ApplyBoard has made a big impact in the world of international student recruitment. Founded in 2015 by brothers Martin, Meti, and Massi Basiri, the company now has partnerships with 1,700+ primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions, and works with over 10,000 “recruitment partners” around the world.

Fueling ApplyBoard’s rapid growth is a truck load of venture capital. According to Crunchbase, ApplyBoard has raised US$483.5 million in venture capital over nine investment rounds between October 2015 and July 2021. The latest investment came from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which wrote a check for a staggering US$300 million to give ApplyBoard a post-money valuation of US$3.2 billion.

The student recruitment behemoth now seems to be everywhere, pushing its brand, and its mission to “educate the world”, across social media and through attendance at international student recruitment events. It’s easy to forget that it was once a minnow trying to survive and grow in a big pond.

In a recent episode of the popular business podcast My First Million, co-host Shaan Puri told a ‘one that got away’ story that gives an interesting insight into ApplyBoard’s very early days when Martin Basiri – who was the company’s first CEO before his brother Meti took over in August 2022 – was pounding the Silicon Valley pavement looking for investors.

Long story short, Puri had the opportunity to invest $25,000 in ApplyBoard at a US$5,000,000 valuation just as it was getting off the ground in 2015. That would have given him a 0.5% stake in the company. Doesn’t sound like a lot until you do the math on the 2021 valuation of US$3.2 billion. Puri would have been sitting on a cool $16 mil (in the clip above reckons it at $15 million based on a US$3 billion valuation). Except he didn’t write the cheque.

In telling his story (watch it in the YouTube clip below) and the reason why the ApplyBoard investment was the one that got away, Puri gives a behind-the-scenes account of Basiri’s early fundraising efforts, including the early rejections from prospective investors.

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