My View from Beyond the Wall
By: Rob Ryan
Education and Entrepreneurship; An Oxymoron??
I have fascinating daily conversations with the talented educational industry leaders of Latin America. Some are innovative entrepreneurs building accessible alternatives to the traditional educational industry. Incredible leaders like our friends at Club Lia, EpicQueen, RobinBank, Platzi and Collective Academy. Alternatively many of my closest confidants lead the biggest, best Universities across LatAm.
But I continually wrestle with a few realities:
Can effective entrepreneurship be taught via the classroom by academics?
Can alternative means of delivering education, powered by a mix of scaled up technology and services, ever be independently financially viable at global scale?
#1: My intuitive answer here is a resounding NO!
We cannot create generations of great entrepreneurs in classrooms, via whiteboard exercises or academic driven boot camps, competitions or courses, taught by inexperienced non entrepreneurs, often people who’ve not even worked at an early stage company.
Nearly every country in Latin America now has 5-10+ years of data that proves, with few exceptions, that we have:
- Done an excellent job of exposing the general public to “emprendimiento” as a concept.
- We have seeded a small but potent generation of early company “successes” (defined as survival, growth, expansion)(2)
- That most of our best founders/companies succeeded because of their own efforts, often without any “ecosystem programs.” (3)
- Our entrepreneurial economy still lacks a depth and diversity of sustainable continuing entrepreneurs and companies.(3)
Sticky notes & whiteboards filled with foreign/academic “methodologies” were not enough.
But here is the good news! In 2019, I am starting to see green chutes of great potential.
More program leaders and CEO’s are asking me for referrals seeking their staff from pools of past/former entrepreneurs.
I am witnessing more University leaders reinventing their programming, content, and how they leverage experienced outsiders (mentors/founders) to teach their communities.
#2: This complicated 2nd question.
I am hopeful but pragmatic about the realities of the markets involved.
There are so many super talented Founders executing on scaled up educational platforms and content in Latin America. Some have figured out sustainable B2B and (fewer) B2C business models. Many though, are reliant upon corporate sponsor revenues, or corporate marketing partnerships. This is terrific and innovative, but how sustainable?
There are two truths that concern me:
Social investment by corporations comes and goes with executive teams and whims of corporate consciousness. So, how do we find self sustaining models to support the expansion of these hugely important programs? Do they become fundacions? Can they find revenue models that insulate them? I hope so.
The business of education in Latin American countries is dominantly an “institutional” reality. the 800lb gorilla here are big public/private brand-name Universities. Is there enough air to breathe competitively for these upstart companies? Can these big bureaucracies find more ways to collaborate instead of compete? I think so. Will these behemoth Universities see these startups as their future, and begin to “acquire them”, bringing inside, the talent and disruptive vision of the entrepreneurs. Maybe. if we can create collaborative partnerships both may achieve the noble goals they preach.
The Future of education via entrepreneurship is the future of education in Latin America, and it’s VERY BRIGHT! But like most important things in life, it’s never as easy or happens as quickly as everyone might like.
ATTENTION TIJUANA: September 23-28 will be co-working week here in Tijuana! Several of the local co-working spaces will be participating. We will also be doing our Mentor Mashup event on Thursday the 26 at the WRK offices at Edificio Emilia. Click the buttons below to sign up for either Mentor Mashup or Coworking week, make sure to click through all the ticket options to choose the events you want to attend.
- What’s your company about? Robin is a virtual school for kids to learn what they will really need in life. Our first online course for kids in LATAM teaches programing while they create their own videogame. We also have a financial literacy program for kids to learn about budgeting, savings, loans and even investment. They interact with their classmates through a virtual classroom and parents are fully aware of their progress.
- How did you get started as an entrepreneur? I volunteered for 8 years at a non-profit working with foster kids. I also worked at 2 VC funds and when they asked about my job they really understood the mechanics of venture capital investment. I then started teaching them financial management through games and a digital wallet and recently pivoted to virtual courses.
- What has been the hardest thing starting your business? Accepting the hard truths and not lying to myself. When the market is not buying your product you need to embrace that and either iterate or pivot when you need to.
- What’s next for your company? We recently pivoted 2 weeks ago to a more global solution. We already have kids from 3 different countries in LATAM and we plan to grow more aggressively in México and Chile while we improve our product.
- What’s your biggest dream in life? I want to have a positive influence on a billion people. My goal is to get to teach kids the skills that will help them in real life.
- What’s your company about? Evaluados is making educational feedback awesome. EdTech for evaluation processes, applicable both in the classroom and at a distance, that provides tools and information relevant to decision making in Educational Management.
- How did you get started as an entrepreneur? I started my startup Life thanks StartupWeekend. I went in search of creating my own advertising agency and left with the head exploited with new experiences and soaked in the entrepreneur world with a winning project after the event (Evaluados).
- What has been the hardest thing starting your business? I was 19 and an advertising and graphic design student. I knew little about finance, team organization, business model or legal things! But, without a doubt, My biggest challenge was to start and find a profitable business model
- What’s next for your company? Scale to Latinamerica
You can follow Evaluados on the links below.
By Dr. Isaac Lucatero Castañeda
Nowadays, the role of entrepreneurs to generate disruption in traditional business and solve global problems is vital for any society.
The entrepreneur, from an economic perspective, is the one who finds the flaws between supply and demand. The one who can see and analyze problems and generate innovative solutions that create sustainable social, economic, and environmental value. In the world, especially in emerging countries, the formation of young people with an entrepreneurial mentality is vital. And the role that educational institutions play in this is fundamental.