Matching mentors and students - using dating tech

Firm taps psychometric data in providing personalised mentoring services for students

A company has taken the technology behind dating websites and used it for a different kind of matching -to match mentors and students for educational purposes.

Co-founded in 2013 by chief executive Jamie Beaton and chief operating officer Sharndre Kushor, both 23, Crimson Education provides personalised mentoring for students who want to get into the universities of their choice and have the ability to thrive in them.

Based in New Zealand, the company started operations in Singapore in October 2016.

It uses psychometric data - measures of one's skills, intelligence and personality - to match students with mentors, tapping the technical expertise of Dr J. Galen Buckwalter, former chief data scientist of dating site eHarmony.

"He designed the matching algorithm that matched 4 per cent of marriages in the United States. So, he's one of the world leaders in psychometrics and data science," Mr Beaton told The Straits Times.

According to Crimson Education's senior academic adviser Ben Thomas, Mr Beaton and Dr Buckwalter first met when the former was working as an analyst at a hedge fund.

Mr Beaton was inspired by Dr Buckwalter's work on using personalities to match romantic partners in eHarmony, and realised that it could be applied in the education space as well.

"With Galen's support, our large technology team armed with data scientist capabilities have formulated a proprietary mechanism for optimally matching students and tutors," said Mr Thomas.

Both mentors and students take the tests, which measure their traits, such as how conscientious they are. They are then matched based on their scores.

Crimson Education currently has over 20,000 students globally, with around 2,300 mentors.

"These mentors are current students or recent graduates from top universities around the world, such as the University of Tokyo, Monash in Melbourne, or MIT in America," said Mr Beaton.

There are between five and eight mentors assigned to each student, each focusing on one aspect of development.

For example, there are university application advisers who help find a school that best suits the student. There are also extra-curricular advisers, who help them find activities where they can pursue their interests, and also help them with time management.

A mix of video calls and face-to-face sessions are used.

While Mr Beaton declined to reveal exactly how many students it has on its roster in Singapore, he said 100 per cent of its first batch, who received their university application results last month, were admitted to one of their top five choices, including Stanford, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.

One of those students is full-time national serviceman Joshua Wong, 19, who graduated from Hwa Chong Institution last year. He will attend New York University after he completes his NS.

He found it most useful to have his team of advisers guiding him through his application process and giving practical advice in the essay writing component to best portray himself.

Crimson Education's prices here vary between $4,000 and $8,000 for a programme that lasts typically from two to three years.

Most of the students enter the programme two years before they have to apply for university.

Crimson Education also provides financial aid, so that students, regardless of their background or financial circumstances, can afford its services.

Mr Beaton was inspired to start the business by his own experience growing up in Auckland, New Zealand.

"There was limited information or resources about overseas universities, so most students in my country would study domestically.

"Many of the career counsellors in schools also had very limited information about those schools," he said.

He decided he wanted to make it less stressful and more convenient for students coming after him.