Cialfo Raises $3 Million Series A to Expand College Applications...


Cialfo Raises $3 Million Series A to Expand College Applications Platform in U.S.

By Wade Tyler Millward     May 14, 2019

Cialfo Raises $3 Million Series A to Expand College Applications Platform in U.S.

The stress Rohan Pasari feels running a startup with 25 full-time employees still doesn’t quite compare with how he felt during his final two years of high school. As Pasari approached graduation from a private school in Kolkata, India, he worried about which college would accept him and couldn’t decide a major. “I felt alone,” the 29-year-old says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

A chance to help students today who share those same feelings has kept Pasari motivated as CEO of Cialfo (pronounced “see-al-foe”), a Singapore-based company that helps students with college admissions.

Something else to keep Pasari motivated: a recently completed $3 million Series A round led by Luxembourg-based DLF Venture. The round included support from YK Capital, angel investors and SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Singapore’s business development agency. Cialfo has raised over $5 million to date.

Cialfo offers a platform for students to send transcripts, school profiles and letters of recommendation directly to participating colleges in North America, Europe and Asia. Students can find data on colleges including average test scores, financial aid offered and essay deadlines. The platform even offers a service for counselors migrating from Naviance, a widely used college-readiness platform. Pasari declined to discuss the pricing plans for the platform.

Cialfo started in 2012 as an independent in-person education consultancy, later adding the software side of the business. Pasari sold the consulting business to ChangedEdu in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

The software business may have made less money, but Pasari figured it had greater potential to scale. “We wanted to impact the most students,” he says. “The only way to do that is through technology.”

The company claims that revenue has tripled year over year and that about 100,000 students in 40 countries use Cialfo. Pasari expects to reach half a million by year’s end.

Pasari credits partnerships with The Common Application and digital credential service Parchment with helping spread the word about the company. One of those parchments led Jeff Neill to discover the company in 2017. A college counseling director at Taipei American School in Taiwan, Neill had searched for college counseling software that had more international offerings for his students. A Parchment employee connected Neill with Cialfo and his school contracted with the company last year.

Neill says he likes the community of Cialfo users, some of whom have helped him with questions on better serving his students. His office of six counselors works with about 800 upperclassmen, and they have found the tool saves time on administrative tasks like filling out applications. They can use the saved time to look at more schools that cater to a student’s area of interest, he says. “I can spend time with the kids talking about important things.”

DLF, the lead investor in this funding round for Cialfo, is a family-owned investment holding company with four other education technology companies in its portfolio: Pi-Top, Kortext, Unibuddy and TailorEd. DLF had sought a college counseling company to invest in when he was introduced to Cialfo last year, DLF principal Francois-Xavier de Mevius says in an email.

“They are the newcomer in a market that definitely needs to be shaken with technology, objectivity and a focus on the service offered to their clients,” he says. “They think global and are truly dedicated in transforming the market.”

Cialfo, short for a Latin phrase for “faster higher stronger,” plans to use that money toward expansion in the U.S. American schools that use the platform. They currently include Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Calif.; Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pa.; Loyola High School in Los Angeles and Brooklyn Friends School in New York.

Other college admissions services have attracted investment recently. Earlier this year, CollegeVine closed a $24 million round and TAL Education Group bought Ready4 for an undisclosed amount. Last year, college-readiness test provider ACT bought The National Research Center for College and University Admissions for an undisclosed amount.

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