Q&A With Stephanie Shyu, Co-Founder of AdmitSee
EdTech Times was graced with opportunity to speak with Ms. Stephanie Shyu, co-founder of AdmitSee, a young edtech startup providing a social media platform for verified undergrad and grad college/university students to share their application materials – be it essays, test scores, resumes, and such. Below please read what Ms. Shyu shared with us and our readers.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Lydia Fayal and Stephanie Shyu
Founded: March 2013
Category: Education, E-commerce, Social networking
Product stage: Market
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/admitsee-llc
Company twitter: @admitsee
Founder twitter: @sjshyu
ETT: How would you define the market segment your company is in?
SS: AdmitSee.com serves students who are applying to colleges and graduate schools in the US. We also provide school counselors and consultants with access to our database of student-uploaded application essays and advice.
ETT: How did you identify the problem you’re addressing? What was your process?
SS: As former college consultants and tutors, we were constantly asked “Who do you know who got into X college, and how do I compare?” We looked for a resource to point them to, but there wasn’t any… so we founded AdmitSee!
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem?
SS: We created a platform for college students to upload their personal application details and advice. They’re incentivized to share because we split all sales with them 50/50. Applicants can browse these application materials for students similar to themselves and message accepted students. Our data empowers applicants to better communicate their strengths and make more informed application decisions.
ETT: Who is on your advisory board?
SS: Through our participation in the Imagine K12 and FOUNDER.org accelerators, AdmitSee is fortunate to count major influencers in the EdTech and big data space as advisors. We’re working with Tim Brady (formerly the CEO of QuestBridge, first hire at Yahoo), Geoff Ralston (serial entrepreneur, former CPO of Yahoo), and Michael Baum (founding CEO of SPLUNK).
ETT: What customer need or market gap do you aim to address?
SS: Currently, applying to college is like throwing darts while blindfolded. Students who can afford it pay, on average, $4,000+ to consultants to guide them through applying to schools. Those who can’t afford it are turning to self-help resources that are unreliable, incomprehensive, or outdated.
ETT: What makes your product/business model different from that of your competitors?
SS: AdmitSee.com offers an online repository of comprehensive, trustworthy application samples that feature both quantitative and qualitative data. We verify our student contributors with school IDs to offer a reliable social networking space. The site also serves as a platform for current college and grad students to take ownership of their accomplishments and get paid to mentor others.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why?
SS: The college admissions advice market is fragmented, outdated, and expensive. The process has favored those who can spend thousands of dollars on experts–usually former admissions officers–to walk them through the process. We’re disrupting this practice through crowd-sourced content and a peer-to-peer marketplace. We’re also collecting data that no one else has to determine acceptance trends at various colleges. The long-term goal is to bring much-needed transparency to the college admissions process.
ETT: Who are your core customers?
SS: AdmitSee is a two-sided consumer marketplace with two groups of core customers: 1) current college and graduate school students who provide their insight, and 2) applicants and parents who need help navigating the application process.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
SS: As a proponent of increasing access to education, I (Steph) previously founded a non-profit that funded the secondary education of high-achieving female students in rural China.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company? Who is that mentor?
SS: Aside from the invaluable resources received through the Imagine K12 and FOUNDER.org networks, we receive feedback from former admissions officers, current independent college consultants, and a strong network of high school and college students who help us beta test our products.
ETT: Please tell us more about your product stage and what we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your next milestones.
SS: The company is still very much in its initial B2C growth stage. However, we are moving into the B2B and enterprise space of working directly with high schools to provide a college application management tool that will allow counselors to access a nationwide database of applications and track the progress of their high schoolers, including the ability to monitor and advise students on whether or not they are on track for their target colleges.
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
SS: EdTech companies are increasingly innovating ways to streamline the workflow and management for educators and administrators. Paired with the innovative charter schools that are cropping up, we may see a shift in what is considered best practice. It’s an exciting time for current students who are on board to redefine what good education entails and to help track previously unquantifiable data.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
SS: For those who are looking to improve the teaching experience or the use of technology in classrooms, listen more and talk less. Educators are already overwhelmed with new tech products pitched to them every day. If you really listen to their wants and needs and work alongside them to provide a solution, you’ll be able to develop a product that they will champion for you from the get-go.
EdTech Times thanks Ms. Shyu for speaking with us and we suggest you check out AdmitSee at:
Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.