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 Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of Leverage Edu, 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 Leverage Edu? Why and how did you begin?
AC: A lot of early opportunities in my life came because of access to the right mentors. And the right mentors came thanks to my extrovert style of looking for them and hard-pressed persistence. I also realized that having the right mentor changes your life, and takes it to the absolute next level. Hence, Leverage Edu was born as a mentorship marketplace while I was doing my MBA at ISB Hyderabad.
Professor Anindya Ghose from NYU Stern, a visiting professor at the Indian School of Business (ISB), was instrumental in helping me build the first building blocks towards it. Soon after, I applied to an accelerator in Silicon Valley called Draper University with the Leverage Edu idea and got accepted to spend my summer in the Bay Area in 2015. These were still early days, so I decided to take a break and started working in internet companies/startups in India to learn more and improve my skill set.
Around the same time, over a discussion with my mentor Heidi Roizen, a Partner at DFJ Ventures, we realized that the marketplace should hack a “tangible service”, and started talking about the founder-product-market fit. Given my passion for the higher education business since I had worked for AIESEC, a study abroad internship/student organization as a teenager, and later as part of the student board at ISB, we decided to launch College Admissions as a core category on Leverage Edu. The company later began operations in April 2017, and we soon started rocket pacing things.
2. Please describe your use case and how Leverage Edu uses AI:
AC: Our use of technology is deeply embedded in everything small and big at Leverage Edu. It helps us become a more efficient, fast, quickly scalable, and more impactful company. Today, we use AI to help students on our platform figure out what’s the right program/college fit for them, where can they get to/ what would they will be good at, etc. In addition, AI also helps us match students to mentors who are “like them”, so that in essence a student is working with someone they aspire to be like, and a mentor gets to help someone who they can connect with on a deeper level — this matching leads to magic — and is a huge reason behind our success till now.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
AC: Our website and social media is full of testimonials that talk about students who used our services successfully, and received an admission to their desired college, or were able to make the right career move thanks to a great mentor they found on our platform.
The mentors on our platform closely work with an in-house team that helps them design workshops, customize lessons on a student-to-student basis, and give backend support to ensure a very delighted customer who goes out there and wins the world.
4. What other AI use cases in education are you excited about?
AC: I am excited about the use of AI in the middle to senior school space, so that students can better decide what areas to focus on, in studies and otherwise, in line with their natural talents. It’s an area that deeply interests us at Leverage Edu, because a big way in which our current customers could have fared even better was if we had reached them earlier in the journey. So yes, it’s definitely very interesting!
5. Where will Leverage Edu be in five years?
AC: Five years from now, you will see us go deeper towards impacting the entire journey of the student. Right now, we are piloting helping students who obtain higher education services from us with help on education loans, accommodation, forex, VISA, insurance, etc. We will also work towards ensuring that career advice becomes more accessible and available to even those who can’t afford our service, through some unique models.