When professional race car driver Jonathan Clues decided to hang up his helmet and pursue an internet-based career, it was 1999. The industry had already been thrust into the dot-com crash spiral, and there probably wasn’t a worse time to consider founding a tech start-up. But, as Clues has noted, he was a race car driver— crashes didn’t scare him.
Clues’ latest venture, StudentBridge, was founded in 2014 and is set to disrupt the college enrollment process.
Life in the Fast Lane
Between 1990 and 1998, Clues raced cars throughout Europe, Asia, the US, and Canada. He excelled at racing. Clues was the British Junior Formula Ford Champion in 1993, US F2000′ Rookie of The Year’ 1994 and raced and tested many cars from Formula cars to NASCAR. . Along the way Clues raised over $1.5m in marketing sponsorships from brands such as Shell, Sheraton Hotels and Miller Beer. People may not see the immediate connection between competitive racing and entrepreneurship, but Clues sees a clear connection.
“I have been fortunate to enjoy two very different, but equally challenging, competitive, and rewarding careers,” says Clues, “I love start-ups and really relate to the entrepreneur’s mindset. I am driven by identifying pains/needs, solving problems, creating opportunities, and growing companies.”
Clues threw himself headlong into the start-up world following his retirement from racing, working first for BetSwap.com. He rose to become the Managing Director at BetSwap and oversaw all facets of the company, from recruitment to marketing. Clues was instrumental in the development of BetSwap’s $2M peer-to-peer web application. In 2000, Clues was a founding partner in imedia8, a London-based agency specializing in creating and managing digital assets, such as websites, intranets, and mobile app development. He was a critical force in growing imedia8 to manage websites for clients such as Shell, Anheuser Busch (Budweiser), Zurich Insurance, Allianz Insurance, and Diageo. Crews moved on to found RealviewTV in 2001. He quickly grew the company to a profitable state within two years.
Clues’ approach to competitive racing and business have intertwined: risk taking, innovating, and a competitive nature have served him well in both endeavors.
“It probably goes without saying I have a real desire to win, to beat the competition but more importantly help our partners hit their goals,” explains Clues, “We are always looking to gain an edge, with a culture of testing and experimenting.”
Entering the EdTech Space
Ed Tech is not a new industry. Technology has been changing the way people learn for decades, from the introduction of the personal computer to Smartboards and virtual school options. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, educational technology was thrust into the national spotlight nearly overnight.
Clues’ founded the company StudentBridge in 2015, far before the world changed and educational technology became part of everyday life. At the time, it was just the latest idea in a long line of internet start-ups founded and grown by Clues. However, even before the pandemic, Clues knew the value of helping higher ed institutions pivot to a virtual space. With personalized media solutions, StudentBridge was on the cutting edge of allowing college campuses to offer the latest in virtual options to students, students who are becoming increasingly accustomed to the role of tech in education.
“Universities have large stories to tell, to a wide ranging audience, all with different needs ,” says Clues, “They need to tell their stories in an authentic way, while also providing other virtual tour tools such as interactive campus maps and walking tours.”
StudentBridge provides digital engagement solutions that drive college enrollment, including virtual campus visits, video viewbooks, virtual event support, and student social chat groups. They also offer creative services for higher education, such as map creation and video production.
“Going to college is as much about the experience as the education itself. StudentBridge is the leader in bringing that experience into a virtual world,” explains Clues.
Virtual Visits & Worldwide Appeal
In the past, pamphlets, paper maps, and still photos were the go-to media used by colleges to entice potential students, drive enrollment, and engage with students throughout their time with the college and as alumni. However, in a world that continues to be lived virtually, colleges seek ways of reaching students raised on technology.
“One of the mantras I live by is ‘Right content, right device, right time’,” says Clues, “I want StudentBridge to be the connection between institutions and students.”
The program is meant to act as a bridge throughout the student lifecycle, following students from recruitment to alumni status. Often schools only get one chance to make a solid first impression, especially with students who are considering several institutions simultaneously.
StudentBridge is especially effective for recruiting students from overseas or out of state. Programs like CampusBubble allow students to engage with the school and one another no matter where they may be located. Virtual campus tours let students explore every nook and cranny of a campus without needing to leave home. These features became especially important during the pandemic shutdowns, where in-person tours became non-existent.
“One of our mottos is “Better retention through better recruitment”. At the end of the day, the true goal of an institution is to help their students to graduation. Then they can be alumni for life.” says Clues.
Cutting Edge Technology for a New Normal
There is no doubt that the world has changed since March of 2020. Even though people are starting to venture into public spaces and in-person interaction, there is still a significant need for virtual options, especially in education. Ed Tech is here to stay and will only continue to change the higher ed landscape.
“I think the ‘New Normal,’ the pendulum, will swing back. We will see more in-person events,” says Clues, “But, they’re always going to augment it with digital solutions, and virtual experiences like StudentBridge provides.”
During the pandemic, the business world learned that virtual options could be wildly successful. Many people left the office and have not returned. Similarly, the higher education space has found a sweet spot with regard to virtual options for educating and communicating. StudentBridge was able to meet the moment and serve students where they were. This ability to pivot amid unprecedented disruption in the status quo is the realization of a founder’s vision.
In a recent interview on the Filling Seats podcast, Clues spoke to the state of technology today. He presses educational institutions to accept that students as young as six are consistently connected digitally. He cautions that those institutions that fail to adapt risk being left behind, relegated to dinosaur status in an ever-evolving industry. A failure to adapt could be the death knell for any institution.
Clues is clear about the StudentBridge vision for the future and his goal of helping colleges and universities stay technologically relevant.
“It’s the schools that will move and meet their students where they want to be met that will be the ones that really succeed.”
TIME BUSINESS NEWS