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The true story of HigherEdMe

How we started from scratch

Before the idea

Back in 2012, I (Arnaud) was running an association of Higher Education Schools. At this time, with some colleagues, we decided to build a very innovative school called Talent Campus, where you learn inter-personal and intra-personal skills to boost your talent. This experience was a success, we trained more than 3.000 people and participated in revealing their full potential, regardless of their age or social status.

We thought : “why do we limit ourselves to our France? Let’s push the experience to foreign students in the form of a summer school”.

So we started to talk about it in the medias and directly to the schools abroad. But almost no one answered. We thought it was because of the cost. So we decided to make it free for students. But again, almost no one answered.

The reason is because it is just very hard to reach students abroad. How can you give students such opportunities if you can’t reach them?

We cancelled the summer school and I was really sad about it.


A new life

In 2014, I changed jobs and I became an entrepreneur funding my own consulting company. I remembered this problem, and thought “what if we build a place where Schools and Universities can easily find students?”

I did not know how to program it though. So I had no solution for it, just the will to solve this problem.

Anyway, I needed to know if other program leaders had the same student attraction problem. So I did my homework, I studied this new international student recruitment field., and I learned how Schools and Universities cope with it everyday.


It was a real shock

Basically, I understood institutions had 3 options :

1/ Build partnerships with other institutions. Problems : difficult to balance, very time consuming, and at the end students have a limited choice;

2/ Use agents. Problems : they charge 10 to 25% of the tuition fees. Sometimes they double-charge the student.

3/ Use media kits and pay for marketing advertising. Problems : very expensive to be seen around the world.

All of these options end in an increase of tuition fees for students. And on the students’ side, it seems to be a pain to look for an institution, understand the program offers, transfer credits and costs.

With all the existing dating platforms to find love between two persons, why don’t we use the same technologies to make students and Universities meet?

I had to build a solution, but not alone

I really needed a CTO to make this happen. In February 2015, I met Pierre-Alexandre during a pitch session in Lyon. He had a crazy project called chemspeak, but fun enough so I knew we could work together.

We discussed the idea of building this platform where Universities could contact students, and decided to spend time together to make a prototype.

Then we had the chance to meet BPI France, who decided to support us, on a 50% base in financing.

I had to find the other 50% needed to start. I worked many days to achieve it, but I did it, and Pierre-Alexandre did great on the prototype during that time.

First tests

In August 2015, we decided to see how we could find students. The challenge was to get 50 study abroad wishes in one month.

We got 49. So we decided to continue and to launch the company, give a free access to students and universities. We based our values on student respect, and full transparency.

HigherEdMe was born in November 2015

We built a good launching team, installed in headquarters, had meetings with users.

In may 2016 we counted 10.000 study abroad wishes and made first connections between students and Universities.

Our cash was very low but we had proven our concept with real cases.

Burgundy Angels invested in the company during summer 2016

Thanks to Burgundy Angels and to our first cutomers, we could continue to grow and hired new team members. We participated to our first international recruitment conference of international education in Liverpool gathering 5.000 professionnals. Things are getting really serious and we must adopt new technologies for better services.

HigherEdMe celebrates its first birthday

The company counted 7 employees, helped more than 13.000 students to be seen by more than 120 professionals of Higher Education on a global scale.



The crazy 2017 year

We got more and more users, reaching 20.000 students and 200 universities and a 13-person team in April. But our business model does no’t work : as we were limiting the number of contact requests on the free plan, recruiters can”t see good conversion results to decide to invest in a paid account. We needed cash to change our model and to maintain our team. Unfortunately, we had to downsize and be creative again. 

We tried to set a new business model but not enough recruiters engaged with us, whereas the free plan was attracting more an more students and recruiters.

So we thought that we had to turn the free model as the main model, and get revenues out of it.

Launching the free model in 2018

During the first semester we have created a lot of new features to base our freemium system on them. With 40.000 students and 350 universities, we hope that this move will support our dream.   

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