Guest post from Lital Helman.
The past years have seen the break of the dichotomy between the for-profit and non-profit world. The view has increasingly deviated from the idea that nonprofits are the main vehicle to promote social goals, and that for-profit companies should only contribute sporadically, via donations to third parties. A new breed of companies is now emerging – those who are socially minded from the get-go to create and impact beyond their company’s bottom line.
GradTrain, an online platform that advises international students on applying to schools abroad, is a perfect example for a “For Profit Social Impact Startup”. GradTrain was founded by five friends from five different countries who felt that studying abroad changed their lives, and decided to help the next generation of applicants fulfill their potential.
GradTrain’s founders know that international students lack the knowledge about foreign education systems, as well as the network of family, friends and even professors who understand the system. A global survey GradTrain ran among hundreds of current and past international graduate students from more than 50 countries showed that most prospective students do not have the guidance they need for study abroad (and in many cases pay huge sums of money to obtain guidance).
GradTrain presents an innovative solution for these challenges. It connects applicants with people from the same background and with a similar career trajectory who went through this process successfully, who can provide coaching and advice. GradTrain also develops data-based tools to help students make better decisions in the application process: where are they likely to get accepted? How effective are their references? What are the relevant scholarships for this specific applicant?
Most interestingly, GradTrain measures its success not only based on revenues and bottom line, but also based on its social impact: does GradTrain keep services affordable and accessible? To what extent does it broaden access to global education? GradTrain has pledged to also dedicate a portion of the company’s earnings to scholarships for students in need.
GradTrain has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo (http://igg.me/at/gradtrain). GradTrain sees the campaign as a community building tool that involves future users, engages with them and with people who care about international education and makes them part of this effort to help broaden access to education.
Indeed, the most obvious contributors to the campaign are past, present, and future international students, (or their parents) who want this service to exist in order to use it – either as coaches or as users. They can pre-purchase coaching sessions and other application-enhancement tools as perks.
There is a big group of people who contribute to GradTrain’s indiegogo campaign, who are not future users. These are people who believe in the positive impact of global education – and want to be part of the GradTrain effort. The most popular perk on the GradTrain campaign is actually the $50 level – where people can have their name appear on GradTrain’s founders’ page on www.gradtrain.com
If GradTrain is successfully funded, the founding team expects to launch the services in the fall of 2013. To learn more about GradTrain, readers can visit the project’s campaign page here: http://igg.me/at/gradtrain.