“I’ve always believed you can convert a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.’ Be bold, be agile and keep asking. You never lose anything by asking.”
Company: Ascend Now
That’s entrepreneur Devi Sahny’s mantra. Founder of edtech startup, Ascend Now, her journey in entrepreneurship started when she was sophomore and working as a teaching assistant at university. She realised that college students learn better in a personalized format rather than a large group format, so she launched her first startup connecting college students to other college students.
“No one would attend my TA-led group classes because they were a little bit intimidated by its formality. And yet, many students would ask me for one-on-one or peer-to-peer options. She adds, “I focused on teaching Philosophy and Economics (my two majors), asking the students how they preferred to learn. A basketball player once asked me to tutor him on the basketball court – he said it helped him visualise concepts. He later said the learning felt personal and meaningful, like a partnership between the teacher and the student because he had a say in his learning journey. That feedback really inspired me.”
After graduation and three years in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, Devi moved to Singapore to launch her edtech startup. She started talking to schools, students and parents to understand the pain points in education.
“In education, you have the paradox of two target customers – the student and the parent – and in many cases, the pain points are different. The basic pain that both parents and students feel is the lack of student autonomy.”
This results in boredom and low engagement because students don’t see the applicability of what they’re learning. She adds, “education feels linear. Life is the opposite of linear and kids know that.”
Ascend Now is solving this by building a learning ecosystem that students actually want to use. “Technology has made learning accessible and easy. But the desire to learn is often scarce.” Ascend Now’s platform meets learner needs by letting the students choose what, how and why they learn, while providing them with a strong, well-rounded academic profile for college.
A core offering is the fast-growing entrepreneurship course for students aged seven to 18, accredited and co-authored by corporate partners.
“We live in a very special time today where anyone can start a business from their homes, which we couldn’t do when we were kids. So we want to encourage that for students today. We want to normalise entrepreneurship. Not because we want every single student to be a business leader, but rather, it is the entrepreneurial mindset which we aim to foster. This course has led to massive shifts in student behavior.”
Ascend Now, which has worked with over 6,000+ students across 15 schools in 13 markets, has been fully bootstrapped till now and is focusing first on the immediate addressable market of two million IB students worldwide. It also hopes to expand across the entire $10+ billion K-12 market globally.
Headquartered in Singapore, Ascend Now offers one-to-one, online, synchronous sessions, using behavioural assessment tools. In addition to entrepreneurship, unique courses created by experts and examiners which have proprietary IP includes an academic course for IGCSE/IB programs taught by IB examiners. They are currently building a personalised self-learning platform to cater to a wider global audience at a lower cost.