August 4, 2012
Abroad101 collects study abroad reviews – for students who want to compare options and for colleges who want to recommend programs, see results, and improve their offerings.
That sounds like an obvious value, but building a company is rarely so easy. Below, Abroad101’s marketing consultant and content creation specialist, Amy Bernstein, explains how they managed to attract two sets of customers – students and universities – and gain an international audience.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind Abroad101? What do you enjoy most about working on it?
Amy Bernstein: Shortly after college graduation, our three co-founders and childhood friends Adam Miller, Mark Lurie, and Michael Stone realized the need for a comprehensive resource where students could go to read real, unbiased reviews of study abroad programs. They conducted focus groups with universities and study abroad providers, which reinforced a need for a more streamlined process for collecting program evaluations. It seemed like a win-win, and Abroad101 was born.
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment for Abroad101. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Bernstein: I think one of our greatest challenges was continuing to be patient and flexible around the needs of our potential customers in the early stages of the product development. While we were incredibly passionate about the innovation we were bringing to the study abroad space through our technology, we needed to actually create demand for our product by continuing to listen to our partners’ needs. Then it was a matter of educating and collaborating with our partners to demonstrate more the efficient alternatives Abroad101 offers.
It took several years for the international education space to warm up to a review platform for study abroad programs, but the persistence required to overcome such initial resistance has resulted in an even more dynamic product, as well as significantly greater support from our customers…. While we have some competitors in the study abroad space, we have been able to differentiate ourselves with our strong evaluation software and personalized university partnerships.
Listening and tweaking also went beyond our customers as we’ve grown our team and learned to invest in them as well. I recommend doing some serious reflecting to figure out what skills and resources you bring to the table, as well as areas in which you lack experience, so you can recruit complementary team members that fill the gaps. When seeking advice, we learned to aim big and pursued leaders in our space, such as the co-founders of TripAdvisor. Now we are thrilled to have them on board, because they are providing invaluable guidance as we take on new challenges.
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about your team and your office culture?
Bernstein: We recently moved into a new office in downtown Boston and it’s a very unique space that reflects our team’s fun, creative, collaborative nature. The space is an open loft, and we’re lucky enough to enjoy a full kitchen, which has resulted in regular monthly team dinners and an opportunity to diversify our culinary expertise. We also host frequent “Mad Men Days” when the team dresses in their finest ’60s threads and pays tribute to our favorite TV series!
Abroad101 was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail Boston mixer.
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