This interview is part of our new AI in Education series, where we interview the world's top thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between AI and education.
In this interview, we speak with Martin Basiri, co-founder and CEO of ApplyBoard, to understand how his company is using AI to transform education, and what the future of the education industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind ApplyBoard? Why and how did you begin?
MB: Founded in 2015, ApplyBoard was created by three former international students who experienced the complexities and frustrations of the application process firsthand. One of those founders was me, as I faced these challenges when I decided to pursue a Masters in Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Despite receiving a scholarship, I faced a wide range of obstacles from language barriers and complex paperwork, to securing a student visa and arranging accommodations.
By the time my application was approved and I was enrolled in courses, it had been roughly one year. Alongside my brothers Meti and Massi, who also left their native Iran in 2010 to study at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, I recognized that the majority of international students face similar difficulties. We knew there must be a better way and thus, ApplyBoard was born.
Today, ApplyBoard has built partnerships with 1,200+ of the best secondary and post-secondary educational institutions across Canada and the United States, and works with 1,500+ international recruitment partners around the world. As a result, the company has assisted over 45,000 students with the international education process.
With its headquarters in Canada’s Kitchener-Waterloo tech hub and representatives in China, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, ApplyBoard is a global company revolutionizing the way students experience the application process. The company now employs nearly 200 staff members across all locations.
2. Please describe your use case and how ApplyBoard uses AI:
MB: ApplyBoard uses AI and machine learning to simplify the application process for students applying to study in Canada and the United States. Using the platform, students can create a profile based on their educational background, interests, desired location, and financial means. Based on the information provided, the system uses AI and big data to match the student with a list of highly correlated programs and institutions.
Due to the vast amount of data ApplyBoard has collected as a result of the high number of applications processed, the company can make data-driven decisions, accurately predict outcomes, and provide the most relevant statistics on markets, trends, and factors influencing the international student application process and education market around the world.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
The ApplyBoard platform matches students to schools and programs that align with their unique background and interests. The company’s diverse team of industry experts helps students through every step of the application process, free of charge. From document preparation and tuition payments, visa applications and everything in between. ApplyBoard eliminates the obstacles and uncertainty typically experienced by international students to provide a seamless and enjoyable experience.
ApplyBoard attracts diverse students to partner with (matching) school campuses while saving schools time and money by vetting applications for each unique program. The company’s experts review each application to ensure students are qualified and applications are complete. When submitting applications to schools, ApplyBoard adheres strictly to admission requirements and structure, to ensure schools receive quality applicants.
The ApplyBoard platform provides international recruitment partners with an easy-to-use platform that aggregates data to improve the application process for their students. Through the partnerships, ApplyBoard has connected with the best Canadian and American high schools, colleges, and universities. It enables recruitment partners to apply to multiple programs and schools all in one place, as opposed to having to apply through multiple school systems, in turn saving hours of time.
The supported AI helps recruitment partners focus on students' needs and eligibility, and assists in ensuring they are on top of program intakes. Exclusive partnerships are created, in addition to the creation of exclusive programs, bursaries, and scholarships, opening students' access to opportunities not available anywhere else. Finally, ApplyBoard employs individuals who speak over 23 different languages to best assist international recruitment partners.
4. What other AI in education use cases are you excited about?
MB: We’re very excited about technological advancements, including AI, that have a positive impact on education. Our mission is to make education accessible to everyone around the world, and the way to do this is through technology. At ApplyBoard, we have used AI to improve antiquated processes that limited access to education, and we’re very excited to see other companies do the same.
5. Where will ApplyBoard be in 5 years?
MB: ApplyBoard has experienced tremendous growth over the past four years and will continue this trajectory into the future. In June, we announced that we had successfully secured $55 million (CAD) in Series B funding to support our rapid growth. In the next 5 years, we plan on further developing the capabilities of our product to provide an even more expansive offering for our customers. We have aggressive hiring plans, pushing our full-time employee number to over 200 this year, and we hope to continue this growth as we look into new markets.