ApplyBoard CEO, Martin Basiri, Grows Canadian Startup Powerhouse with International Roots

Martin Basiri was a student in Iran when he came upon the inspiration for what would become an incredibly successful startup venture. Martin knew he wanted to study in Canada and was looking for the best possible place to advance his education.

There were many obstacles Martin had to overcome before being able to study in Canada, and the process wasn’t always easy. Not only did he need to apply for a visa, but he also needed to search for the best school and chose the program that best fit his career goals. Information on academic programming is sometimes fragmented, making it very challenging for prospective students to find the information they need.

With a firm belief that students everywhere have a right to the best possible education, Martin had high standards. Eventually, he chose the University of Waterloo based on its reputation for excellence and inclusive programming. Martin soon graduated with a Master’s in Mechatronics Engineering and began looking towards the next phase in his life – entrepreneurship.

Inspired by a passion for innovation and his experience immigrating to Canada, he set out to help his brothers get visas as well so they could join him in Canada to pursue his business idea. “It’s in my nature to build cool things”, says Martin. “I wanted to help my brothers with their visas. Using what I had learned, I was able to get their process down to only a few months.”

In 2011, the brothers got their visas and by 2015 they had used their combined experiences to create ApplyBoard, an artificial intelligence-enabled educational marketplace designed to help match international students with the best universities and programs that meet their unique needs.

“Our mission is to give people the power to access the best educational opportunities from around the world,” says Martin. “Students have a huge impact on the economy and we know students, particularly ones from diverse backgrounds, create a positive impact for a brighter future by combining their knowledge and skills with their cultural experiences. Canada is a welcoming community and it was the perfect place to launch ApplyBoard.”

The Technology

ApplyBoard is a solution-focused tech company revolutionizing the international student application process. Their product and expert staff connects with students worldwide, helping them find the best educational opportunities available to them, curated to fit their goals and preferences

ApplyBoard constructed its platform as a service (PaaS) with students and educational partners in mind. Its AI aligns the interests of students and partner schools by matching each student with their most suitable program. The platform is intuitive, personalized and designed to help everyone succeed.

ApplyBoard has partnered with over 800 institutions and is rapidly expanding their global presence.

The process starts with a screening with ApplyBoard experts to ensure the students are serious about looking to continue their education and helping them start to identify what they are looking for in an institution or an academic program. From there, students can submit their profile and information to the platform, and the AI will consider those inputs and suggest a list of highly correlated schools and programs.

The ApplyBoard team walks the student all the way through the process, including helping with visas and post grad work permits. The company has a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant on staff who is an expert on partnerships with universities and governments. This ensures ApplyBoard’s recommendations are up to date with any changes in legislation.

The platform has a 95% success rate attaching students to academic institutions.

The International Student Education Industry is impressive. In fact, it is the fourth largest export in the Canadian economy and ApplyBoard is responsible for contributing over $100 million to the Canadian economy so far. “In 2016, international students contributed $15.5 billion to the economy in tuition, books and accommodations.” says their PR Specialist Adrianna Dyczkowsky.

Early Support from Innovation Ecosystem

Along the way, the innovation ecosystem in Waterloo gave ApplyBoard a tremendous amount of support. “Velocity gave us a home and the Accelerator Centre helped us with our visas and gave us funding.” Martin recalls. 

“With the help of Clinton Ball, [Director of Client Programs and Initiatives] and the staff in the AC’s Startup Visa Program, we were able to get Canadian permanent residency status in six months and through AC JumpStart we were able to get the critical funding to get us started.” Martin says.

“It would have been impossible to build ApplyBoard without the support of the AC to obtain permanent residency.”

“I met many times with Martin and the founding team,” recalls Clinton. “They showed real commitment to growing their company, and every time we would have a coffee they had more business traction. We are happy to see the team and business growing, and this is a great example of how the Startup Visa program is helping build Canadian technology companies.”

A Growing Team with Their Eye on the Future

From the initial team of brothers: Martin Basiri, CEO; Meti Basiri, Co-Founder and CMO; and Massi Basiri, COO, the team has grown to 75 people and continues on a growth trajectory.

Diversity is a key pillar of their talent strategy. In an industry where typically only 22% of women are represented in the tech workforce, 50% of ApplyBoard’s team are women.

In the coming months, ApplyBoard will be moving into a new, larger office in Kitchener-Waterloo and growing its existing international presence in India, China, Vietnam and Nepal. The company will also be attending various global industry conferences and local events in the near future with the goal of sharing its story and expanding its customer base. Martin sums up ApplyBoard’s goals well, “Students are the future, and the journey begins now. Student by student we are helping thousands of people realize their dreams: attending the best schools while building a better future for the world.”

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