Before the business plan, financial forecast and investment rounds, there was an idea. What is the idea that fueled the founder of Upgrade Academy?
The Business plan and financial forecast are a great guide when evaluating a business. However, if this is the first time you are hearing about a startup, it might be good to get some context first. From now on, we will announce every upcoming campaign with an introductory interview with the founder(s) that focuses on 4 key questions. This short but powerful article is meant to shed light on an upcoming investment opportunity via SeedBlink.
Today we are talking about Upgrade Academy, whose crowdinvesting campaign goes live on Wednesday, September 15 at 10am EET.
Hello Tinu! What's happening in the vertical industry you are in? What are the key trends?
First, since the public system cannot keep up with modern teaching methods, private tutoring is booming in Romania. Many students are opting for personal tutoring, probably more than in other countries. The academic tutoring market is estimated at 312 million EUR/year, which is a lot for such a small country as Romania.
Secondly, with the advent of COVID, people have realised that online education can be good as long as it is done right. It can be a great tool, especially in the field of one-to-one teaching. The main advantage is that students have the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. At Upgrade Academy, we believe that online education is a great opportunity for future innovation in the field of educational technology in Romania.
What problem is solved by Upgrade Academy?
One of the biggest shortcomings of the Romanian education system is that it leaves students in the dark about what to do in the future, especially in terms of jobs and educational programmes. Due to the lack of individual attention and curriculum reforms, students are relatively confused about what career path they should take or which university they should attend to achieve their goals. They graduate from high school with no idea how to connect their skills and strengths to a field of study. The system seems to neglect the importance of career guidance, so we are trying to do something in that direction.
Upgrade Academy works as an accelerator for all high school students, not just those who want to apply to top universities. Our services are designed to help students achieve three main goals:
Step 1: Upgrade Academy helps students identify their academic interest.
Our market research has shown that most 10th graders (or students in 11th grade) are confused and do not know what to do after high school. They have a hard time connecting their skills and abilities to a university degree or a possible career path. For this reason, we want to help students find an academic interest they want to pursue after graduation.
Step 2: We provide students with support to develop that interest and expand their knowledge.
Upgrade Academy students work with mentors who have studied at the most prestigious universities in the world, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and NYU. They can provide our students with the best learning resources and advice.
Step 3: Upgrade Academy offers assistance with the application process.
We create a personalised plan for each of our students to maximise their chances of getting into their dream university and ensure they reach their full potential.
How did you come to found Upgrade Academy and what motivates you?
After working in the retail industry in the US, I decided I wanted to do something different and launch my own personal project. Since my high school days, I dreamed of doing something about social inequality. Giving students access to a top-notch education seemed like one of the best ways to do that. So I returned to Romania and started doing what I did best: Coaching students for admission to the most prestigious universities.
Coming from the US, I expected that creating a strong business plan would be enough to find an investor. Needless to say, it did not work out so well in Romania. In April 2017, I started coaching three students from one of the best schools in Bucharest. We did not have our own office. Instead, I rented a room in a business complex for our meetings when needed. That's how Upgrade Academy came into being.
Why you - what makes Upgrade Academy so special?
Upgrade Academy students learn directly from people who graduated from Ivy League or Oxbridge and have a real passion for education. We have created an environment where they can express their love of teaching in the most comfortable and convenient way. I wanted to remove any barriers that might prevent talented mentors from pursuing a career in education. Our online platform gives alumni from top universities the opportunity to get together for a few hours a week and teach a course they enjoy, even if they are pursuing another career or a full-time job. This is how we manage to attract very talented and passionate people.
In addition, our online platform helps students move seamlessly through the admissions process using gamified content and maximises the efficiency of student-mentor time. Top students and mentors from around the world can connect and learn together. For example, one of our courses was taught by a former Cambridge student who currently lives in Japan.
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By Bianca Iulia Simion
PublishedSeptember 13, 2021
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