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Ellis raises $5.6m to ‘ease’ student experience in US

Edtech company Ellis has raised a $5.6 million seed round in a bid to further enhance the international student experience in the US.

Ellis hopes to expand its services to locations such as Australia, Canada and the UK. Photo: Unsplash

"We want people around the table who understand the vision and mission of the company"

The all-in-one platform allows international students to reach a range of services such as help setting up bank accounts and phone plans, and tax assistance, before arriving in the US for their study abroad.

Led by Kindred Ventures, the round was also backed by a host of founders, many of whom are immigrants – a deliberate move by Ellis.

Sampei Omichi, 22-year-old founder and CEO of the start-up, told The PIE News, “We’ve brought a ton of immigrant founders and executives who were immigrants and international students who viscerally understand the problems at hand”.

“We want people around the table who understand the vision and mission of the company,” he added.

The company, with a mission to make immigration “simple” and “universally accessible”, takes its name from the concept that college campuses are modern-day Ellis islands for high-skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs into the US.

Ellis is working on a product allowing it to co-sign a lease for international students, becoming their guarantor. At the moment, users are invited to sign up for a waiting for this and other new features including those which automate government paper work and file US tax returns.

The inspiration for the start-up stemmed from Omichi’s own study abroad experience as he travelled from his home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2017.

“I was an international student myself five years ago and dealt with the sleuth of issues first-hand. I quickly realised that my problems were not unique – all of my friends were dealing with the same problems: getting financial services, immigration bureaucracy, rent guarantors, etc,” he explained.

“My brother is a senior in high school and is about to move to the US to start college, inevitably facing the problems international students have been facing for decades. I built Ellis to solve problems for students like him,” he added.

According to Omichi, the long-term goal is to expand Ellis to other popular study abroad locations such as Australia, Canada and the UK.

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