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It’s all about life-long learning

Asia Exchange enables students to participate in study abroad semesters


How did you get the idea to Asia Exchange?

In 2005, and 2006 both my good friend, Harri and I went on an exchange semester to Shanghai. The experience was life-changing and during our studies, the idea of Asia Exchange was born. So, when we both returned to Finland, we decided to realize the dream to start Asia Exchange in 2007 right after my semester abroad in Asia.

Before that, I had always been dreaming of setting up my own company. I was already running a grocery store in my hometown neighborhood in the city of Nokia at the age of 10. 

Basically, we started the company because we wanted other young students to experience what we experienced as exchange students. Asia Exchange was established to fulfill other mobility channels and to work in close cooperation with universities. Until today, we have helped students from every continent to study abroad here in Asia. Well, except for Antarctica but we are working on fixing that as well.

My most recent start-up is Edunation, that I co-founded with Harri and his wife Susanne in 2017. Edunation is recruiting students to Finland, where we have the best education in the world. Peter Vesterbacka, the miracle maker behind the Angry Birds brand is part of our team, and he is the best mentor I could ever imagine.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?

In the early years, we did not have any budget to travel. We stayed in some of the cheapest hotels in Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand when traveling. Sometimes I even sharing a bed with Harri.

There was no marketing budget, but we created a unique marketing mix, where we work closely with the student organizations and international offices. Soon we started to understand about the SEO. But the best marketers are always our happy students, who refer to their experiences to their friends and fellow students both online and offline.

Luckily, we got also some funding from the Finnish government in our start-up phase.

Who is your target audience?

Our target audience includes university students from Western European countries interested in studying in growing Asian destinations. However, the US market is picking-up fast now, and we see many possibilities in Asian and American continents to grow.

Students also start to understand the possibilities in Asia, with some 1.4 billion people living just in China. Asia is by far the biggest continent in the world in terms of population and trade. Many of the world’s leading companies are based in Asia too. The gravity is moving towards the East, and it’s also an edge in the resume to have an Asian experience.

It’s also not a secret, that the living expenses in Asia are very affordable, and students are keen to live large on a student budget.

What is the USP of your startup?
  • Easy application process and online application: You just fill out an online application form and submit it with a few attachments
  • Acceptance even in one day: You’ll get a confirmation of your study place as quickly as in a day.
  • Secure study place: No stress about whether you get accepted or not
  • Most affordable tuition fees: Tuition fees start at 1650 EUR per semester.
  • Possibility to apply with a friend:  Share life-changing experiences together

Our Asian expertise has been growing during the past years, and we have become the biggest Asian focused study abroad provider in the world.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?

I usually like to start my day by reading some management or start-up literature around 30 minutes before meditating 5 to 10 minutes. Right after I do a 60-second exercise before I have my low-carb breakfast. I like to wake up around 7 am depending on what time I went to bed. This forms my day to be successful. 

Usually, I like to do all activities that need concentration during the morning hours, and then leave the afternoon for the meetings and commutation with my team members and partners. I finish at around 6 pm, but naturally, there is always some communication needed during the evening hours.

I am also traveling almost half of the year, so that gives a bit additional favor for my daily routines.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Asia Exchange in five years?

In 2025, Asia Exchange will be the world’s most recognized and wanted study abroad organization. Our biggest sending countries include China and India by then.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?

It’s all about life-long learning, but I would see that there is a clear need for practical-orientated university course as the Bali Business Foundation program, where you can easily meet like-minded people, investors, gurus, and experts from the different fields to learn all needed skills to become an entrepreneur or the next generation leader.

It’s also important not to only think how to be successful, but also where to be successful in the globalized world. I have chosen Hong Kong as my home, but one of the most interesting trends in recent years have been a lifestyle business scene. Idyllic places like Bali, have become digital nomad hubs, leading some to call the island as Silicon Bali.


More information you will find here

Thank you Tuomas Kauppinen for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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