Following a busy year, Kitchener-Waterloo’s ApplyBoard has secured $375 million CAD ($300 million USD) in Series D funding to bolster its international expansion efforts.
The all-equity round was led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (OTPPB) through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP), which focuses on providing late-stage venture capital and growth equity investments to tech firms. Existing ApplyBoard investors Fidelity Management & Research, BDC, Harmonic, Index Ventures, Garage Capital, and Blue Cloud Ventures also participated.
“We are at the right time and [the] right place because of how well the world is opening up.”
-Martin Basiri, CEO of ApplyBoard
The financing follows a year of significant growth for ApplyBoard, fuelled by digital transformation in the international student recruitment industry. Just over a year after raising its Series C round, ApplyBoard’s CEO and co-founder Martin Basiri told BetaKit the startup decided to raise Series D capital earlier than initially planned to build on this momentum.
The startup plans to use the fresh capital to expand its team, support its recent expansion to Australia, the United States (US), and the United Kingdom (UK), and develop its technology.
The round, which was first reported by The Globe and Mail as a $230 million USD round, brings ApplyBoard’s total funding to date to $600 million CAD ($475 million USD). The Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup claims the new financing gives it a post-money valuation of $4 billion CAD ($3.2 billion USD), double that of the company’s $100 million Series C round in May 2020, which was followed by a $70 million extension in September.
The Series D round included a secondary component for ApplyBoard employees and early investors. The company did not disclose the size and portion that consisted of secondary financing.
Founded in 2015 by Martin and his two brothers Meti (CMO), and Massi Basiri (COO), ApplyBoard offers software that helps international students apply to study abroad. The trio moved to Canada from Iran as international students. After experiencing the challenges associated with existing college and university application processes, the group decided to launch ApplyBoard to help others follow in their footsteps.
ApplyBoard claims to have seen significant growth over the past year, despite seeing its market drop of 75 percent during the pandemic given travel restrictions enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19, which left many students unable to cross international borders.
The startup’s artificial intelligence-enabled recruitment platform, which connects students and post-secondary institutions and makes the international application process easier and digital, was well-situated for growth during the digital transformation that took place within the sector over the past year.
According to Basiri, ApplyBoard still hasn’t fully spent its Series C capital. As a result, he said the startup’s fresh Series D funding simply “strengthens” its balance sheet and gives ApplyBoard the capital it needs to build on its recent growth.
The financing will also help ApplyBoard capitalize on growing demand from students seeking to study abroad as international borders begin to open up again. ApplyBoard claims to have served 200,000 students to date, and aims to serve “millions” over coming years.
“With limited international travel over the past year, we are seeing pent-up demand from students looking to study abroad,” said Basiri. “We are excited for what this new investment will allow us to accomplish to help our students, partner institutions, and recruitment partners, so that our industry can build back better in a post-COVID world.”
Basiri anticipates that, come September, postsecondary institutions will offer a combination of online and in-person learning opportunities, and by January, the market will roll out even more in-class schooling.
“We are at the right time and [the] right place because of how well the world is opening up,” said Basiri. The CEO emphasized that the experience of physically joining a new community is a key part of the international student experience, adding that ApplyBoard is ready to ride a huge comeback as postsecondary schools continue to reopen for in-person learning.
During 2020, ApplyBoard laid the groundwork for these plans, unveiling some new products and launching in the UK, Australia, and the US.
“Now, we are going to replicate our practice in Canada in the other major, core markets as well,” said Basiri. “Students using ApplyBoard can apply to universities and colleges in the UK, Australia, Canada, and the United States in literally one application.”
“Our mission is to make education more accessible for students around the world,” Basiri added. According to the CEO, OTPPB has the same mission. After gaining their support and the backing of the startup’s existing investors, ApplyBoard decided to raise its Series D to serve more students.
“At Ontario Teachers’, we have a fundamental belief in top quality education,” said Olivia Steedman, TIP’s senior managing director. “ApplyBoard’s technology platform is simplifying the process of connecting students and educational institutions and creating greater opportunities for education globally.”
At the time of its Series C funding, ApplyBoard had approximately 400 employees. Today, ApplyBoard has around 600 employees across Canada, with another 400 located across 25 other countries. Basiri said the company aims to double the size of its team over the next 18 months.
“We have no plans to slow down,” he said.
With files from Meagan Simpson.
Feature image courtesy of ApplyBoard