2017 in review: roller-coasters leading to acceleration
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
These poetic words belong to pioneering scientist and humanist Marie Curie and echo strongly with our drive to break down borders; borders in education, in communication, and in leadership.
Looking back at 2017, we see a year marked by a strong team push for improvement: an effort to lift our impact to a new level, extend the reach of our support for students and universities, to grow and strengthen our team, and to improve access to and transparency of information in higher education, reliably helping students get the best possible start in life. Those are all efforts propelled by our mission, our core values and a strong desire to keep innovating our services, and reinventing ourselves.
2018: surprise us! We are more than ready to dive into the exciting new year ahead of us. But before we count the last hours of 2017, let’s relive the highlights which made it a memorable one for Studyportals.
Here are our major milestones for 2017:
New Year, New Offices & Royal Recognition
A most memorable and symbolic event of 2017 was the opening of our new headquarters on the top floor of the iconic – Klokgebouw, which thanks to the help of many organisations that supported the construction, is so futuristic it soon became known as ‘the Mothership’.
With the team steadily growing, our office in the old Glass bulb factory around the corner was getting too small to fit us all. So, we had to move to a more spacious one. In April we were honoured by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands and many more honourable supporters, for a truly royal inauguration of the new office amid a bustling environment of creative, entrepreneurial minds who comprise the historic and innovative Strijp-S area in Eindhoven center.
Throughout the year we expanded with new offices in Monterrey, Mexico, and just recently, our team in Bucharest moved into their own ‘Mansion’. We even now have an engineering team working remotely from Colombo, Sri Lanka to top it all.
A Year of Trust
Starting a company is a leap of faith, like walking blindfolded towards an edge, let alone starting one with the ambition to change – what many consider – a “traditional” industry. Eight years ago, when we were laying the foundations of Studyportals, we were often told that is was merely a “crazy” idea to try disrupting the access to higher education. Nevertheless, we held on to it persistently. We trusted in ourselves and cultivated a team spirit which encouraged trust – in our own abilities and in our mission. The persistence paid off, not without bumps on the road.
This year topped it all off when we received two of the biggest tokens of trust and recognition: a top investor backing us, and the foundation of a strategic advisory board.
Towards the Ultimate Global Education Marketplace
Our biggest goal and accomplishment of 2017 remains helping more and more students find their ideal study programme, while at the same time helping educators find the best candidates for their universities.
On the student side we grew to 28 million unique users (up from 19M in ’16), they can now consider over 3,050 participating institutions, across 114 countries. Also, our service is increasingly more engaging, the number of ‘confirmed enrolments’, where we can guide the student from awareness to actual enrolment success, has grown with over 300%, far beyond our expectations. The continued growth of our popularity among students and universities is the ultimate compliment and the main reason our team goes the extra mile. Among our most proudest initiatives this year beyond the platform, we can count our growing network of student ambassadors helping us welcome students at European universities, the popularity of the Global Study Awards rewarding exceptional students looking to change the world for the better.
As we try to strike the right balance between a student’s dream programme and a university’s dream student, we take little steps to create a place where the two can be matched reliably. This year we released a series of product improvements to accommodate all of students’ demands and searches; to grow awareness of their options, fact-based insight in the various dimensions of a good choice, address all of their questions, concerns and insecurities. Our biggest product launches of 2017 were:
- Mobile-friendly display
- Improving search results
- Insights into visa requirements
- Adding transparency about admission requirements
And last, but not least, our most comprehensive feature so-far, Best Fit:
Best-Fit for Students, Best Fit for Universities
As we are striving to build the ultimate tool to facilitate study choice, we started building a tool – like an intelligent personal advisor – that will help prospective students to get reliable insights into the various dimensions that determine to which extent a study will fit to their profile and desires. We call it Best Fit.
We know that every student has unique needs, aspirations, and capabilities, so we are designing the Studyportals Best Fit to match students to the programmes that fit their profile best in any possible aspect: from their academic background, to their budget, to the personal and professional endeavours.
Beyond the Platform – Studyportals Foundation
Apart from improving study choice, we are also proud that we could intensify our work in the Studyportals foundation. There we are funding the development of access to education in the areas of our world that need it the most. This year we support Knowledge for Children and the Goodfellow Foundation from our own Julie, and we are also looking for additional effective education charities to partner with. Remember: every student review does not only inspire students of the future, we also donate the value of 1 brick to our charity partners.
Investing in the Fundamentals – Our Team
It was Thomas Edison who said: Innovation Is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. We certainly felt the hard work that goes into growth, we invested in our team massively to expand capacity and quality. We recruited 86 new team members and will end the year at 189 strong, and we are proud this staff represents 32 different nationalities. Although Studyportals was founded by students and therefore traditionally run by passionate but relatively inexperienced staff, we have recruited a good share of senior staff to acquire external knowledge and experience. Note: we are hiring a Chief Happiness Officer to orchestrate this all!
Those achievements didn’t go unnoticed. The Dutch Financial Daily named Studyportals one of the fastest growing companies of the Netherlands. Now it was a great honour receiving that award for the first time, but winning it for the fourth consecutive year makes it special. Studyportals also made it to the Financial Times’s coveted FT1000.
New Funding Partners
In the world of venture capital, an investment means that a company has an innovative solution, a scalable strategy and a strong team to execute it. Seasoned investors will only entrust their funds with companies in whose potential to change a market they truly believe.
This year, KEEN Venture Partners, run by former executives of TomTom and British Telecom, showed their trust in us, and joined the company as mentors and partners. With their help and invaluable knowledge, we are well on our way to achieving our ambitious, and sometimes impossibly-looking goals.
A Stellar Circle of Advisers
Next to KEEN Venture partners, an exceptional circle of higher education leaders who showed they belief in Studyportals’ mission by joining our Advisory Board. It composes of the world’s most innovative leaders from diverse perspectives: institutions, associations, education industry and government, we had three very inspiring board meetings, watch this space as we will soon announce the members.
We wish you all a great holiday season. Onward to a fabulous 2018, the future is bright, together we can connect our world!
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