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.

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Mike Packer, QED Investors: The Trailblazing US VC Investing in Latin American Fintech, Ep 78

In 2014, nearly all US-based VCs were reticent to invest in Latin America. But that didn’t stop Washington, DC based QED from building one of Latin America’s most impressive startup portfolios. Before becoming a Partner at QED Investors, Mike’s path into the finance world was not obvious. Mike’s first foray into finance was his job at Capital One where he pursued his passion for using data to solve problems.

Today, Mike lives in Tampa, Florida and is a Partner at QED Investors, a venture fund that has made over 100 mostly fintech investments in the US, UK, and Latin America. QED has been involved in some of Latin America’s top fintech deals including Nubank, Creditas, Credijusto, Guia Bolso, Loft, and Quinto Andar and many more.

On this episode of Crossing Borders, I sit down with Mike Packer to talk about his journey from working in banking at Capital One to joining QED as Principal, and then making his way up to Partner. We also learn about how startups should approach venture capital firms for funding and what to expect in fintech in the next coming waves within the region.

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Juan Pablo Cappello, Pag Law: Legal Services for Latin America’s Entrepreneurs, Ep 77

Juan Pablo Cappello met well-known Argentine entrepreneur Wenceslao Casares when he was “living out of a backpack in New York.” After a brief career in traditional law, Juan Pablo’s career took off when he was on the founding team of Patagon, Latin America’s first online bank, with Casares and two other entrepreneurs. A few years later, in 1999, Patagon was acquired for $750M, becoming one of Latin America’s first large exits. Despite the company’s massive success, he admits to making every mistake in the book along the way. Few other lawyers, especially in Latin American venture law, have such direct experience in founding, growing, and selling businesses.

In this episode of Crossing Borders, I sat down with Juan Pablo Cappello to talk about the Latin American tech ecosystem in the late-1990s, what it was like to be part of a skyrocketing startup, and the lessons he learned while founding a startup. We also discuss his decision to found PAG.law in Miami, common mistakes made by Latin American founders, and his current view on opportunities in the Latin American ecosystem. Juan Pablo has been active in the Latin American tech ecosystem for over 20 years; check out this episode to hear a veteran’s perspective on recent changes in Latin American tech and venture capital, especially given Softbank’s recent investment announcement.

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Maricel Saenz, NextBiotics: Defeating the Next Superbug, Ep 76

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest global threats that most people don’t know much about. It has the potential to take us back to the days when a small cut could kill you. Maricel Saenz is tackling this problem head on with NextBiotics, a company creating new tools to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria.

If that wasn’t enough, she’s taking on antiquated stereotypes of Latin American and female founders. Have you ever heard of a male entrepreneur getting asked if he is dating his female co-founder? Maricel Saenz was advised that she should disclose that she had no personal relationship with her male co-founder near the beginning of her pitch. Maricel has bigger battles to win: specifically, the battle against drug resistant bacteria. Originally from Costa Rica, Maricel has worked in Canada, the US, Asia and South Africa to try to solve big global problems; listen in to learn how she decided to cofound NextBiotics, her most recent endeavor.

I sat down with Maricel Saenz in this episode of Crossing Borders to talk about her experience in entrepreneurship, her decision to solve hard problems, raising finance for a biotech startup in Silicon Valley, and her decision to study at Singularity University. Maricel also offers advice to female and Latin American would-be founders to help them get their first endeavor off the ground.

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