SA ed-tech startup Graduln relaunches with additional student-focused features

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South African ed-tech startup Graduln, which began life as a course-finder for prospective students, has relaunched and moved into the student accommodation space.

Initially launched in January 2019, GraduIn enables high school pupils to apply to more than one higher learning institution with just one application and one payment.

The startup has curated and listed all the higher learning institutions in South Africa, with users able to choose as many institutions as they like, fill in one form, and pay one cumulative application fee. It assisted more than 250 learners during 2019. 

Relaunching in February, GraduIn has also introduced student and young professional accommodation onto its website, helping property owners in the student accommodation market find reliable tenants.

“Initially it was evident that there was a huge information and knowledge gap in terms of higher learning institutions in South Africa for both high school pupils and their parents. People don’t know the options available to them when coming to pursuing higher education, and this leads to learners applying for courses that wouldnt add much value in the marketplace,” Judith Shabalala, the startup’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO) told Disrupt Africa.

“Our purpose was to ensure that no high school learner would be left without information about a possible future. We wanted learners to be able to go to our website to have a look at every available prospectus in the country, and make an informed decision about their future.”

After seeing strong initial uptake, the startup decided to incorporate student accommodation – which has been an ongoing issue in South Africa – on the platform. 

“Finding accommodation can be a terrifying process for a young teen starting a new journey in a new and bigger city, and most of the time not knowing anyone in that new city,” Shabalala said. 

“So GraduIn saw this as another opportunity to bridge a gap. With many learners visiting our platform to apply for universities, we are the perfect people to help property owners find tenants.”

There are other alternatives, such as DigsConnect, but Shabalala believes Graduln’s advantage lies in being a “one-stop-shop for higher education needs”.

“No other company really is like us, we have created something unique. Most companies only either market student accommodation, or only provide information about higher learning, but no other company, as far as our research has shown, has been able to merge the two,” she said. 

Bootstrapped initially, Graduln has secured a small amount of angel funding. Since relaunching, it has over 500 beds listed on its platform, a number Shabalala says is quickly growing. She said the startup has plans to expand into other parts of Africa, namely Nigeria, Namibia and Botswana, and is already working towards that goal.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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