Ublend Releases the World’s First Education Network
Those of you that are new readers of CBSLife, may not have heard of Ublend. Ublend is an app that currently has 20,000 users and stretches across 12 universities across Denmark, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. About Ublend, co-founder Jean Petreschi, says, “University is a time of discovery, and that, I believe, is what Ublend reflects. It helps students discover great opportunities on campus, and at the same time empowers them to explore new interests with like-minded peers.” Ublend also happens to be one of our partners, and together with them we create “CBS This Week”- an article that is posted every Monday on our pages, to let you know all about the events that are happening in and around CBS on that particular week. So naturally, we were pretty damn excited to hear that Ublend had a successful seed round where the company was valued at £1.1 million! And not only that, this week they released a major addition to their app which they’ve branded “The Education Network”. We’ve interviewed co-founder of Ublend, Anders Krohn to hear more about the addition, and find out what went on behind the scenes of this new product launch. Here’s what he had to say.
Congratulations on your new launch! Why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about the new product?
Thanks. So what we’re doing with Ublend now, is that we have added channels to the already existing platform, and this is our first step to becoming the world’s first “education network”. The channels are places where students, from within universities from around the world, can discuss the things they are passionate about with fellow like-minded students. So a channel could be about technology or it could be about climate change, or even something more local like about Danish politics. And in these channels the students now have a platform to start discussions, ask questions, share articles, get feedback on their thesis, or anything really that fits under the umbrella of that channel. We’ve been working on this product for about 2 months and this will be added to the existing version of Ublend – both on the app and via desktop.
Ok. And so, people like me who have the ‘Ublend’ app already, do we simply update it or…?
Yes. So all you have to do is update the app and you can join your preferred channels. It will then all come up on your personal feed, and then you can start posting on these channels or commenting on content that other students have put up. So for example a student from CBS who has an idea for a startup could post in the startups channel and could get feedback from students from Yale, Oxford and Cambridge. So we think it’s a really powerful tool to bring students together on things they are passionate about.
Why did you decide to go forward with “The Education Network”, and why particularly now?
The reason we are doing this is because currently find ourselves in a unique position. We founded Ublend on a vision of helping students make the most out of university, and since then we’ve received a lot of good feedback on that, so we felt it was a good time to make the platform even more engaging. And in terms of the timing, I think what we see right now on a global scale is that more and more students are going to university and its becoming quite important, and what we also noticed is that the university experiences that people have are not necessarily defined by what they read in textbooks or hear at lectures but more so the passions that they develop whilst they are there, and the conversations they have with fellow students. And that is the part of the university experience, which we are trying to bring online. Right now universities have their own online platforms for sharing texts and lectures, but unfortunately they are not always the most up to date and efficient tool, which is why we created this platform optimized for mobile and for web, that students across the world can use, with it being as easy to use as with any other app they use regularly.
How about the actual process – from the idea to the launch? What did it involve?
It’s something that has been developed gradually. Initially Ublend was just focused on events but still with the aim of helping students get more out of their time at university. The feedback that we then got back from our users was that it was great because it took some of the noise out of Facebook and newsletters, but they were still missing something that allowed you to actually interact with the other students that were on the platform. So this is a response to that, combined with the fact that we saw that there was room for building a global education network for universities students across the world.
Every success has to face “bumps” on the way, was there anything that temporarily made it difficult for you guys to move forward in your creation process?
You are always nervous about whether people will use the product in the way you intend for them to or not. So to cut down on risks we take on a very product focused approach. We don’t send out send out surveys or anything, we actually create a prototype and we see how a select group of about 100 students interact with the product, and then we ask them questions, and then based on their feedback we create. We are very lucky in that way to have a short feedback loop because we have so many students willing to work with us on this.
After the experience of this process of creating an app and now improving it with this new education network, do you have any advice that our readers, the students of CBS, who might be facing something similar, could use?
I think the main thing is to get the product out there. We always keep students in the loop of what we’re doing so that we can constantly get their feedback and get the best possible product out there as fast as possible. So that’s probably my first recommendation. My second recommendation is to not underestimate the amount of time it takes to create a product. Right now there is this hype in a lot of places, and I can image at CBS too, where students want to create and be-part of startups, but it is important to realize that it doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time to properly establish the idea you want to bring out. And thirdly, make sure you have good co-founders.
You are CBS alumni. Was there anything from your time at CBS that perhaps influenced your creation of “The Education Network” or even Ublend as a whole?
I think it stems from a combination of having studied at different places. I’ve studied a bit in US, UK, China and Denmark and I think everywhere my experience was the same in the sense that a lot of my experiences can be defined by the conversations I had with other students around me, and I think thats why events are great, societies at different universities are great, and now this idea of sharing content, knowledge and ideas across universities could be very beneficial.
Why not just have students use Facebook or LinkedIn to share their knowledge and have their discussions?
What we think is interesting about this is that right now, you have Facebook (the social network) and LinkedIn (the professional network) but no-one has yet successfully built a network that brings together all 200 million university students in the world together, around the interests (academic or extra-curricular) that they have, because they are students. Ublend is not a product substitute of Facebook or LinkedIn, I mean, I regularly use the two social media platforms as well, and there’s nothing wrong with any of the existing social media platforms. What I think is unique about Ublend is that it is focused on the university experience. So if you take Facebook for example, while Facebook is an incredible product, many things on Facebook are more related to ones social life, and I think a lot of students are more hesitant to post more academic material on Facebook. So it’s almost like we’re providing a platform that is less cat videos and more academic discussions. With LinkedIn, it’s more of a directory of your professional network, where people post now and again to bring attention to something that they are doing professionally.
Your co-founder, Jean Petreschi says ” Ublend allows you to let like minded students find and filtert information for you” What does he mean by this?
What he means is that right now there is so much information on the internet that is incredible, and as a student, to digest all this information, there is a lot of tools out there , which is why there are lots of people using Facebook, Twitter etc. but what’s unique about Ublend in this perspective is that the content that is placed on the platform is filtered by people who are like you. So for example, when you asked me before about advice I have for fellow CBS students…The people who want to know these things, yeah they could find books or articles on the topic, but what really will help in the end is the perspective of someone who happens to be in or has been in the position they wish to know more about, and that’s what you’ll find on Ublend – the ability to utilize other student’s shared knowledge to make the most of your university experience.
And then finally, do you have any upcoming projects that you can share some details with us on?
Now we’ve just launched the main feature of the “Education Network” but in the near future we will be adding some cool additions to it. For example one thing that’s coming up is “Top Contributors”. This is where for each channel there will be a top contributors, and then people from around the world will be able to see where these top contributors are studying and what other material they have shared which might be of interest. In addition to this, we will just be spending a lot of time analyzing the feedback and statistics we are given, to make the product even better!