Member Spotlight: CollegeNode’s Dan Ye Sees the Potential in China’s Education Market
After serving as a lawyer and an attorney of an automobile technology company for more than six years, Ye found his sparkling passion in starting an edtech company that mainly focuses on the Chinese education market.
We met with Dan Ye, CEO and founder of CollegeNode, to discuss not only the interesting cultural mindset of Chinese customers (mostly parents!) but also what’s coming next for CollegeNode.
CollegeNode is a rising edtech startup that offers students in China a platform to connect with admission counselors and English teachers in the US in order to help them understand and successfully navigate the U.S. admissions process.
Can you describe to us what CollegeNode does?
We help Chinese students get into American universities. Right now, there is a huge group of students in China who wish to come to the United States to study. However, those Chinese students who go to admission agencies are being served very poorly mainly because those agencies are run by Chinese people who have never studied in the U.S. before. We assign admission coordinators for those students and help them customize their application strategies. In addition, we provide an online rating system for Chinese students to rate various admission agencies (think of Yelp) that exist in China.
What led you to launch CollegeNode?
I used to go back to Beijing every once in a while to visit my folks. And every time I go back, my mom’s friends would mob me and ask me to help their kids get into [U.S.] college. So I did that for ten years, which sort of became my side job besides being a full-time lawyer in the States. One day, it finally occurred to me, “Why don’t I start a business out of it?” The education market in China is huge right now because the demand to go to college in the States is very high.
What is the cultural mindset in China in relation to this problem?
Most Chinese students have never heard of any other U.S. schools other than Harvard, Yale and Princeton. And obviously, not everyone can get into those schools! So a big part of our work is to educate our customers what studying in America actually entails. Chinese students wish to come to the States because they find the Chinese educational system to be inflexible and impractical. In China, most people have only one child and therefore it is very common for both parents and grandparents to channel their resources to pay for their kid’s college tuition. Money is not a big issue in those cases. In return, parents hope that their kids get a job in the U.S. and stay in America after graduating from college.
How has your six years of experience in the automobile tech industry aided you in the edtech world?
Previously, I found an automobile technology company and managed that for six years before launching CollegeNode. And before that, I also worked as a lawyer for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I benefited from my experience because I definitely learned a lot about enteurprenurship when I was the CEO of the tech company. Some of the investors for CollegeNode actually served as investors for that previous company as well. Through experiences, I discovered that the entrepreneur track fit me better than being a lawyer.
Do you describe yourself more as an educator or an entrepreneur?
Can I be both? I see myself more as an entrepreneur. My partner, who is also my wife, does most of the consulting where as I focus on the business side. I oversee our website, raise money, and hire people.
How do you plan to build on CollegeNode’s current success and continue to gain traction? Do you plan to scale the service to other countries besides China?
So far all of our clients come from China, but our websites are available worldwide. I would be more than happy to take customers from all over the world! I also think that the Chinese market is big enough for us to gain traction for the next five years. When the situation presents itself, we do plan to expand internationally. Our ultimate goal is to become a portal for students all across the world.
What piece of advice do you have for other early stage edtech entrepreneurs?
I would encourage startups that are in the beginning stage to raise money early on so that they can grow fast with the revenue that they earn. Having that drive power will certainly make the growth rate faster. And it is so crucial to have good partners! Work with at least three effective partners. But most importantly, keep on your path!
Finally, what brought you to 1776?
Before finding out about this place called 1776, we actually had our own office back in April. I really like the campus so far and I even recommend the space to other people!