Company: Gradschoolmatch

Team: Brian Clark, President & Co-Founder and T.J. Murphy, Ph.D., Founder

Founded: 2013 (beta.v1); 2015 (v2)

Website/App Link: www.gradschoolmatch.com

Give us the pitch.

Gradschoolmatch connects graduate programs and students. It works just like a dating site except with graduate program representatives on one side, and prospective students on the other. Each year over one million prospective graduate students struggle to find the right graduate programs to attend. With hundreds of options in each field it’s tough to know where to start. Meanwhile, even elite graduate programs struggle to enroll strong applicants. By making direct communication with highly specialized graduate programs easier, Gradschoolmatch is a simple, precise, and effective way for students to take their first steps after college.


What motivated you to start Gradschoolmatch?

Our founders met at Emory University, where TJ Murphy is a professor and Brian Clark earned a master’s degree. Graduate programs, and their students, are the lifeblood of great universities--they account for over a third of all college degrees awarded each year. They are the foundation of a university’s research and scholarship enterprise. Yet most programs just wait and hope that enough of the right students apply because very few have the resources to do adequate outreach. Meanwhile, a student’s graduate program choice is a big, life-changing decision. Clearly, both sides have a problem to be solved. TJ noticed that most students, like Brian, choose graduate programs by word-of-mouth. We’ve built a data-driven way for the experts in programs to be in the decision loop of a prospect, to offer guidance.


How does it work?

It is so simple. Prospective students build out a profile, tagging it with information on their academic backgrounds and future interests, their work and research histories, and where they might go. It only takes a few minutes. We take that data and feed it into our match algorithm to show them the specialized graduate programs that fit their criteria. Subscribing programs fill out similar profiles, and they are shown matching students. The two sides can express interest by bookmarking and messaging each other. In the end, students pretty much know the programs they should look at, and they can get a strong sense of which programs might want them.


How much traction have you gotten on this?

A lot. It’s hard to imagine that we started a few years ago with only an idea and zero users. We’re approaching 400,000 student profiles and 2000 graduate program subscribers from well over 100 universities. We have all kinds of unicorn-scale metrics in several areas that point to success, from conversion rates to subscription renewals. But what’s most gratifying is that we are helping people find their best fit. It really works!!

How are you funded? What's your revenue model?

Students use our site for free. We charge universities and their graduate programs a low subscription fee to use Gradschoolmatch. We’re self-funded and bootstrapped for now.


How rooted are you and the company in Atlanta and the local Tech Ecosystem? Are you involved with any accelerators? Where are you working out of?

Our World Headquarters is in Decatur’s Fairview Building, convenient to our homes while giving us the best lunch plan in the industry. We attended ATDC as we launched and can’t say enough about how important that experience has been. We also benefited from early interactions with the MIT Enterprise Forum. We’ve just joined the Switchyards Downtown Club, a business to consumer incubator. SDC really excites us because we’re learning so much. Particularly about the inseparable relationship between brand focus and keeping the business plan on point.


What's the next step for your company? Any plans to create a college match, or perhaps a career/job match?

People who go to graduate school are specialists who change the world. Presently, we’re about helping them take their first career step into graduate school. And, yes, we plan to take our matchmaking expertise to the next level by helping them with their first employment step, while doing for employers what we do for graduate programs. On the tech side, we’re always refining and upgrading our web app. By the end of the year we’ll launch an iOS app, which will be our first. We’re building that right now in collaboration with a small team of Georgia Tech students as part of a class project.