1 November 2016

South Africa's Eduone Positions Itself to Become the Platform That Will Answer All Student Needs

With South Africa's university system in turmoil, it might not seem like a good time to be running an online platform for "all things student". But the growth of EduOne - both in terms of use and services - shows rather the reverse. Russell Southwood spoke to EduOne's Sales & Marketing Director Ben Rath.

College and University student platforms are a growing start-up genre in Africa. Students need to organize everything from the funding of their course to their social life and much else besides.

EduOne started as Stoogle and in June 2016 it rebranded as EduConnect, one of four services the platform provides under its mother brand EduOne. The four services are now: Edufunding (a list of bursaries, loans and funding opportunities); EduHealth (internships and community placements for young health professionals); EduConnect (career options and funding post-course); and EduMatch (matching a potential students qualifications and interests to courses.)

At the time Ben Rath explained the change:" "When we started with Stoogle, we were solving a single problem: the poor provision of information and resources available to the South African youth. Since then, things have changed. We've noticed more problems - lack of funding, expensive textbooks, a lack of easy access to course options - and we've built things to help fix these problems. We now have a string of products we put our hearts into and we needed to pull it all together into a single website." Rath says that they will have 14 products coming out over the next two years and that they need a mother brand "to redesign how we thought about the company."

The four brands above all have their own websites and in total attract 350,000 monthly active users. The biggest of the sites by users is their first EduConnect and the second is EduFunding.

So what's the business model?:"It was predominantly advertising to begin with." The advertising came from education institutions and brands that need to sell to students. But with EduFunding they found that they could also add another approach.

It offers those offering funding and bursaries to students admin modules, listings of applicants by PDF, filtering modules, analytics, disbursement modules and the ability to pay funds for a bursary via a card. The card allows the student to make purchases of textbooks and the like but not for food. Likewise the fees are paid directly to the institution. So the likes of Discovery can upload its scheme to the website and manage it which EduOne sells as a service to them.

The company has been funded through three private rounds, the first from a close friend; the second from a close acquaintance; and the third from the technical company it is partnered with, Evolve IT, which runs a portfolio of start-ups. The three co-founders are all business graduates from the University of Cape Town.

Future plans include EduStore which will allow students to buy and finance essentials like a laptop, a phone and packaged goods;"When I arrived at UCT I went to Makro to buy knifes and forks, a kettle and so on. We will provide a package of these things and deliver them to your student residence or digs as and when you arrive. The box of goods delivered will come with associated recipes."

It will also provide a service that will allow students to buy secondhand textbooks from students who are leaving or those who have books they no longer user. This service will also cover other goods like clothes, desks and chairs. Lastly, they will launch EduDigs which will allow those wanting to share student accommodation to find other students to do this with.

Rath believes that the position it takes as a company will ultimately keep them ahead of the competition:"We always side with the student versus making money from them and they will always remember the help EduOne gave them." The ultimate ambition is to have services for all the 10 million students aged between 14-26.

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