This article was originally published on the Our Innovation Fund blog.
Adventus connects international students globally to education institutions in all major education destination markets. They’re on a mission to transform the world’s access to international education and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the journey 🚀
The EdTech sector is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity with significant momentum — global EdTech venture capital investments totalled more than $10 billion in 2020, a significant increase on the $500 million in 2010. In Australia the sector almost doubled in just two years and has emerged as the second largest start-up industry in Australia, behind FinTech.
Since formally launching just over 12 months ago, Adventus has experienced impressive and rapid adoption across both sides of its marketplace: student recruitment agents and education institutions. The platform provides student recruitment agents with both the tools and technology they need to recommend courses and institutions to best meet a prospective student’s needs. The platform also ensures that the recruitment agent retains 100% of the revenue from successfully placing a student.
For the OIF team, the choice to invest in Adventus ultimately came down to three factors:
- an exceptionally strong and highly experienced founding team
- a strong market opportunity, and
- an innovative business model.
For us, it’s always all about the founders — it’s the most critical aspect to our investment decision-making.
When we first met the Adventus founding team, Ryan, Lincoln, Victor and Richard, we were impressed by their deep experience, which is a mixture of over 20 years in the international student recruitment space, founding experience in other EdTech ventures, and strong technological expertise and purpose.
CEO and co-founder, Ryan Trainor is an extremely competent operator and serial entrepreneur with over 25 years’ experience as an EdTech and education entrepreneur. He has founded and exited several high-profile education ventures in south-east Asia, including Franklin Scholar (acquired by Kaplan in May 2011) and in 2010, won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
With deep domain expertise across the founding team, we’re confident that they have the right blend of skills, experience and determination to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, adapt to the changed international education landscape and scale the business.
The strong market opportunity
There are around five million international students worldwide. What many people may not know is that 70% of international students are placed into tertiary institutions through an international student recruitment agent.
Whilst not ignoring the immediate, short term and significant impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on the international education market, many international students have in fact deferred their studies as opposed to abandoning them all together. Encouragingly, the scenario that’s emerging is one of pent-up demand for international student placements, rather than little to no demand.
Globally, fees from international students typically comprise a significant portion of a university’s revenue. Despite this significance, many universities simply don’t have the resources or data to efficiently access the highly fragmented international student market.
There’s an efficiency problem and it’s overdue for disruption. We’d liken the current state to home buying in the days before realestate.com.au or Domain, or like searching for a job before Seek.
The problem today
Every year, universities spend tens of millions of dollars sending student scouts around the world. Quite simply, this model is a scattergun way to recruit — it’s not rooted in demand and doesn’t focus on matching appropriate institutions with the best interests of students.
Today, there are limited practical or affordable methods for universities to build brand awareness and connect with student recruitment agents operating across multiple markets. Institutions have also been unable to establish a mechanism and single source of truth to share dynamic and necessary information about courses and application processes with recruitment agents.
From the perspective of student recruitment agents, the landscape is highly fragmented and there’s no access to a streamlined way to build relationships with universities (realistically, individual operators can only manage relationships with 5 to 10 universities). There’s also no digital process the agents can access to assist students with their application to multiple global institutions.
For international students and their families, the decision to study abroad is often one of the most important and expensive decisions they’ll make. The Adventus.io platform provides a trusted marketplace, removing some of the obstacle’s students face such as access to independent and unbiased information, greater certainty on course suitability and transparency on what’s involved in the application process.
Think of Adventus like Seek and realestate.com.au but global from day one.
Currently, there are over 1,000 universities on the platform spanning Australia, the UK, Canada, and the US where more than 40% of new university partnerships are coming from. In 2021, the company is targeting 5X growth, and is on track to increase from 2,700 to 6,000 student recruitment agents subscribed, expand operations from 12 to 30 countries and expects to process 25,000 student applications.
The platform is creating enormous value for universities by providing them with high-quality student leads through a network of pre-vetted (KYC-verified) recruitment agents, as well as offering targeted marketing capabilities and data intelligence services.
In Adventus.io, we see an impressive global marketplace, with clear capacity to monetise and huge opportunities to move up and down the value chain to offer broader student and university offerings.
How is Adventus.io differentiated and disruptive?
Adventus.io is disrupting both sides of the international student market through its innovative business and pricing model that distinguishes it in market.
Traditionally, first generation aggregators and large master agent businesses that sign up ‘sub-agents’ take between 25% and 50% of an agent’s commission. Using the Adventus.io platform, recruitment agents gain direct access to a global inventory of universities and retain 100% of their commission. It therefore becomes an extremely compelling proposition for an agent — almost making the decision of which platform to use a no-brainer. We see that the product is clearly resonating with the market and this is translating into over 100 new agents signing up each week.
Adventus.io also charges universities for proprietary analytics on student flows. This is particularly important as universities attempt to match their marketing efforts to changes in student demand. Generally, universities don’t have access to this data and lack the resources to create powerful analytics out of it. Adventus is therefore solving a significant pain-point for universities.
Increasingly, we’re seeing that leveraging data is necessary for universities as student flows change more rapidly and unpredictably due to COVID-19, as well as emerging geopolitical tensions between international student destination countries and large source countries like China. Universities can only manage these changes in demand if they first understand the changes that are actually occurring.
Our Innovation Fund is an Australian venture capital firm that champions exceptional founders, driven by purpose, who add material value to their customers, markets, and communities.