Business writer and author
Over recent years, especially as education has become more global than ever before, an array of consultants and support services has emerged to make the application process run smoothly and successfully. You can practice your interview technique, receive advice on each application form, have essays reviewed and edited, even have your rejection analysed (for $450).
It is a growing business in a big global market. Tere are, for example, 800,000 applications to MBA programmes globally every year. To this can be added 450,000 applicants to MSc programmes and 50,000 PhD applicants, not to mention the four million applicants to undergraduate courses in the US alone.
Now, into the fray comes 100mentors. It provides a marketplace for people who are currently studying in universities or graduates to mentor candidates who are applying to the same university. Mentors select the services they are willing to provide – such as reviewing an applicant’s CV, an essay review, or conducting a mock interview. 100mentors basically acts as a platform. Its clients pay mentors directly with 100mentors simply providing the payment method and payment security.
“Essentially it’s about helping people to select the right university, because sometimes the public information is not enough to make the right choice between universities. We also help them understand what is in their application, and how to showcase their application to have a better chance of getting into the university,” explains one of the 100mentors founders Alexey Pokatilo who, after a spell with the consulting firm BCG, previously set up a successful online tutoring and homework business. “One of the reasons I was attracted by 100mentors was because I could use a lot of marketing and development experience, especially in terms of building a product, that I obtained in my former business. It’s satisfying to be able to apply this in a more refined way without making the same mistakes.”
The 100mentors business model allows mentors to select their own price. Using traditional admission consultants would cost at least $3,000 per package. 100mentors hopes to be able to offer a similar package costing anything between $300 and $500. It will receive a commission – of around 20 per cent – on each transaction made via its platform.
This is not wishful thinking. 100mentors’ market analysis suggests it is entering a deeply fragmented market with a profusion of small to medium sized admission consulting firms mainly attracting business through word of mouth. Their business models work against scale. At the same time, they also tend to be businesses with attractively high margins.
“The traditional model is prohibitively expensive and ripe for disruption. Moreover, it is not scalable and we want something that has natural scale and can have broader impact. We want to democratise mentorship,” says Pokatilo.
The 100mentors team includes some with experience in the admissions consulting industry. Its service is currently being market tested and, thanks to previous contacts in the educational world, a steady stream of universities and mentors are already signing up to offer their services.
Pokatilo maps out the plan: “We’re working towards getting more and more clients and visitors to our beta version over the next few months. We hope to launch a functionality that is going to allow users to have the entire interaction on the platform, and then we will need funds as we start scaling. One of the crucial things is not to scale prematurely. We need to have very solid economics behind a business model that we believe in.”
While 100mentors is focused on the admission consulting business, if its business model works it could unlock other possibilities. It could unlock entire communities of mentors. For example, there is potential to enter the job market where much the same model could be applied. Whatever way you look, the future will be mentored.
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