Startups

Owl Ventures and Harvard Management Company back India’s study-abroad platform Leap in $55 million round

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Image Credits: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Leap, a two-year-old startup with headquarters in San Francisco and Bangalore that is helping students in India find the right college abroad, prepare for entrance tests, and also secure visas and loan, said on Wednesday it has raised $55 million in a new financing round from several high-profile edtech backers.

Leap said it has raised $55 million in a new financing round led by Owl Ventures. The Series C round also saw participation from Harvard Management Company, more popularly known for being a high-profile LP to venture funds. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India and Jungle Ventures also participated in the round, which follows a Series B funding in March this year and brings Leap’s all-time raise to over $75 million.

Arnav Kumar, co-founder of Leap, told TechCrunch that the startup sits at the intersection of edtech and fintech. It’s helping students in India find the right college for admission abroad and also ensuring that they have the visa and capital to study and live there.

It’s a massive market that the startup is tapping.

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults get on flights each year from India to a foreign land to pursue higher education. “The desire for Indian students to study abroad is stronger than ever,” said Ashish Agrawal, managing director at Sequoia Capital India.

But they face a number of challenges, including some that present themselves after they have landed in the foreign land.

Since they don’t have a local credit history, they can’t avail a range of financial services, including a loan or a credit card — at least not without paying a premium for it. For banks and other financial institutions, there is an increased risk when they engage with foreigners, so they charge more. An Indian student studying in the U.S., for instance, borrows money at an interest rate of over 13%, nearly twice what their local peers are charged.

Leap is addressing the financial part by granting loans to students at a fair interest rate by evaluating the data they generated — alternative and derived — in India itself.

But finance is only one of its offerings. The startup has aggressively expanded its offerings to provide what it calls a broader infrastructure to enable students to pursue international higher education.

Leap has developed a community of over 1 million students where they advise each other and explore options. Leap said it has helped over 60,000 students in their study abroad journey over the last 18 months — and just had its strongest fall season.

Vaibhav Singh (left) and Arnav Kumar founded Leap in 2019. Image Credits: Leap Finance

Since we last spoke about Leap, the startup has demonstrated strong growth on various fronts, said Kumar. Its community has grown (adding 100,000 students each month), the test preparation app is increasingly becoming popular, and its core financial services has also surged, he said.

On top of this, the startup has expanded its offerings to help students prepare for — and land — internships when they do join a college abroad, solving another challenge faced by foreign students.

Now with the new funding, Leap is planning to expand to serve international markets including Middle East and Southeast Asia and help the students pursue higher education in 20 nations, said Kumar, who previously worked as an associate vice president at venture fund Elevation Capital.

“Leap is on the trajectory to become the preeminent study-abroad platform for students. The overseas education market is fragmented where there is no single one-stop solution,” said Amit Patel, managing director of Owl Ventures, in a statement.

“It can be very confusing for students to know where to begin preparation, what colleges they should target, and how they are going to afford to pay for their education. Leap is creating a comprehensive platform that addresses all of these preparation and financing needs for students. Owl Ventures is excited to deepen our partnership with Vaibhav, Arnav and the Leap team to make studying abroad a reality for as many students as possible.”

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