The ed-tech space is heating up all around the world, and this is also true in Latin America, where online startups have the much-needed potential to disrupt education and democratize it.
This isn’t only about replicating successful US business models, as many of these would be useless in the region, Educabilia‘s CEO Daniel Abadi explains:
There are many education-related problems we don’t have in Latin America, such as higher-education costs and student loans (free public universities are widespread throughout most of Latin America), or book rental needs (we use lots of photocopies instead), so there’s less need for startups like Chegg.
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Conversely, several Latin American startups have developed platforms that are tailored for the region’s needs, for instance by focusing on adult learning and including SMS content. Here are 9 examples you should know, in alphabetical order:
Akdemia is an online service aimed at improving school management and communication between teachers, parents and students. Founded in Venezuela a few months ago, it initially targeted private schools in its home country, and has now hired country managers in Brazil and Mexico to expand across Latin America.
According to its founder and CEO, Juan Lagrange, Akdemia’s goal is to reach $110k in revenue by the third quarter of 2013. Its business model is based on the management fee it charges schools on a monthly basis, depending on the number of students they manage via the platform.
Descomplica is a Brazilian online learning startup that leverages video classes to help users prepare for entrance examinations. Website aside, it has adapted to the realities of the Brazilian market, and partnered with mobile operator Vivo to offer SMS lessons around different verticals.
As we reported last December, it raised investment from several high-profile funds to expand its platform by hiring staff, reinforcing its infrastructure and building new content. Current backers include Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Brazil-focused Valor Capital Group and EL Area, Dave McClure’s 500Startups, and Palo Alto-based Social+Capital Partnership.
Easyaula is a Brazilian marketplace for offline classes, which students can pay online. The startup recently graduated from Brazilian-American accelerator 21212, where it was mentored by Adriana Cisneros from the Cisneros Group of Companies (see our previous interview).
Earlier this week, we learned that it had raised capital from Macmillan Digital Education, a VC fund which was launched in January 2012 by traditional educational publisher Macmillan to make strategic investments in the consumer online education market. While Brazilian platforms such as Beved and Nós.vc operate in the same field as Easyaula, this new partnership has the potential to let it leapfrog its competitors.
Above-mentioned Educabilia shares similarities with Easyaula in its focus on user-generated offline classes, but it also works on grouping existing informal classes in each of the cities where it operates.
This Argentine startup is currently taking part in Wayra Argentina‘s acceleration program, and has already raised angel investment from Marco Giberti’s firm Vesuvio Ventures (see our previous post). Launched in March 2012, it boasts a track record of 7,000 published classes in 10 countries.
Oja.la’s content focuses on a specific niche: Latin American aspiring entrepreneurs and techies who are keen to learn about topics such as app development and community management. Classes are in Spanish, and cost anywhere between $30 and $180.
Originally from Colombia, the startup was selected to participate in Start-Up Chile‘s fourth incubation round. According to its Venezuelan co-founder, Hernan Aracena, it reached the milestone of 1,000 paying customers by September 2012. Competing offers include Mejorando.la, a conference series and podcast brand that also hosts online classes in Spanish about Internet and tech.
Miami-based online learning startup Open English is arguably one of Latin America’s top startup success stories, with a 12-month English learning program that connects native teachers with over 50,000 students from 20 countries.
As we reported in July 2012, the company raised one of 2012’s largest investments in an education startup, with a $43 million series C round led by Insight Venture Partners and backed by Redpoint Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners and Kaszek Ventures.
Brazilian ed-tech startup QMágico was the winner at Startup World: Brazil competition last year. While it initially started as a free platform with custom videos and exercises, it has become a subscription-based product with a more sophisticated software to attend the needs of schools and teachers.
In practical terms, teachers can add content to the platform, including lesson plans and tests, which students can access individually or in collaborative study groups. Additionally, QMágico provides them with services such as extensive training, platform customization, and content organization.
According to QMágico’s co-founder, Thiago Feijão, the startup’s paid platform can already be accessed by 10,000 students in over 450 schools, while its 50,000 users have registered for its free offering (read our full interview).
Qranio is a gamified learning platform where users can play quizzes and turn their points and badges into real-life rewards. Already available as a website and via mobile apps, it took the opportunity of Campus Party Brazil to unveil a partnership with mobile carrier Vivo to provide SMS-based content.
Talking to Brazilian blog Startupi, CEO Samir Iásbeck explained that Qranio’s team hopes to reach 1 million users by mid-2013, up from 60,000. To reach this ambitious goal, the startup has secured a $150,000 strategic investment from Brazilian startup Movile, in addition to approximately $250,000 from a Brazilian angel investor and previous seed capital from Wayra Brazil, which incubated the project.
Veduca is a learning platform that provides Brazilian users with 5,000 online classes that it licensed from some of the world’s top universities, such as MIT, Harvard, Yale & Princeton, and translated into Brazilian Portuguese when necessary. The startup is about to launch a new version of its site, which is already available here for beta testers.
In December 2012, it raised a $740k round led by Mountain do Brasil and backed by 500 Startups. At the time, it had already attracted 1 million unique visitors over the last 7 months, and had plans to reach this number every month by the end of 2013. As we learned this week, Veduca now has a new backer to achieve this goal: VC fund Macmillan Digital Education, which also invested in Easyaula.
Do you know other promising Latin American educational startups? Let us know in the comments.
Image credit: Pond5