Based in Singapore, ErudiFi wants to help more students in Southeast Asia stay in school by giving them affordable financing options. The startup announced today it has raised a $ 5 million Series A, co-led by Monk’s Hill Ventures and Qualgro.
ErudiFi currently works with more than 50 universities and vocational schools in Indonesia and the Philippines. Co-founder and chief executive officer Naga Tan told TechCrunch that students in those countries have limited financing options, and often rely on friends or family, or informal payday lenders that charge high interest rates.
To provide more accessible financing options, ErudiFi partners with accredited universities and schools to offer subsidized installment plans, using tech to scale up while keeping costs down. Interest rates and repayment terms vary between institutions, but can be as low as 0%, with loans payable in 12 to 24 months.
By providing their students with affordable financing plans, ErudiFi can increase retention rates at schools, helping them keep students who would otherwise be forced to drop out because of financial issues.
Tan said ErudiFi’s value proposition for educational institutions is “being able to offer a data-driven financing solution that helps with student recruitment and retention. Students also greatly benefit because our product is one of the few, if not the only, affordable financing option they have access to.”
In a press statement, Peng T. Ong, co-founder and managing partner of Monk’s Hill Ventures, said, “Access to affordable tertiary education remains a huge pain point in Southeast Asia where the cost is nearly double then the average GDP per capita. ErudiFi is tackling an underserved market that is plagued with high-interest rates by traditional financial institutions and limited reach from peer-to-peer lending companies.”
ErudiFi’s Series A will be used on hiring for its product and engineering teams and to expand in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Each year, millions of students in India rush to get an admission in universities abroad. Often they don’t know which program they should focus on, or the college that is right for their skillset and ambition.
Scores of legacy and newfound firms are attempting to offer counselling to these students. But despite India contributing more international students than any other country, most firms aiming to address this challenge are not focused on India, and struggle to understand some unique problems students in the world’s second-most populous country face.
An Indian startup that is bridging this gap on Thursday said it has raised $ 6.5 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its platform in the world’s second-largest internet market.
Leverage Edu said Tomorrow Capital led the Delhi-headquartered startup’s Series A financing round. Existing investors Blume Ventures and DSG Consumer Partners also participated in the round.
Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive of Leverage Edu, told TechCrunch in an interview that he believes that eventually the firm that is going to serve the students best and emerge most successful will be the one that is physically closer to them, and not to the universities.
Chaturvedi, 30, began exploring this idea for this startup in 2015 and spent a little more than a year experimenting with different models. One of the earliest iterations of Leverage Edu offered mentorship to students and rewarded counselors with points.
Today, the startup offers a broad range of services in addition to offering personalized mentorship. Through its workshops, it helps students find the right college, guides them with complex applications and grade conversions, as well as assists with education loans, visas and accommodations. “It’s one digital dashboard. You get everything from flight tickets to local phone numbers, to education loan in one place,” he said.
“We believe it is inevitable that the next stellar brand in the global cross-border education space will be a home-grown one. We have a great belief in Akshay as a founder — he has a fantastic roadmap for scaling the business and the passion to build a truly global Indian edtech brand — and are excited about working with the Leverage Edu team on this journey,” said Rohini Prakash, chief executive of Tomorrow Capital, in a statement.
Leverage Edu helps students land admission in the most prestigious colleges, but also works with those that didn’t score the best marks.
“Students going to the top colleges is just 10% of the potential audience,” explained Chaturvedi, who spent his teen years attending talks from startup founders and also made money by bringing more people to those talks. “There are many universities that don’t have the best branding. To connect them with students, we have our SaaS offering Univalley.com,” he said.
The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to help students find colleges in more geographies, including the U.K. and Australia, he said.
“We want to focus on a few things and do them really, really well. There is also this myth around foreign education being expensive that we’ve been busting for the last four years. Eighteen months from now, we want to be among the top study-abroad companies in India, both by number of students and a roof-hitting NPS — because a happy student is why we are all really motivated everyday to do this!”, he added.