(March 11, 2023) Some decisions can change the trajectory of life, forever. For Madhavi Shankar, it was moving to Australia to study in 2012. Living independently and practising independent decision making, she realised her potential when she joined a technology startup and went on to work there for four years, juggling different roles. The experiences came in handy when she had a chance meeting with Indu Navar, a successful entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, during a trip to the US in 2016. Five hours of conversations later, Madhavi Shankar’s career had taken off. “I returned to Sydney, quit my job and flew back to India the following year with a goal to solve the real problem in the education space. The result was the birth of SpaceBasic.inc,” smiles the Co-founder and CEO of SpaceBasic, the ed-tech company which works on digitising student experiences for universities and campus housing communities.
Back to basics:
The idea behind SpaceBasic was to create a digital platform beyond the classroom for students and educators. “Today, over 50 colleges and universities use SpaceBasic to empower their campus housing communities by digitising everyday tasks and communications to deliver a better living experience,” Madhavi tells Global Indian.
With rigorous due-diligence, Madhavi learnt that over 80% of universities in India use little to no technology outside of the classroom. Campus operations like student housing, managing cafeterias and access control were ineffective and all performed manually with fragmented data sources. “We knew there had to be a better way,” says Madhavi, about the events that led to the launch of SpaceBasic.
Under her leadership and entrepreneurial skills, SpaceBasic has grown 300% year on year. The AI-enabled SaaS platform digitises the non-curriculum life of a student by automating everyday tasks and communication within universities, schools and student housing communities, in one workspace.
A first generation entrepreneur from Bengaluru, Madhavi comes from a traditional South Indian family. Her parents, both doctors made sure education was the cornerstone of their children’s upbringing. “Throughout my school and college days, I would often get into trouble for my grades,” recalls the technology enthusiast, who enjoyed participating, curating and hosting events.
She did her schooling from National Public School and then went to Visvesvaraya Technological University for her Bachelor’s degree.
Come 2012, Madhavi moved to Sydney to pursue her Masters and MBA from the University of Technology. “My passion for startups started in Sydney. I wanted to start a company from the experience I had in Australia as an international student and drawing comparison to my experiences in India. I was inclined to build something in the education space,” says the Forbes 30 Under 30, Asia 2020 awardee.
While working in the tech startup in Sydney, Madhavi handled different responsibilities, from front desk receptionist, door-to-door sales to finally product manager, Asia Pacific.
The entrepreneurship journey
Referring to her meeting with Indu Navar, with whom she co-founded SpaceBasic, Madhavi says their conversation made them realise they shared the common passion of bringing about a change with the use of technology in undeserved sectors in India.
“The goal was to bring together meaningful data sources from everyday tasks and communication and to provide universities actionable insights, leading to cost reductions and streamlined operations,” explains the entrepreneur, who was honoured with Global Australian Award – Advance.Org & Government of Australia 2022.
SpaceBasic is backed by early stage Venture Capitalists SucCeed, Turbostart and have prominent angels from India and the US. Presently, SpaceBasic is working with institutions like Manipal Academy of Higher Education, PES University, DY Patil University, Indus International Schools among others and enables 120K+ users.
The company is expected to accelerate towards a revenue goal of $25M by 2026. “Universities and colleges today want to digitize manual, redundant campus operations and adopt AI technology to make predictive data-driven decisions that will help with cost reductions, optimized operations and provide an amazing connected campus experience to students,” she explains.
Empowering women everywhere
As an empowering woman leader, Madhavi had the opportunity to speak at the United Nations HQ in Geneva in 2019. “Representing India as one of the nine youth speakers was an incredible experience. I interacted and learnt about the social initiatives by young entrepreneurs,” says Madhavi. The event was part of the one million youth leaders by 2030.
She has also been invited to speak at IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Chennai, ISB Hyderabad and TEDx talks as well. “The common theme around these talks have been women empowerment and the economic need for more women in the workforce and what we can do to support this,” informs Madhavi.
So what are her future plans ? “Our goal over the next three years is to digitise the campus experience of one million students with SpaceBasic.” She says her company believes in equal opportunities for all and giving back to the community. Affiliated with the movement ‘Pledge 1%’ where the company pledges 1% of their profits, time and software to invest back into the community, SpaceBasic works towards educating women each year, informs the entrepreneur.
Madhavi’s work involves lot of travel, something she loves. “I try to read half a dozen self-help books or biographies a year,” says the CEO.
Follow Madhavi on LinkedIn