Innovation Showcase: Hellouni

Olivia Feng

Innovation Showcase: Hellouni

Hellouni is a platform to help connect students and universities. Founder and CEO Olivia Feng explains more about the business ahead of its appearance in Innovation Showcase at Venturefest Scotland.

Describe your business in no more than 100 words

Our unique B2B2C platform uses machine learning and mobile-first technology to connect applicants with universities and help universities optimise applicant engagement and conversion. Hellouni is a brand for inspiring and sharing stories and insights about studying abroad with an ever growing user base of 100,000 students worldwide.

Our vision is to make studying abroad an easier and more rewarding experience for ambitious young people. Our long-term plan is to be a streamlined end-to-end platform for all study abroad application needs.

What prompted you to enter the Innovation Showcase competition? Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with.        

We were motivated to enter the competition through contributing to the startup eco-system by exposing the Hellouni brand to the community and identifying companies and partners that we could potentially collaborate with.

Hellouni is an edtech startup aiming to disrupt the student recruitment market through artificial intelligence and a mobile-driven smartphone app. Hellouni’s technology combines machine learning and data aggregation to match applicants with the right course and university considering a range of factors including both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the university and the course.

How would you describe that to a novice?

Hellouni is the match.com of connecting students worldwide to their dream universities!

It matches students with their most suitable courses and universities and helps universities to engage and recruit more suitable applicants.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest challenge I face so far is building a company culture that is flexible as well as inspiring. As a female founder who originally came from China, I work with a team of multinational employees who are from different cultures with different value systems. I feel that to find a common ground and learn to appreciate idiosyncrasies, while displaying strong leadership and motivate the team to move towards the company’s vision is challenging.

What are your biggest professional achievements to date?

I’m a very stubborn woman, once I set my eyes on something I do not give up. So over the years, I have found a technical partner who is now my COO, and put together a team to support my vision. I led the team to develop, deliver and sign multiple years of software service contracts with blue chip organisations such as the University of Glasgow and Coventry and won a major R&D innovation grant at Scottish Enterprise.

I have bootstrapped and managed to sustain the company since 2014. Based on the success we had with enterprise sales, we plan to pivot to consumer market with our student-facing free university finder app. 

How do you feel about exhibiting to potentially hundreds of people at Venturefest Scotland?

I feel very proud and excited to be able to share what we do at Hellouni with the Scottish business community. Scotland has given funding, resources and support to Hellouni and I’m very grateful. I hope I can pay them back by creating job opportunities, collaborating with other Scottish companies, and contributing to its startup community.

Where do you see your company in five years time?

In 5 years’ time, Hellouni will become a market leader in connecting students with their dream universities in the internationally-mobile education space.

We will build a streamlined mobile platform as a one-stop shop that provides pre, during and post application support. We will build an ecosystem around studying abroad with artificial intelligence to develop a much deeper understanding of students behaviour and leverage the data to other related fields such as banking, travelling, academic and professional development.

What advice would you give to aspiring innovators?

I would only pursue a startup idea because it is something you genuinely want to build as well as having some market validation, be it a win in a university competition or grant from the government. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster not just financially, but also physically and emotionally. You need to have a firm, really firm, belief of your own capacity as well as the commercial potential of your startup to pick yourself up and keep going, as well as motivating and convincing people to join you and invest in the company.