YourNextLeap.com is a recommendation engine which acts as a virtual career counsellor to help students make smarter career decisions. It involves a suite of online tools, which use psychometric evaluations and math models on past admission patterns, to give out personalized suggestions.
The applications help students increase their chances of admissions by finding colleges where they have maximum chances of admissions and also choose the right stream of study.
Headquartered in Pune, India, the venture was started in October 2010 with a team of young and enthusiastic professionals from top Indian colleges. In a short period of time, the bouquet of online tools has aided thousands of students in making informed career choices.
We had an email interaction with its co-founder Suruchi Wagh.
Q1. Tell us about yourself. How you thought of becoming an entrepreneur?
I remember talking to my fiancé back in California about how millions students make uninformed career decisions. Somebody wants to do GRE just because a senior did it.. Somebody wants to pursue a particular field because some uncle’s friend in South Africa thinks that field will have a lot of scope in the future. Several million students make career decisions based on herd mentality and social influence. That is where I found the need and the opportunity to make a difference. So after spending the last few years in Silicon Valley, the idea to solve this problem and internet opportunity in India is what made me come back to India and to start-up waters late last year. In the Silicon Valley, I worked with Stanford Emeritus Professor – Prof. Haresh Shah at Risk Management Solutions, Inc. Before that, I was at University Southern California, Los Angeles pursuing my masters and before that I was at College of Engineering, Pune.
Q2. While talking about career counselling, how did you come to believe that it can be automated or technology-dependent?
There are several million students and young professionals around the world who make some very critical, expensive and life changing decisions about their careers based merely on anecdotal information from peers. We believe data about patterns from the past could be used more effectively to take more informed decisions.
Q3. What kind of products you actually provide?
YourNextLeap.com is currently providing two broad sets via its applications which serve students who want to do higher studies in US and those who aspire for engineering from Indian colleges.
University Suggestor helps student and young professionals going for Higher Studies in US find universities according to their academic profile. Using College Suggestor, students can find out the top Indian engineering colleges in which they have maximum chances of admissions. By finding this in advance, students can apply smartly and increase their chances.
Using the Branch Suggestor, students can find out in which Engineering branch suits them better, based on their personality and interests.
Q4. What type of market exists for your idea?
YourNextLeap.com is catering to millions of students and young professionals who want to make better career decisions.
Q5. Are you looking to expand your technology beyond Maharashtra?
Yes, and in fact most of our applications are being used by pan-India students already. Applications like Branch Suggestor can be used by any engineering aspirant in India who is looking to take up a branch of engineering. For students going for higher studies in the US, many applications which are built on top of recommendation engine are being used by students across India e.g. Scholarship finder, VISA Planner, University Tracker etc.
Q6. Do you also collaborate with colleges?
No. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we do not tie up with any.
Q7. Tell us about some experience of students who have used your platform.
Abhijeet Kotkar, Capgemini, Mumbai
Abhijeet read about YourNextLeap in an online forum and signed up since he too had recently given GRE and wanted to apply to US universities. Like many other students, Abhijeet used the University Suggestor to find the colleges in US that he had chances of getting admission into. He also used the University Tracker later to find and contact users who were getting admissions into the same university as his. With YourNextLeap, he found that the whole Application process from choosing a university and field of specialization to finding roommates became very smooth and he saved on overseas counsellor fees.
Spandana Reddy, Pune
Spandana completed her Higher Secondary Examinations. She had always performed well in studies, and has also achieved a good score of 142/200 in Maharashtra CET (Common Engineering Test) 2011. She was confused about doing either Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering. She used Branch Suggestor which she came to know from some friends. After trying it out, she found that psychometric evaluation of her engineering inclinations showed that she is more interested in practical designs and making things work thus making her a suitable candidate for Mechanical Engineering.
Q8. Are you looking for some sort of funding to expand the business?
We are currently bootstrapped, but yes of course we are open to work with people who understand the consumer internet space, to scale our passion and business.
Q9. What’s for future?
YourNextLeap.com is looking forward to enriching the recommendation engine so as to allow any student to use it to make more informed and smarter career decisions. Currently, we cater mainly to the engineering audience, and we are already on our way to expand to a broader segment.
Q10. Describe the environment of your team and how you enjoy your venture. Share any advice for budding entrepreneurs.
We have a very informal work culture. People can turn into office in their shorts or flaunt their suits. The whole team has lunch and evening snacks together. We celebrate every milestone with a team outing. As much as we have fun we also put ambitious targets for ourselves and believe in pushing ourselves to work very hard to achieve them. We live and breath internet and entrepreneurship. Team YourNextLeap is very excited by its mission to enhance the way several million students treat their careers.
The past months has seen YourNextLeap team launch many new features on very tight deadlines, and everyone has been enjoying the euphoria of successful launches. The team is a bunch of part time poets, philosophers, PJ masters and foodies but most importantly product thinkers who come from diverse fields like engineering, marketing, data analysis and psychometrics. And how to enjoy being an entrepreneur – well you have to do what you like, and be passionate about it.