Female Founder of Russian Study Abroad Startup Begins with $300K
The idea came to Sasha Olenina several years ago.
After carving out her own path to university in Russia with scholarships, then securing coveted opportunities such as a grant to intern at the UN in New York City, and a grant to study in Spain, others took notice. How did she get such great scholarships and grants?
First Sasha began to help a friend and show her how to obtain similar opportunities; but one person turned into many, and then a study abroad group was started on vk.com (the largest European social network); before long, We Study In was born.
At We Study In, peers council peers and earn money by doing it. The goal is also to link developed countries to developing, or emerging countries. Want to come study abroad in Russia? Great, Sasha will get you there. Are you a student in Russia who wants to go abroad? Great, Sasha will help you make it happen.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Sasha has been in Moscow for 10 months. She launched We Study last April 2013, and received her first round of angel investing last year for $300,000 USD from Mikhail Frolkin, the managing partner of HeadHunter. She is raising more capital right now and in the middle of opening two offices internationally.
After university she worked in a logistics and supply company, and worked for her university for the vice president of International Relations. All these different experiences made her think:
“What am I capable of time? What would I like to do? What am I good in?”
She realized that when people asked about her travels, she was satisfied. “I liked to help people, so I thought, how can I make a living out of it?” Sasha said.
Most agencies that help match students to study abroad programs work on a commission basis. Sasha said sometimes this means students get matched or recommended to programs that aren’t the best fit for them, and this doesn’t “really bring good value.” So We Study In disrupts this model and aims to serve each person, helping to connect them to a program that is the perfect fit. That’s the power of global crowdsourcing, mentors and advisors!
Sasha’s mentor is another female founder Alena Vladimirskaya, a well-known Russian HR headhunter gone tech entrepreneur. Alena has helped Sasha develop her company and navigate the entrepreneurial and VC landscape in Moscow. We were honored to interview Alena as well and you can read her interview here.