Students in Volatile Middle East Seeking U.S. College Education

Industry: Education, SAT Test Prep

Amidst the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, Boulder, CO based education startup has seen surging traffic throughout the region. Seeking solid educations and a brighter future, Middle Eastern students have been flocking to site to use mindfish’s powerful college prep tools.

Boulder, CO (PRUnderground) March 23rd, 2011, an online study service based in Boulder, CO, has seen a marked spike in interest from international students in recent weeks. Amidst ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, the site has experienced swelling traffic from that region as motivated students seek to better their futures through education. The website, designed as a “social learning network” to prepare high school students for the SAT test, launched near the end of 2010 with the goal of eliminating traditional barriers to quality education.

“By bringing college prep resources online, we hoped to help students overcome the hurdles of geography, motivation, and money,” says mindfish co-founder Bill Huston. “In this age of social media, there is no reason why any motivated student should lack for quality educational tools.”

Despite the founders’ grand design of making powerful learning ubiquitous, mindfish didn’t initially garner much attention. For the first few months of its existence, the site’s SAT prep videos, Video Vocabulary clips, SAT Quest quiz game, and live classes played host to only a handful of students.

“It was kind of crazy at first,” says mindfish co-founder Ryan Krug. “We had Stanford and Harvard students giving free live video classes online and no one was showing up. Meanwhile, people here in Colorado area are paying our teachers over $100 an hour for the same service.”

Then, right around the turn of 2011, the mindfish guys started looking abroad. “From the beginning we had always thought international students would appreciate this kind of service,” says Huston.

“Exactly,” Krug adds. “There are motivated kids all over the world who don’t have great educational resources.”

After finding some online student groups in Cairo, Huston and Krug started running Facebook ads to specific markets in the Middle East. Traffic to the site surged and as the sparks of revolution began to ignite North Africa and the Arab world, mindfish suddenly grew from a ghost town into a thriving community of driven learners. As the world watched the unrest in Egypt, more and more middle eastern students started showing up to learn on the site.

“Our traffic in Egypt went nuts during the revolution there,” says Huston.

Driven by social networking and the rising voices of a fervent youth, it seems that middle eastern students were clamoring for an educational hand up just as they began to assert their democratic rights in their home countries. Encouraged, Huston and Krug began giving away their premium mindfish Pro service for free.

“These kids are hungry,” says Krug. “We were excited by the traffic and started doing a bunch of classes for free.”

“It was really fun to see these students show up and start to use mindfish to its full extent,” seconds Huston. “These are kids who want to get ahead, who are really driven to learn. Some of them want to go to school in the States. Some of them just want to master English. But, they’re all really thankful for the service that we provide.”

Driven by this recent interest, Huston and Krug are hunkering down, extending their service, and trying to reach as many students as possible. Traffic from Egypt is currently double that which mindfish sees from the US. The site is also seeing strong interest from students in Lebanon, Spain, the Phillipines, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. “Right now we’re just excited to get mindfish in the hands of as many students as we can,” beams Krug. “I’ve done some classes where students from 5 different countries show up, chat about college and the SAT, and help each other learn.”

“It’s like that old line from Field of Dreams,” agrees Huston, “’If you build it they will come.’”

“Yep,” agrees Krug, “we had a hunch that we were filling a need, but a it took a minute for the site to catch on.”

“Now these driven students from all over have finally found us and started using our tools,” Huston continues. “They’ve been bringing their friends to the site and spreading the word and we’re just hoping to keep building on that.”

As the middle east continues to roil with unrest and the US college admissions game heats up to an unprecedented degree, mindfish students the world over continue to drop by to the site daily, picking up a tough new vocabulary word, learning another trick to master the SAT, striving to reach their goals of a college education and future of their own creation. To the guys at mindfish, lending an educational hand couldn’t be sweeter.

“Building mindfish was definitely a lot of work,” says Krug,”but this is about to get really fun.”


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