Originally published in the Australian Financial Review on 27 April 2021, written by Yolanda Redrup
Former Young Rich Lister Ryan Trainor says his education technology venture Adventus has shrugged off the pandemic-related paralysis in the international student sector, with a rush of sign-ups and an $11 million venture funding round.
Adventus helps universities connect with international students. It was founded by Mr Trainor, with his brother, Lincoln, Victor Rajeevan, and Richard Uren in 2018.
The subscription marketplace helps international student recruiters find the right courses for prospective students. It boasts a 91 per cent acceptance rate for students applying for courses via its platform.
The latest cash injection, led by Our Innovation Fund takes its Series A funding round to a total of $22.7 million, with Nathan Cher’s family office investment company NCN Investments and Kin Group USA joining existing investor Richard Forbes’ 333 Capital.
Despite the lack of international travel, Adventus’ growth surged due to universities’ need to connect with potential international students for when borders reopen.
Mr Trainor said is had signed up a new university a week and up to 100 channel partners, for more than 10 months.
It now has 2800 recruitment agents on its platform across eight countries, 1050 universities (40 per cent of which are in the US) and it employed 245 people, despite having only formally launched early last year.
Mr Trainor said the fresh funds would enable it to enter 15 more international markets this year, invest in robotic process automation and increase its headcount to more than 400.
“We want to be the default for the industry and by 2024 we think we could place 70,000 to 100,000 students around the world [each year], which would be a significant contributor to the industry,” he said.
”There’s about 1.1 million students each year that make the decision to get educated overseas.
“With the pent up demand, [there are projections from EY] that could go to 1.85 million students in the subsequent 12 months and the industry is also still growing at a compounding rate.”
Mr Trainor said he co-founded the company after discovering that 70 per cent of international students globally used a recruiter, but the vast majority of the recruiters had less than 30 partnerships with universities. He said many international students also ended up swapping their courses part way through their degree.
UCLA, ANU onboard
“We’re going after the highly fragmented part of the market. … We’re supporting the industry by enabling the institutions not to have to deal one on one with all these agents. We’re giving the industry greater efficiency,” he said.
”We are that neutral exchange. We’re removing bias and the high-ranking universities are already looking to access [students from] diverse countries.”
Mr Trainor’s previous ventures include global online business school BSchool, work-based vocational education company Franklyn Scholar (acquired by Kaplan Australia in 2011), and beauty education business Beauty EDU.
This year, Adventus expects to facilitate the applications of more than 25,000 international students to universities globally.
Institutions subscribed to the marketplace include the University of California. Los Angeles, the University of California, Berkeley, the Australian National University and the University of Auckland.
OIF founding partner Jerry Stesel said what the Adventus team had achieved in only 12 months was impressive.
“[It] shows us they can effectively execute their growth ambitions,” Mr Stesel said.
“The product is clearly resonating with students and universities, especially in the US
which really excites us. We have a strong track record supporting companies’ US expansion, connecting them with customers and investors through our deep US network.”
Mr Trainor said Australia’s well-respected education system gave edtech start-ups a natural advantage.