Joel Nicholson: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Professional is Joel Nicholson, co-founder of UniversityHub, a social networking platform uniquely designed for students. What started out as a blog to help young people pick the right post-secondary option has now grown into a go-to destination for students, filled with student-driven university rankings and reviews, as well as a school match quiz called MatchU™.

We caught up with Joel to find out what inspires him and what advice he would share with other young professionals…


1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m an EdTech entrepreneur who builds companies that educate, inspire, and empower people. I’m also a fitness instructor at Equinox.

2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
I grew up in a family of teachers, so education was always a big part of my life. The education industry is at a very pivotal point of change, and I was inspired to leverage my background in business to take part in this transformation.

3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
I just recently sold my first EdTech start-up, UniversityHub, to a Canadian digital marketing company called Square Crop Studios Inc. (which also owns the Student Life Network). My co-founder and I started uHub five years ago with the simple mission to help students navigate the challenging university admissions process. Today, we support nearly 75k students a month, but we’re excited to help even more students by leveraging Square Crop’s 1M members and leading brand partners.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years, 20 years?
I’ve learned from my business partner not to plan things too far in advance. But I have a few long-term goals I keep in the back of my mind. For work, I want to continue to build innovative education technology companies that somehow improve peoples’ lives. At some point, I’d like to be involved in an education company that has a global impact; but for now, I’m excited to see how big we can take UniversityHub.

Outside of work, my dream is to be able to spend a few months of the year living abroad somewhere warm, ideally with surf, mountains, and great food (Colombia, anyone?). I’ve always believed that if you can control where you live, and what you spend your time on, you’ve reached the ultimate point of freedom in life. Some people call that retirement, but I’m too passionate about what I do to retire.

At the same time, I’d like to establish a home base in Toronto — buy an industrial style loft apartment somewhere in the city, adopt a husky, and start a family.

joel nicholson

5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Be bold about what you want in your life, and create your own opportunities if they aren’t coming to you. Be authentic about what you don’t want in your life, and take ownership by removing those bad habits or influences. And most of all, be adaptable. Whether or not you’re an entrepreneur, life is one heck of a roller coaster ride. So roll with it, and trust that things will work themselves out.

6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
My sister is a type one diabetic, so JDRF is number one for me. I supported them on my Kilimanjaro climb in 2013, and plan to do the same when my friends and I tackle more of the Seven Summits. Next year: Aconcagua in Argentina.

7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Management consulting taught me a ton of skills that I use every day, from creating compelling presentation decks, to solving ambiguous problems. We’d work long hours and travel constantly; but one thing that I had to learn very quickly after jumping into start-up life was hustle.

Pitching my business, networking with investors, and persuading prospective clients — all things I never learned before, but knew it was essential to move UniversityHub in the right direction. Hustle is just one of those things you have to roll up your sleeves and do yourself.

8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Everyone has a unique story. Notable just means you’ve discovered yours to tell.


1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Insomnia for brunch, Planta for dinner, Soho for drinks.

2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Of course, my homepage is UniversityHub. For music, my most played song is probably something by Goldroom.

3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Equinox. (I teach cycling and running at the Yorkville and Bay Street locations)

4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Australia or Hong Kong, because I used to live there. My next big trip is to the Azores Islands, just off the coast of Portugal. It’s a celebratory trip with my UniversityHub co-founder, Alex. We’re both big adventure-seekers, so the trip will be full of scuba diving, surfing, and climbing. That’s my idea of a ‘vacation’.

joel nicholson

5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
I can’t stand missing out on big trips or events with friends.

6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Sauces. You don’t even want to see how much dressing I use in my salads, or ketchup on my fries. It’s shocking.

7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Whole Foods salad bar. It’s such a rip-off, but it’s so convenient. For what I’d spend more on, sometimes I wish I’d splurge on a car, because my Uber bills always tend to stun me each month. But I live downtown, and almost never leave the city. When I do, I either train or fly, so it just doesn’t make sense. I’d rather zoom around in those funky Car2Gos.

8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success is so simple to me. It’s when you truly love what you do at work, play, in your relationships, and in any other part of your life.

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