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.
From a very young age, Komal Dadlani has wanted to make a difference in the world. After studying the careers of people who had changed the world – Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Pablo Valenzuela – Komal realized that she wanted to be a scientist, specifically a biochemist. Studying science in Chile is not easy; up to 88% of schools don’t have lab equipment, and even those that do are not using it. This struggle inspired Komal to cofound Lab4U, a company that democratizes science by turning smartphones into scientific experiment devices. Komal has grown Lab4U across Chile, the US, and Mexico, while working alongside the Inter-American Development Bank to test her educational tools and overcoming the challenges of being an immigrant, female founder starting her company in Chile and doing business across borders in Silicon Valley.
I was glad to finally have a chance to sit down with Komal to talk about raising capital across Latin America and the US, growing up as the child of immigrant parents in Chile, and how a serendipitous Startup Weekend run by Start-Up Chile entrepreneurs launched her into her entrepreneurial career. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn how Komal journeyed from Arica in the North of Chile to Santiago, and finally to Silicon Valley.
You would think that in 2018 you could pay almost any bill online. But that’s not the case in many Latin American countries, although the process is becoming easier.
While companies such as Xoom, Multicaja, and Nequi are streamlining online payments in Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, respectively, many people still find themselves queuing up in three-hour lines to pay their utilities, credit cards and other bills every month.
One expat in Mexico explained how he used five different payment methods for his electric bills over ten months because the rules changed each time.
So how do people keep track of their payments and wade through the bureaucracy each month to pay their bills? What happens if you send a payment late or the providers send the bill to the wrong tenant? It depends on the country.
The insurtech industry worldwide received over US$2.3B in investment in 2017, a 36% increase from the year before. From 2014 to 2017, the Latin American share of the insurtech market grew from 1% to 7.6%, and the number of insurtech startups increased by 114% in 2017. This uptick is logical as insurance plays a vital role in stabilizing emerging economies and minimizing risk.
Latin America is underinsured, despite steadily growing incomes over the past two decades. Currently, insurance penetration, calculated as the ratio between insurance premiums written and GDP, hovers between 2-4% across the region compared to 6.2% globally and 7.3% in the US, the world leader, in 2015. Latin America still lags behind the rest of the world in insurance coverage.
As Latin America’s most developed economy, Chile is also the most developed insurance market in Latin America. Earthquake insurance is required for all mortgages and after Chile’s 2010 earthquake, a group of mostly international insurers paid out claims that reached around 4% of Chile’s GDP.
Compared to the rest of the region, Chile has a relatively open and well-regulated insurance industry. While Brazil has become a top player in insurtech, the insurance industry in Brazil is mired in complex regulations. Still, growing middle classes across Latin America have yet to invest heavily in comprehensive insurance policies for a host of reasons.