The newly-raised funding will be used for product development, recruitment and expansion into markets including China, India, and Southeast Asia
Singapore-based edtech university placement startup Cialfo has raised a pre-Series A funding in a round led by Govin Capital, with participating investors including Koh Boon Hwee, former Chairman of Singtel; DBS Bank; and Singapore Airlines. The round was also joined by several angel investors with experience in scaling high-growth businesses.
The funding amount was undisclosed.
Cialfo will use the fresh injection of capital to ramp up product development, recruitment and expansion into markets in Southeast Asia, India and China.
Founded in 2012 by co-founders Rohan Pasari and Stanley Chia with the aim to make college admissions simple, this startup targets the annual US$4 billion market of Asia-based students entering US and UK universities.
Prospective students can speed up their application process by leveraging on Cialfo’s SaaS (Software as a Service) platform to engage educational institutions and private college counsellors and admission consultants.
Tackling a growing pain point
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), more than 620,000 Asia-based students flocked to the US for their university education n 2014-15, with slightly below half originating from China and approximately 130,000 coming from India. In the UK, its universities received more than 110,000 students from China and India from 2013 to 2014, according to a report by the British Council.
With such a large influx of foreign Asian students entering these markets, the tertiary education sector needs an edtech solution to efficiently funnel them into their desired varsities.
“Imagine if institutes and counsellors could get a snapshot of a student’s learning curve right from kindergarten to K12. That would provide a more in-depth insight into the student’s strengths and make the university application process more holistic, instead of simply relying on latest grades,” says Pasari, in an interview with e27.
“Cialfo’s SaaS solution aims to bring all the key stakeholders in the tertiary education system on one platform and facilitate seamless interaction between them. With Cialfo’s platform, school counsellors can now have access to all the relevant information about US and UK universities, complete education profiles of their students, important deadlines and timelines, reminders ability to schedule meetings etcetera,” he adds, expounding on Cialfo’s unique selling point.
Cialfo claims that 97 per cent of its students have been accepted into top 50 US and over top 30 UK universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, NYU, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU), and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and many others. It will be adding more universities to its database and creating more customised solutions for both the Chinese and Indian market. Cialfo did not disclose its user numbers but claims a 20 per cent Month on Month (MoM) growth.
There is one popular tertiary education destination noticeably absent from Cialfo’s offering: Australia. Both China and India topped the country down under’s international student enrollment in 2013, according to a report released by the Australian Education International.
Pasari, however, says he has no plans to serve that market yet.
“Australian tertiary education is relatively newly founded compared to the US and UK. It is also limited to 43 universities, whereas students have more options in the UK and even more in the US. The application process to the US and the UK are some of the most difficult and lengthy in the world, whereas applying to Australian schools is more straightforward,” explains Pasari.
A chat bot is in the works
Cialfo is ramping up product development and is planning several integrations with social media platforms.
First, it is building a Facebook messenger bot to Facebook messenger bot that gives the user information about college applications and helps users shortlist colleges based on their profiles.
“For the China market, we are working on integrating our platform through WeChat for users in China. We are also integrating a discovery portal for skill development and learning opportunities into the platform by connecting supplemental education providers across the region,” concludes Pasari.
The competition for places in Ivy league schools and leading UK varsities looks set to heat up in the coming years if Cialfo continues its aggressive expansion.
Image Credit: Cialfo
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