Educating The Future Generation
By Renuka Sena November 21, 2016
- Follow the tried and tested business models, but improve on them for your own benefit
- Coach and Grow Programme played key role in helping company reach goal of going regional and global
STICKING to the tried and tested business models that competitors use is better than reinventing the wheel — this is Edwin Tay’s hard-earned wisdom for those who are starting out on their entrepreneurial journey. “Unless you have loads of cash and time, it is best not to try and change the world right away or disrupt the industry early on. Follow the tried and tested business models, but improve on them for your own benefit,” says Tay, who can be best described as a ‘serial entrepreneur.’
The founder and chief executive officer of EasyUni Sdn. Bhd. is no stranger to setting up new businesses and nurturing them all the way to success.“EasyUni is my second company after Netinfinium Corporation, a company which I have since sold. After Netinfinium I wanted to do something different,” reveals Tay. “I wanted to try my hands on business-to-client (B2C) businesses and internet technologies.” Taysays he learned from the mistakes he made with Netinfinium, and tries to sidestep those mistakes with EasyUni. “With EasyUni I am aiming to build a much bigger and more successful company,” he reveals. “So far everything is moving according to plan!”
Moving into education
EasyUni – an amalgamation of the words easy and university – was set up in 2008 to provide easier access to education for students, by offering them choices to select the courses and universities that are right for them. “The heart of EasyUni is the website which is a one-stop portal that connects students and universities.
The concept of EasyUni is that students are able to view university information, compare courses and fees, search for scholarships, and even communicate directly with education counsellors,” explains Tay. “If students are not certain which course will suit them best, they can use our ‘course recommender’ tool which will test them and recommend the most suitable courses, based on their personality and interests.” Tay believes that education is the key to the future, “hence, I want to provide the best for the future generation.”
An exciting challenge
Unlike many other entrepreneurs who find that starting a business from scratch can be a daunting experience, Edwin finds the process exhilarating. “The early days of getting EasyUni off the ground were exciting and challenging,” he remembers. “I worked closely with my co-founder, Nurbek Jusupov, and our angel investor, Dr. V. Sivapalan and together we brainstormed to come up with the best ideas from marketing to business models to sales,” remembers Tay. “We talked to many stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, colleges and universities — to get feedback and ideas, and from there, we progressed further.”
Tay said that the founding team was clear, early on, that going regional and then global as quickly as possible was the main mission at hand. This is why, all strategies were designed to create scalability and international acceptance. “There was a lot of hustling during the early stages particularly when you are the CEO – doing everything that needs to be done!” However, EasyUni has come a long way since then. They are now a 25-person team and growing.
Success can sometimes open the door to complicated challenges. Right now, Edwin and his co-founders are grappling with issues related to EasyUni’s growth. “Putting together an awesome team that is not only able to come up with the right strategy but can also execute quickly and flawlessly, is not easy,” Tay admits.
Securing the ideal amount of funds for each stage of growth from the right investor is also extremely crucial, he adds. “The trick is to keep ahead, and to continually ensure that we have a constant stream of funding. For instance, when we were raising our Series A round, we were very close to securing an investment but the deal fell through.” This delay slowed EasyUni’s growth trajectory.
But despite these difficulties Tay manages to find the positive in a rather rocky situation. The team already had good traction and market share and were able to fund their own operations and continue on their journey.“There was no time to wallow so we picked ourselves up and started the process again with another investor. What we learned from one bad experience made the second time around a breeze in comparison and we are now charging ahead with funds safely secured,” beams Tay.
Step-by-step to success
One key factor that allows EasyUni to stand apart from competitors and achieve their goals, is their team. “My team come from diverse, international backgrounds,” says Tay. The EasyUni team is like a global family with members who are from Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Ukraine, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan. “Diversity like this leads to a multitude of fresh and bright ideas. This helps us come up with innovative services for the global market.”
Tay says the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) also played a key role in helping them reach for their goal of going regional and global. “I remember back then, we knew we wanted to move out of Malaysia. However we were not sure how to do it. The coaches in the CGP pointed and coached us step-by-step in a structured manner, on our readiness to go global, our next priorities as well as expansion strategies that needed to be taken,” recalls Tay. “To me, this was the biggest takeaway and benefit we received from the CGP.”
Tay says that the CGP coaching and workshop sessions are also designed to be a long-term play rather than a one-off training session. “They are structured well and are definitely suitable for startups that are busy with building their companies from the ground up.”
Additionally, the CGP allows Tay to learn how to position Easyuni in an attractive light in the eyes of investors as well as streamline products to improve earnings. He also tapped into stories from more experienced companies through the CGP.
Tay may be a successful serial entrepreneur, but he is also a simple man at heart. “We are proudest when we hear stories of how EasyUni played a positive role and touched students’ lives,” he says. “We get emails, regularly, from students or their parents thanking us for helping them out, and preventing them from making mistakes in choosing their course or universities.
Tay explains that these heartfelt emails are shared with the entire team so everyone knows how their hard work has paved the way for EasyUni to be the leading education portal while improving the lives of so many students and their families. “This is one of the key reasons we are able to attract talent. We have team members who tell us they have turned down better offers and joined us because they believe in our vision...helping students make the right choices for a bright future.”
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