Startup helping place international students secures $12 million, as COVID-19 presents an unexpected opportunity

Adventus co-founders

Adventus co-founders Ryan Trainor, Victor Rajeevan, Richard Uren and Lincoln Trainor. Source: supplied.

Startup Adventus has raised $12 million in seed and Series A funding, as it grows its Software-as-a-Service platform helping international students find a spot in the university that’s right for them.

The funding comes from 333 Capital, and also includes investment from the founders themselves.

Founded in 2018, by serial Aussie entrepreneur Ryan Trainor along with his brother Lincoln Trainer and co-founders Victor Rajeevan and Richard Uren, the Adventus platform connects universities all over the world with international students.

Currently, about 70% of prospective international students use agents to find their spots, Ryan Trainor tells SmartCompany. But, those agents tend to have only 30 or so university partnerships, he says.

“That could potentially create some bias in that selection process,” he explains.

At the same time, it acts as a tool to help universities attract students from all over the world, without relying too heavily on any one country.

“It seemed to us that technology hadn’t really played a part in this industry.”

Trainor is tight-lipped about the revenue growth the business has seen over the past two years. But, the startup currently has almost 500 universities on the platform, and is onboarding at an average rate of one more every day.

Within the past 12 months, the team has grown from 14 people to 150, he adds, and the business has 14 offices around the world, including in the UK, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

An inflection point

Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means many international borders remain closed, including to international students. On the face of it, this wouldn’t appear to pose an opportunity for a startup in this space.

But Trainor begs to differ.

COVID-19 has caused universities to “re-think how they look at their student recruitment”, Trainor adds.

Often, after global crises universities see a spike in interest from international students, he suggests.

University staff can’t travel, but still have to be building relationships, and making their institutions attractive. So, tech tools are an attractive prospect.

At the same time, it gives bricks-and-mortar university recruitment agents, which Trainor says often have high costs, easier access to a larger number of institutions. The crisis will likely also cause them to have a think about how they do business, and what they could be doing more efficiently, he suggests.

We’re at an “inflection point”, he adds.

“Technology can solve that problem.”

Global goals

Trainor acknowledges that the real growth will come after the pandemic has passed, and borders are able to re-open.

For the time being, “we’ve just got to knuckle down and execute and deliver what we’ve promised”, he says.

The Series A funding will be used “to continue to build the foundations”, he says.

He’s also working towards a Series B round later on this year, fuelling the continuation of the startup’s global expansion.

The goal is to have 750 university partners on the platform by Christmas, and Trainor is planning expansion into Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Indonesia.

Currently, there are some 5.3 million university students around the world. By 2023, Trainor hopes Adventus will be helping to place more than 50,000 of them each year.

“That would make us the largest placement platform of students in the world,” he says.

“That’s our goal, and it’s attainable,” he adds.

“This is one of the most expensive purchasing decisions for a lot of families around the world — they’re sending their kids overseas,” Trainor explains.

“We see it as a really deep responsibility …. They need to have the confidence to do that.”

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