An Overview of Edtech in Latin America

Global investments in education technology, commonly known as edtech, will reach $252 billion by 2020. In fact, the global e-learning market is growing over 14% annually, and this growth rate is likely to continue.

In Latin America, government focus on education increased significantly over the last two decades. As a result, Latin America is now the fourth largest edtech market in the world – behind North America, Western Europe, and Asia in terms of revenue – with expectations for the e-learning market to generate revenues of over $3 billion by 2023.

According to UNESCO, more than 12 million adults in 20 Latin American countries are participating in some form of online education. This is not just online courses; millions of people are now accessing written materials, webinars, podcasts, collaborative software, and more.

What’s driving edtech opportunities in Latin America?

The short answer is surging levels of mobile and Internet access.

Latin America is a world leader in mobile adoption, with more than 415 million out of approximately 690 million people connected to a mobile network. Approximately 60% of all mobile connections in Latin America are smartphones and there are predictions that by 2020, 63% of Latin America’s population will have access to the mobile Internet. This rapid growth is translating into endless opportunities for the edtech sector, even in the most rural and remote areas.

Besides an increase in mobile devices, there are other reasons why Latin Americans are turning to online educational resources. According to the latest Endeavor INSIGHT EdTech report, top reasons include the simplicity of studying online (versus in a classroom setting), better job opportunities, among others. Colombia, for example, is the Latin American country with the most searches for online courses to better job opportunities.

Despite the rising interest in online learning, there are still many challenges to provide high-quality, accessible education across Latin America. The education gap is very prevalent and the majority of children in Latin America do not receive a high-quality, relevant education. According to the Worldfund, approximately 22.2 million children and adolescents in Latin America are not in school or are at risk of dropping out of school each year.

The good news is that innovative edtech startups are addressing these challenges, and receiving global recognition and securing investments for their achievements.

Here’s a look at some of the leading edtech trends in Latin America, the successful startups in this space, and where the region is heading.

Learning management systems

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. The global LMS market size is expected to grow from $9.2 billion in 2018 to $22.4 billion by 2023.

There are a number of trends driving this growth. For one, many companies are increasingly adopting digital learning and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Additionally, growing government support and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in LMS are all driving its use in both corporate and academic settings.

In Latin America, cloud-based and SaaS solutions are also gaining popularity because they provide better connectivity and allow organizations to plan educational development opportunities through online trainings and courses. Founded in 2012 by Carlos Inguanzo, Carlos Lagrange, Juan Andrés, Lagrange Delfino, and Valentina Delfino, Akdemia is revolutionizing education management by helping schools in Latin America and beyond simplify their operations. The all-in-one platform provides schools and their communities with a way to stay informed and up-to-date with everything happening both inside and outside the classroom.

Colegium is another platform with 50+ useful applications for schools and parents, including communication tools, billing and collections, extracurricular activities, library administration, and more. The company was founded in 2000 in Chile by Ariel Gringaus Higilchuk and has a growing presence in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Uruguay. Its goal is to improve the overall management of schools with technology.

Founded by Felipe Pastenes and Ruben Arias, Ludibuk is another Chile-based startup that provides a digital library of books for K-12 Spanish-speaking students. Teachers can provide customized feedback and view real-time reports on a student’s progress. The company has raised $300K in funding so far.

Edoome, a Magma portfolio company, is also making it easy for teachers to set up virtual classrooms where they can share files and videos with their students, publish grades, and share assignments or quizzes. Founded by Leonardo de la Fuente, Edoome is growing throughout Latin America. Recently, the company closed a deal with the Ministry of Education of Chile to implement the platform in all public schools in Chile, impacting more than three million students and over 200,000 teachers.

Enterprise learning

Companies around the world are incorporating learning programs to improve employee engagement and ensure continuous learning. What’s more, many of them are demanding more employee training programs related to the technical skills required to remain competitive today. For example, employee training programs that cover data science, cloud computing, security, and more are in high demand globally.

In Latin America, traditional education systems are often outdated, meaning companies have to find alternative educational opportunities for their employees. Companies that incorporate digital learning platforms can benefit from on-demand trainings and courses at lower prices. Because many companies in Latin America are not taking advantage of digital training programs yet, companies that do can boost their competitiveness and employee retention as well.

Edtech startups in the enterprise learning space are offering cost-effective and efficient solutions across Latin America. For example, Colombia-based Ubits offers alternative corporate training programs that focus on leadership, sales, and more. The courses are short and personalized in order to maximize value and minimize time commitment. Founded by Julián Melo and Marta Forero, Ubits works with more than 70 companies in Latin America and received a $120K investment from Y Combinator in 2018.

Eidos Global, is another startup that designs customized, scalable educational solutions for companies and governments that need to train their people for the future. The company was founded by Agustín Alejandro Batto Carol and Rodrigo Gallego in Argentina.

Early childhood education

More and more startups are entering the early childhood education space. According to Crunchbase, ‘baby tech’ startups raised more than $260 million in funding between 2015 and 2017.

