets online. Yet, EasyUni has received numerous requests for a print version to augment its online presence and Tay says the soon-to-be-published book, which will also come in a digital version, is to test the market.
“We are already known as an online education aggregator. We want to see if we can transfer this offline too,” he adds.
The site currently gets 75,000 visits a month and has 1,700 universities from 20 countries listed, according to Tay.
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