Can you study in a top US, Chinese or European university when you have no money and lack family support? The answer is yes, as demonstrated by StudyFree, an online service that helps applicants increase their chances to get a scholarship and be admitted to educational institutions.
Now claiming 23,000 users across the world, StudyFree was founded in Russia just two years ago. It now serves applicants from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Africa, Brazil and Asia, claiming a success rate of 98% for obtaining scholarships.
The startup has plans to develop further across the Brazilian, Indian and African markets.
Like many other promising Russian startups, StudyFree quickly moved abroad. It is now registered in Delaware and has its headquarters in Silicon Valley.
“This company never was about Russia. If you want to build a truly global business, you need to be where top minds and expertise are, as well as investors, venture and the right legal environment,” explains StudyFree founder Dasha Kroshkina, 27, who is now based in San Francisco.
As for StudyFree’s team, it was purely remote from day one, with people from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Poland as well as Africa and Brazil.
From personal educational experience to startup success
The idea of creating StudyFree came from Kroshkina’s own experience. “My personal financial limitations hindered me from fulfilling my dream for international education. I was exactly in the same situation as the students who use our platform today,” says the young entrepreneur.
Born in a small Russian town, Kroshkina “dreamt to see the world.” She learned three foreign languages: English, Spanish and Mandarin. After a few years of research and hard work, she managed to win more than $100,000 worth of scholarships and grants to study abroad. Thus, she studied for free in Spain, China (double degree in BA and then top business school in Quant Finance), and the USA (short course at Stanford).
StudyFree was bootstrapped for nearly two years. Kroshkina says she initially put around $300 in the project. “We managed to be cash positive from the first month: this built a solid DNA of making money rather than spending them.”
In May this year, just after winning Seedstars World 2020, StudyFree raised a $600,000 pre-seed round from international investors. Acrobator VC, the fund launched by Bas Godska and Joachim Laqueur to invest in Western and Eastern Europe, led the round. Seedstars Investment, the Berkeley Skydeck and TechStars NY accelerators, as well as Chris Adelsbach as an individual investor, also participated in the round.
The company plans to raise additional funding in September-November 2020 as part of SeedStars accelerator’s demo days.
Meanwhile Buddy.ai, another edtech startup with Russian roots now headquartered in San Francisco, announced the successful launch of its services in Latin America, where it sees “a huge potential.” Its next target market is Turkey, as reported by Russian industry publication Rusbase.