In Latin America, this activity started earlier with companies like Kinedu helping families understand the early childhood development needs of their babies. Founded by Luis Garza in 2013, Kinedu makes parenting easier with its unique algorithm that curates personalized activities for babies based on their development needs. Though headquartered in Mexico, the app has more than two million global users and raised nearly $5M in funding from Be Curious Partners, Dila Capital, IGNIA, and more.

PlayKids by Brazil’s Movile is another early player in the early childhood education space. The app offers educational products and content for children around the world. During the app’s first year it reached more than six million downloads and five million active users per month.

Colombia-based BabySparks is another mobile application that helps new parents support, monitor, and evaluate the development of their children. BabySparks’ programs are customizable to fit each child’s specific development profile using intelligent adaptive technology. Gustavo Rodriguez and Juan Pablo Mejia founded the company in 2014.

Another startup helping parents to train their children’s cognitive control and focus, critical thinking, and creativity skills is Argentina-based Papumba, founded by Gonzalo Rodriguez, Pablo Capurro, and Santiago Capurro. With more than $1.2M in funding, the company created a number of apps and games for children to learn about animals, the alphabet, how to count, and much more.  

Finally, Chile-based PleIQ is using AR and AI technologies to create smart educational toys that help develop the multiple intelligences of young children. PleIQ’s founders are Alejandro León, Antonio Da Rocha, Edison Durán, Ilan Durán, Nastassja Palmiotto, and Samoel González and the company received an award for the Best Educational Innovation of 2017 by BETT Latin America as well as recognition by the World Association of Childhood Educators.

Career development

Massive open online courses (also known as MOOCs), are bridging the gap between what skills the market is demanding and what traditional educational institutions can currently offer. High-quality technological talent, such as software developers, is in high demand around the world. In Latin America, there is currently a deficit of experienced programmers amounting to 1.5 million positions approximately.

Startups like Platzi are helping to close this talent gap with online, live-streamed courses covering a variety of topics from SEO and marketing to data science and analytics. Founded by Freddy Vega and Christian Van Der Henst in 2013, Platzi has raised over $10M and has more than 400,000 students taking courses. The majority of Platzi’s students are in Colombia and Mexico, however, the company recently announced it plans to expand to Brazil and Spain.  Listen to my interview with Platzi’s Christian Van Der Henst.

Crehana, founded by Diego Olcese Diaz and Rodolfo Dañino Ruiz in Peru, is another learning platform focused on providing courses for creative and digital professionals in areas such as graphic design, digital illustration, motion graphics, 3D modeling, and more. Founded by Moís Cherem and others in Mexico, Bedu offers a mix-learning platform to develop programming and business skills. With campuses in Brazil and Argentina, Digital House aims to help people improve their digital skills by offering technical courses on mobile and web programming, user experience (UX), data science, digital marketing, artificial intelligence, and much more.

Language learning

The platform that reinvented the way to learn English in Latin America, Open English, recently turned ten years old. Over the years, the platform has helped thousands of people in Latin American learn English and became one of the region’s leading success stories in the edtech space. Check out my interview with the founder of Open English, Andres Moreno.

Today, another startup is helping children in Latin America to learn English. Though headquartered in Madrid, Spain, LingoKids reported impressive growth numbers in its Latin American markets. From 2016 to 2017, its user base grew more than 489% in Argentina, more than 500% in Venezuela, and more than 425% in Brazil. It’s also experiencing growth in Mexico and Chile. Founded by Cristobal Viedma and Marieta Viedma, LingoKids recently raised an impressive $6M Series A round, bringing its total funding to $12.5M.

Next generation schools & tools in Latin America

The lack of infrastructure, insufficient financing, and the inability to keep educational courses and resources in line with the market demands of today are all driving the need for more e-learning opportunities, especially in emerging markets like Latin America.

Online education is often cheaper and can bring more people into the educational system faster. The e-learning giant Udemy reported that nearly 50% of its revenues come from emerging markets where a quality education is not widely available. So it’s no surprise that Latin America is experiencing a new wave of alternative learning methods, blending online and offline resources and providing people with new opportunities at minimal costs.

Lab4U in Chile and Innova Schools in Peru, are just two examples of organizations implementing innovative, hybrid approaches to learning by combining hands-on activities with digital platforms and mixing up the amount of time students spend in traditional classroom settings versus learning at their own pace. Listen to my interview with Komal Dadlani, the CEO and co-founder of Lab4U. The Schools of Tomorrow in Brazil are using technology to focus on the well-being and comfort of students in the classroom, offering thermoacoustic structures, temperature controls, and highly-equipped rooms to increase student performance and productivity.

Though the education sector in Latin America still faces numerous challenges, there’s never been a better time for entrepreneurs to disrupt the traditional, outdated educational systems. From early childhood education to employee training programs, there are endless opportunities for edtech and these are just a few places to start in Latin America.