Ashish Fernando, MBA ’15
Cofounder of iSchoolConnect
Ashish Fernando can thank a collapsing job market for his path to entrepreneurship. In 2008, he put aside dreams of becoming a microbiologist in his home country of India to pursue an MBA in the United States, where, he says, “a lot of innovation in information technology and biotechnology was happening.”
It sounded straight-forward enough. But a year later, despite having invested in educational consultants, Fernando was no closer to applying
to a reputable American university.
“Since the consultants were commissioned by schools in the U.K., they told me to forget enrolling in the U.S.,” he recalls. “The process was not authentic, so I had to figure everything out on my own.”
These challenges, which included pursuing standardized testing, financing and a student visa, led Fernando to cofound iSchool-Connect. The venture streamlines the college search and application process for students from outside the U.S. One online application covers everything from recommending the best-fit degree program to perfecting an entrance essay in real time to navigating the visa process.
He used predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to create the platform. For example, a machine monitors gestures, posture, body language and accuracy of responses to train individuals for a visa or admission interview. Applications on a university’s website can be auto-populated for iSchoolConnect users, who now number 7,000.
Fernando credits networking for his own and the company’s success. While still a graduate student, he leveraged Bentley’s alumni network and landed a job at Quantiphi, an applied AI and machine learning software and services company co-founded by Asif Hasan, MBA ’01.
“Quantiphi had caught the attention of Google,” says Fernando. “So when I decided to launch iSchoolConnect, Google Cloud sponsored it as a startup.”
The company, a spinoff of Quantiphi, now has 35 employees and users can connect with every college and university in the U.S. The long-term goal: Collaborate with schools across the globe to streamline the admission process.
“Growing up, I faced everyone around me saying that I had talent, but I couldn’t go abroad and pursue a career because I didn’t have money for the education,” says Fernando. “I want iSchoolConnect to help people overcome those kinds of obstacles.”