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Immigrants of Waterloo Region: Tech founder went from being an international student to creating 600 jobs

August 7, 2021

In 2010, a 22-year-old Martin Basiri landed in an airport in Canada. Excited to experience snow and whatever else was in store for him in the country, he went on an adventure to explore life as an international student.

Fast forward to 2015: along with his brothers Meti and Massi, Basiri founded ApplyBoard, a platform that connects international students with academic institutions.
Today, ApplyBoard has become one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies and now employs more than 900 team members, with 600 of them located in Waterloo Region and across Canada.

Waterloo Chronicle talked to Basiri, who shared his journey from the first time he landed at the airport to running the world’s largest online platform for international students.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU ARRIVED HERE?

I came in September 2010. And when I got here, I’ve never really experienced snow before. In my city in Iran, we don’t have it.
I was so excited to see snow. And when it snowed, I was like, ‘Wow, this is how snow feels like.’ And it never stopped, it just kept coming!
My memories of my early days here were all positive, all fun.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU REMEMBER HAVING AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT?

I remember the process of finding a school, applying, getting accepted and getting the visa took me over a year-and-a-half.

It was challenging to figure out how to do it and how to make it possible. That’s actually where we got the idea of helping other international students.
Other than that, there’s also things like accommodation, managing your money, where to get food. I remember the first time I went to the university, I stayed inside on campus the whole day, and when I got home, I didn’t have anything to eat!
It’s a cool challenge, though. I think people who study abroad want that challenge; they want to seek discomfort, because they want to grow.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAD TO FACE AS AN IMMIGRANT IN CANADA?

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