The college admissions process is a critical time for universities vying to catch the eye of prospective students, but many schools don’t have the right technological tools to market themselves effectively. So instead of leaving students with a personalized impression of how they would fit into their campus environment, universities end up sending generic emails—or worse, doing nothing at all. That’s where Raleigh-based Element451 comes in.
Element451 is as SaaS, CRM (customer relationship management) product that helps universities market themselves to students from the beginning of the recruiting process to the moment when a student deposits cold, hard cash to enroll in that school. The startup’s name was inspired by the classic novel Fahrenheit 451, and it symbolizes the transition in marketing from traditional to digital, said CEO Ardis Kadiu.
Kadiu said he first developed Element451 while working at Spark451, an admissions marketing software based on Long Island, N.Y. In January 2018, he launched Element451 as a separate company. Now, while Spark451 is a client of Element451’s, they are otherwise not involved.
Element451 moved to Raleigh about a year and a half ago from New York, but still many of its employees work remotely, from all over the world in countries like Costa Rica and Serbia. Kadiu said that while this may seem unorthodox to some, the company has always had a remote-working culture.
“We never had a centralized team,” Kadiu said. “Even when I started the product, we were finding talent in different places. So we continued that. We didn’t know any different, so we really grew up with remote folks.”
Element451 was bootstrapped until September 2019, when Cary-based Cofounders Capital invested $1 million. Last month, Element451 was named to Scot Wingo’s coveted Triangle Tweener list.
Since the product’s launch, Element451 has been used by close to 20 different colleges and universities, including New York University and Yeshiva University.
“Admissions and enrollment is a whole process in itself,” Kadiu said. “For a lot of universities, it’s the lifeblood of their revenue that’s coming in. So, we think about it as a sales process, it’s very similar to a sales process… You really need a lot of tools that can fit into all the different areas of the application process.”
Element451 uses technology to make the process easier for both the students and the university’s admissions office. The product works by thinking of the admissions process as a funnel, and at different parts of the funnel, universities use different features that the platform has to offer, which include landing pages, application management and event management.
At the top of the funnel, there are a large number of prospective students. Element451 helps universities market themselves to these students through email and SMS messages, and helps them understand how they are engaging with students through behavioral analysis.
Once prospective students reach the middle of the funnel—where they are filling out their applications and sending in supplemental material—Element451’s technology assists the universities in event-planning, application evaluation and decision-making. Once students have been accepted, Element451 helps the university nurture prospects through one-on-one communication and micro-sites that help students envision themselves at that school.
“Everything we do revolves around the ability for a school to segment and personalize messaging, and personalize the students’ experience,” Kadiu said. “It’s not about the CRM, it’s not about managing the customer—it’s about managing the relationship.”