AM: We are currently partnered with over 200 schools throughout the US that are using our free evaluation and assessment tool and several dozen schools overseas. It’s online, easy to use and we are able to get a school up and running in just a few minutes. There are customisation options available as well.
The PIE: How do you make money out of schools using your system?
AM: Abroad101 makes money because of the students that the universities invite to leave reviews or evaluations. We take a chunk of that content and publish it to our review website. That’s how we gain most of our reviews. The universities also recommend the reviews to new students as a resource, since that’s where all of their former students’ evaluations are stored. Organisations that recruit students then pay us for access to our audience.
The PIE: Was your biggest expense as a company developing the software?
AM: Yes, developing the software and continuing to make sure that we maintain it to remain the industry standard for evaluation and assessment.
We need to closely partner with universities to ask their students to leave a review
The PIE: And do you produce statistics on where students go?
AM: Yes, based on the data we’ve collected over the last few years, we are able to provide statistics on varying factors such as the top destinations, destinations by gender, and arguably the most important aspects such as learned competencies and benefits of studying abroad. Organisations such as the Institute of International Education (IIE) provide this type of data, but we see a need for far more than what they provide. That’s what we’re working toward.
The PIE: IIE is all there is at the moment, really.
AM: Exactly. When we started our business we expected there to be this type of data available as in most industries. We expected there to be strong data about customers, the businesses, the flow of money, how everything is financed, breakdown of market segmentation etcetera. All we were able to find was IIE’s data which was released much later than the actual reporting period, and the data wasn’t as detailed as we hoped.
When you compare this with the British Council in the UK, you can see that they release massive amounts of data each month and their budget is much smaller. When we noticed this we thought, Why isn’t there something like this in the United States?
We’ve discovered that having many reviews is just as important as having many good reviews
The PIE: Your statistics are based on what proportion of people?
AM: In the past 12 months we’ve collected close to 100,000 data points across 8,000 students. That’s enough data to be statistically significant and at our rate of growth, we should collect several hundred thousand more data points in the next 12 months. We’re growing across most of our metrics at 12-15% per month. That’s been pretty consistent for the last four years.
The PIE: It’s a really interesting idea. But you must have been thinking, How on earth am I going to get all these students to tell me what they think?
AM: Yes, we struggled with this at first. Industry comparison sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp built a community that keeps coming back every year, every month or week for that matter. They leave a review, find a restaurant, leave a review, find a restaurant. With students, we need to take a different approach. The reviews are going to be more aligned with the academic calendar and we need to closely partner with universities to ask their students to leave a review.
The PIE: Keeping that fresh flow must be difficult?[More>>]