Believes it offers more personalised path than rival startup EasyUni
Three cofounders first met in university themselves
UNIVERSITY course comparison portal UniDigest was officially launched on March 1, ready to take on its more established competitor EasyUni, which launched in 2010.
UniDigest said it helps students choose the most suitable tertiary education pathway by providing necessary information such as fee structures, courses, scholarships and other related information.
Meanwhile its rival EasyUni says it aims to make it easy for students and parents to compare various programmes between universities.
In its early days, it received two grants, worth RM150,000 and RM500,000, from Ministry of Finance agency Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, and another RM150,000 grant from national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corporation. [RM1 = US$0.28]
In May 2013, it raised an undisclosed Series A round from Teak Capital, and last July said it was aiming for a Series B round upwards of US$1.6 million.
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When asked what differentiated it from EasyUni, UniDigest director of marketing and innovation Jace Chan says it has specialised filters, comparison and decision-making tools that will be unveiled in the next phase of the portal.
“We seek to make the process of choosing ‘What’s next?’ as painless and efficient as ever,” he adds in an email conversation with Digital News Asia (DNA).
Launched on the last week of December 2014, UniDigest claims to have since helped thousands of students make an informed decision about their future course and university.
“Since our launch in late December, we have reached more than 4,000 users. With the current growth rate, we are looking to triple that number in the next few months,” Chan declares.
Based on the feedback gathered in the last two months, the UniDigest team has just released version 2.0 of the portal to ensure an even better user experience. “Search functions now offer fee and geographical filters,” he adds.
The site currently offers information only on university courses available in Malaysia, but hopes to expand to cover seven countries by the end of this year.
“There are definitely plans for expansion, but our focus for now is very much on the Malaysian landscape,” Chan says.
Chan said the idea for UniDigest came about when cofounder Carmen Lee (pic) was asked to help her cousin choose the right course, university and scholarship.
She used existing education portals and found herself back at square one, realising that while these portals have information on courses and universities, the user experience wasn’t optimised. More importantly, these sites did not help in either shortlisting or personalising choices.
Chan, Lee and their third cofounder Vincent Xu had first met in university when they joined the same student organisation, and have remained friends since.
“One day we were just sitting around venting, and the question arose: “Well, okay, so it sucks right now, but what can we do to make it better?’ ” Chan says.
“We started asking around, validating our idea, getting feedback from our friends on what would have helped their university search, and the deeper we got into it, the more determined we got.
“Once we added in a couple of developers and marketers, we were pretty much full-speed ahead,” he says, adding that UniDigest is a bootstrapped operation.
In an official statement, Lee said, “There has always been a problem with high-school students struggling to make one of the most important decisions in their lives.
“I experienced it myself, and now I can see my younger cousins struggling to choose the right education path.
“There’s got to be an easier way for them to make this decision. UniDigest is … determined to provide the world’s tertiary education information in an organised manner,” she added.
Lee, also a director at UniDigest, has always been interested in startups and entrepreneurship, and was formerly with Groupon and spent a year on product development with financial comparison portal iMoney.
Chan himself has two years’ startup experience in various areas, from product development to digital marketing.
Despite graduating with an accounting and finance degree, Xu (pic) was in the training and education industry for the past seven years. He has also been involved in the web and mobile development industry, and cofounded an education game development studio that will be launching its chemistry role-playing game in June this year.
UniDigest now has a six-man team but is on the lookout for more.
On its revenue model, Chan says that UniDigest will not be depending on traditional banner advertisements, nor will it have a model where universities pay to be featured on the portal.
“UniDigest does not have any plan to pursue this path. What we are is a lead-generation business, though never at the expense of the student.
“We have spoken to numerous colleges and universities which are incredibly keen, and we are currently in the process of signing partnership agreements,” he adds, without elaborating.
But it also sees the need to roll out other value-added services to the portal, all of which would require funding.
“We're looking for seed funding,” says Chan. “We believe that the only way to do more and help more people is to play a bigger game, so we're definitely on the lookout for investors.”
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