Bursity, which helps post-secondary students find and apply for financial assistance, will launch its online platform for the United States market in 12 weeks, exclusively targeting African-Americans at first.
The Halifax-based social venture has pivoted to focus its efforts on racialized communities – a move spurred by increasing public concern about the welfare of minority groups.
Bursity’s website will offer a searchable database with links to apply for scholarships. Later, Co-Founders Charles Milton and Edward Ma plan to introduce a feature that will automate the application process, allowing users to apply for more scholarships than would be possible if they were required to do so manually.
“We want to create more diversity on university campuses, as well as – post-graduation – more diversity in the workforce,” said Milton in an interview. “We’ve struggled for a long time with how to find our target market, and now we see that our market is lowering hurdles for those who need it most.”
He and Ma founded Bursity in 2018. But the traction they needed to launch their site did not materialize until COVID-19 caused funding agencies to focus on helping students pay for their schooling in September.
“Despite how COVID adversely affected the entire world, we’ve managed to thrive through a business perspective,” said Milton. “Our goal right now is to validate the assumptions that I’ve had through the last year and a half.”
He added that the purpose of launching first in the U.S. market is to capitalize on the greater supply of available scholarships.
Later, the database will expand to include other minority groups and eventually students of all ethnicities, as well as Canadian scholarships. For the U.S. market, Bursity has so far compiled a list of 1.5 million scholarships.
The website and algorithm are being developed with the help of six students from Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University and Nova Scotia Community College, who Milton said have been hired from May to August with the help of government subsidies.
Four of the students are technical staff and developers. The other two are a business and strategy analyst, and a marketing major.
All six are from diverse backgrounds, including international students and three women, such as the technical support lead, who is from Zimbabwe.
“They understand what it’s like to be students who have struggled to pay tuition and have faced the difficulty of trying to find scholarships,” said Milton.
Bursity, which received a $25,000 investment from the Volta Cohort last year, is also part of a remote cohort from Palo Alto, Calif.-based accelerator The Founder Institute. Milton said the Institute is helping him and Ma learn how to validate their product-market fit and prepare them to pitch to investors.
Within six months, they hope to have secured a lead investor and be well on their way to raising a $1 million funding round to pay for the company’s continued expansion over the next two years.