How to choose your exchange destination.. HELP?


As our Information Strategy blog is so interactive, I would like to take this opportunity to propose a business idea that fits the subject of the last lecture: a platform for matching future exchange students to their destination. I wrote the start of a business plan with two French girls on my exchange in Dublin, but the feasibility the project was really low and we never actually believed we would be able to implement it. However, I was wondering what you guys would think of the idea and whether you would have suggestions for executing it.

Our idea responds to a real need we had observed as being Erasmus students ourselves. Our experience left us knowing that sometimes it’s difficult to find the university we would like. There is much information on the internet but this is not centralized and given that sometimes you don’t really know what you’re looking for, it can be a bit overwhelming. A survey was conducted to prove we were not the only ones facing this problem:

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Additionally, 94% of the respondents said they would use a comparison website that fulfils this need!

Like most internet start-up nowadays, we proposed the idea of a platform to bring together students and universities. So, the proposed solution here is to create a platform on which students can create an account and fill in their characteristics and preferences ( I will not elaborate on all of these). Resulting from these data, a top 10 of universities will come up. The difference with current comparison websites is that this one incorporates both country/city specifics and university criteria. Also, some comparable websites like Studyabroad.com (2015) get the idea, but only provide the user with four possible outcomes – not a very extensive portfolio. Main key for our website would thus be to have as many universities in our database as possible.

After the idea being clear, the marketing strategy wasn’t hard to propose and the revenue model was set as an advertising model – students can only be reached if the service is free.

Moving on to the main issue – the feasibility of gathering all data. In order to actually help all students, data of all universities and corresponding countries/cities should be stored. If this is not the case, the website will not be efficient at all because students will want to explore all their options. For example, at RSM you can choose over 90 universities, and you want to be able to compare them all – that’s what this website is for. Gathering all data (like class sizes, accommodation costs, presence of societies, etc.) would take an immense amount of time. A cooperation with universities would probably be necessary in order for them to insert their own data somehow, but how do we convince these universities?  We have not proven to be successful yet, so why would they invest the time? Assuming they want to market their university to exchange students (a high internationals percentage is in my opinion very important), cross side network effects should exist. Or is it the fact that this platform heavily depends on network effects (both cross side effects), makes it hard to commence?

When creating a timeline for implementation, we suggested that we, as a management team, would start collecting data ourselves. Milestones were set per university, for example we would start with UCD (University College Dublin) and start with collecting data of universities that UCD students were able to pick (this were about 20 universities). Because of easy access, our own universities would follow, and so on. But to be honest, would we really want to invest all our time in Googling all this data?

In theory, this business idea should work. The platform brings together students and universities in a way that has not been done before. In practice, I have my doubts. With big data being a trend, I think this should be easily feasible, however competitors also seem to have issues having a wide portfolio – so why hasn’t this happened yet?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the business plan. Do you think this will ever be possible, and will it be profitable? Do the cross side network effects (students need a lot of universities, but universities want lots of students) make it to difficult to start up this platform?

References: studyabroad.com, Accessed on 16-10-2015

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