Ashish Fernando

CEO7Founder of iSchoolConnect

Ashish Fernando is the Founder and CEO of the EdTech Startup- iSchoolConnect, a Google-sponsored online admissions platform for international students. While applying for an MBA in the USA in 2012, Ashish realized the errors and bias in the international admissions process. He decided to conduct his own intensive research and consequently applied to several universities across the globe. His final choices narrowed down to Yale University and Bentley University. While both were highly esteemed choices, Ashish opted for Bentley University which offered him an astounding full-scholarship for the MBA program.

Ashish pursued a successful career working with Artificial Intelligence and Data Science after his graduation from Bentley University, USA, before founding iSchoolConnect in 2017 with the help of Quantiphi Analytics, an AI and ML solutions company. Today, iSchoolConnect Technologies Pvt. Ltd. operates with both the B2B and B2C modules. In B2C, iSchoolConnect uses AI-based use cases to help international students find and apply to colleges and universities around the world. For the B2B platform, Ashish decided to create a suite of artificial intelligence-powered tools for higher education, to help universities with end-to-end student engagement. So far, iSchoolConnect has provided services to noteworthy entities such as the New York University, ASU-GSV, Portland State University, and Kaplan Inc. Best part? They’re just getting started.

Where did the idea for iSchoolConnect come from?

iSchoolConnect was borne out of the sheer will to optimize the university admissions process and streamline it for international students who wished to study abroad.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I believe in the sanctity of both, a healthy body and mind. So, a typical day begins with the gym, meditation, and a hearty breakfast early in the morning. Fun fact, I start my meetings for the day as early as 05:00 am. The primary reason being that my team at iSchoolConnect is split between Boston, USA and Mumbai, India. Staying on top of all the developments and changes happening on a daily basis helps me stay updated and better plan the future roadmap of the organization. Other than that, I rely on my calendar and schedule as much as the next businessman or executive. My to-do list and calendar dictates my day and helps me keep track of everything I need to accomplish in 24 hours.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve discovered that using a vision board to organize and envision your thoughts and ideas helps immensely. Now, when I say vision board, I don’t simply mean pasting pictures writings on the wall, or a simple visualization in your head. Simply having that board in front of you prompts thoughts and actions that automatically work towards breathing life into those abstract ideas on a board. I’ve achieved all the major goals in my life using a vision board and strongly recommend it to all entrepreneurs.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The concept of ‘Trends’ and how fleeting yet influential they are, fascinates me. Whether it’s business, fashion, politics, or even just social media in general, the impact on the masses is undeniable. From the Ice Bucket Challenge to the Dolly Parton challenge, trends have the ability to affect and influence people both socially and culturally. The power ‘Trends’ have over the masses, is completely undeniable.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I think my ability to make spontaneous yet well-thought-out decisions, is what makes me more productive as an entrepreneur. I believe most decisions are reversible, that need to be made fast.

What advice would you give your younger self?

That’s a really thought-provoking question. I’d tell myself to be patient and remember that timing is everything. There are many things that would have turned out very differently if the timing was different. So, I’d tell myself to do what was needed and avoid the undue stress that came because of impatience. After all, all good things come to those who wait, right?

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You can grow your company and make money while still maintaining a very healthy work-life balance. It’s a myth that entrepreneurs don’t dedicate enough time to their personal lives.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Yoga, meditation, and self-reflection is something I practice myself and always recommend to anybody who asks.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

When iSchoolConnect started, it was launched as an MVP instead of a fully finished product. We initially launched 2 AI-use cases, with future plans to launch at least 2 more. Starting as an MVP allowed us the opportunity to grow while simultaneously building our brand in the market.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

While I always understood the importance of organic marketing, I used to believe that the amount of sales is proportional to your marketing spend. However, I was completely wrong and realized very quickly that just spending money on sales was not a sustainable strategy. If we’d continued the way we were going, we would certainly fail in the longer run. This was when I decided that we needed to scale back and build our customer base and reputation majorly via the organic means. It’s my belief that it’s alright to fail but it’s better to fail fast, recover, and then try again.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The presence of AI in the Education and Healthcare industries is positively and rapidly growing. With iSchoolConnect, I incorporated AI in the higher-education industry, like many others in the business. I strongly recommend that people continue furthering the work being done with AI in Healthcare. Projects on early disease detection, predictive analysis, etc. have immense potential and demand.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I’m unsure about the last $100 but I did recently spend close to $600 on a new camera (Sony RX100 III) that helped me increase my efficiency in making videos for my YouTube channels and consequently put out more useful content for aspiring international students.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

An amazing tool called LivePlan helps me prepare pitches for meetings. It also helps forecast sales, keeps track of expenses and compares my company’s performance with industry benchmarks.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I often joke about how, the book I read at any given time, affects the decisions I make in that duration. And, as for a book recommendation, I’ve found that Richard Branson is one of the biggest personalities in the world and someone whose business acumen I truly admire. I highly recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs read his books and draw inspiration from his journey and experiences.

What is your favorite quote?

“Above all, create something you’re proud of” – Sir Richard Branson

Key Learnings:

  • In business, it’s not wrong to make mistakes. What’s important is that you make them, learn, and start over anew.
  • Never underestimate the immense impact and reach of social media. Embrace your social media presence as an entrepreneur.
  • Entrepreneurship does not mean a lack of work-life balance.