Friday, March 15, 2013
U-Aspire: A Report Card
It is always great to see something that one long imagined come together step by step, as if by magic. This is what is happening to UAspire: We talked about this for almost five years, but in last six weeks, of which the three weeks since my return from India were most dramatic, all the elements started coming together.
Initially, when we were exploring raising money from private equity, we drew up a time line for this business. The plan was to raise significant investment by end of November 2012, and we projected to complete accreditation and all the elements to start delivering courses by end of March 2013: We were hoping to sign our first college partners by April 2013, and get our first students through the door by end of May.
The first part of this equation did not happen: After initial interest, private equity houses that we spoke to decided to hold back till we are a fully functional entity. This did indeed sap our spirits for a moment, but eventually we decided to bootstrap and funded the initial activities on our own. This indeed meant living without salaries etc., and putting our savings into getting the business off the ground. The initial progress was slow, as we had to think twice before committing any expenses. Wherever possible, we had to do things ourselves: I had to cobble together our logo, business cards and website using freely available software, and Mike had to put endless hours on the business plan and documentation to get us going.
Finally, in the new year, things started getting better with people from our own network showing some interest in investing in the business to get us off the ground. We raised our target amount of initial seed capital. This came from seven different investors, most of whom did it because they genuinely wanted to help us out, with a wide spectrum of skills and interests: Their queries and objections were all varied and possibly the best validation of our ideas we could get at the time. We got all the investment together by the end of January, took up an office and employed a few content and quality control specialists to get things going.
And, then, almost by magic - we could achieve all the targets we set for ourselves. As of today, a set of courses designed by ourselves are accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, with three more in the accreditation pipeline. We are also accredited by Edexcel to deliver a range of courses worldwide using our globally collaborative learning method. What's more, our model of global delivery is ISO 9001 certified. The technology platform, after rounds of testing and validation, is ready to go. We are negotiating Heads of Terms with three colleges in India, with a pipeline of seven more, which we visit in April. Everything that we hoped to attain by this time has happened.
Indeed, the student recruitment, and thereafter the education delivery, will begin now. Our focus is now on marketing, with a new logo, website and corporate identity coming in place. We plan to do marketing launches in India in a few weeks time, and expect to start delivering the first modules six weeks from then. I have now given up everything else, including the part time teaching work which sustained me through the bootstrap period, and focusing solely on UAspire. I am finally at that stage in my life where everything begins anew: I can already see that this is all-enveloping and is defining everything that I do and all I stand for.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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