5 Hurdles to Overcome as an International Education Start-up

May 21, 2013

By Barbara Tassa

International education (IE) is a very cool field—you get to connect with people from around the world to help them achieve their goals. That opportunity also presents serious challenges to start-ups.

Can you really afford to service a global marketplace? Apple, Google, and other Fortune 500 companies have multibillion dollar coffers, but the challenges aren’t insurmountable. Here’s how our WeblishPal team has overcome the five hurdles in a cost-effective way.

1. Travel Costs
Maximize your meeting miles. Visiting different countries, schools, or partners can get very expensive. When you are setting up a new partnership it is great to meet face to face, but try to limit actual travel. Set up as many meetings as you can during conferences like NAFSA—that’s where WeblishPal met our local China International Education Exchange Center (IEEC). Encourage online video calls (Skype.com or Vsee.com are both great free tools) and use easy-to-use file-sharing sites to communicate and work more effectively at a distance. For file sharing, we couldn’t live without box.com and join.me, which has been great for hosting remote online meetings with screen share.

2. Scheduling Meetings in Multiple Time Zones
A 5 p.m. meeting in Beijing is a 5 a.m. meeting in Toronto. Geez, that’s earlier than I’d like to wake up! When dealing with global teams, establish meeting windows so both sides don’t have unreasonable meeting schedules. You want to be alert and energized for important discussions. Then when you send meeting confirmations, do it in both your time zone and theirs. This simple trick has saved me dozens of missed meetings when I’m on the road.

3. Working in Multiple Languages
Ok, so I’m not a true polyglot, but I do try to see what’s going on in the news in different countries. For most of us English is our business language, but a simple web page translated with translate.google.com can help you grasp the important conversations happening globally. I made one such mistake a mere 15 minutes after the devastating Boston marathon bombings—had I checked the news before calling, I would have been prepared for a very different conversation that I expected. Likewise, knowing positive news affecting your contacts can help you build more meaningful relationships too.

4. Getting Local Insight
Fun apps like Yelp have made it easy to get around and dine like a local if you’re in a new city. The same goes for running IE businesses. Establish local connections in the various places you connect with so you don’t miss out on great opportunities you never knew existed.

5. Internet Differences
You would be surprised to know that the Internet is actually quite different from country to country. From censorship to bandwidth to use of popular sites, you will need to know what your contacts are using. One major mistake we see frequently in higher education recruiting is relying solely on Youtube to share important recruiting videos. That means that you’re automatically cutting off your Chinese prospects because YouTube is blocked; however, plenty of alternatives are available that can help you showcase content globally. Know your target market’s online experience.


Barbara Tassa is the co-CEO and cofounder of WeblishPal.com, a cloud-based English training and international student recruiting platform. From Toronto, Canada, Tassa is often found in airports, rental cars, conferences, and coworking spaces around North America and Asia helping current and future WeblishPal clients achieve their goals. You can connect with her by e-mail ( barbara@weblishpal.com) or twitter (@barbie_t).


SHARE THIS POST