Open English, as its name might suggest, is an online learning platform that helps non-English speakers learn the language and speak fluently. After developing the foundation for Open English in his home country of Venezuela in 2006, Andres Moreno took his idea north to Florida, where he launched the program commercially in 2008. Since then, Open English has flourished. Today, the startup employs 1,000 people (40 of whom are in Miami), has offices across Central and South America, and serves 80,000 students in over 20 countries.
Just as many American investors have started to turn their attention to Brazil, so too has Open English. Moreno sees big opportunity in Brazil, which is quickly becoming a global marketplace and is seeing demand for English-speaking talent rise dramatically. To expand its footprint in emerging markets in Brazil and South America, Open English today announced that it has taken on an impressive $43 million in venture funding.
The round, the startup’s third, was led by New York-based firm Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Redpoint Ventures and existing investors like Flybridge and Kaszek. Interestingly, Open English raised a total of $6 million in its first two rounds in 2010 and 2011. The startup raised the bar significantly with its Series C round, which is clearly both an indication of how aggressively Open English plans to scale as well as the size of the market opportunity investors are seeing in South America.
There’s no better sign that Latin America is booming. As the middle class continues to expand, schools are struggling to keep up with demand, opening the doors for alternatives. Coupled with the fact that young people are spending more time online, Moreno believes that being more flexible and scalable, web and mobile-based solutions are key to handling this growth — both for degree programs and language training.
Capitalizing on the inherent growth potential in these behavioral and cultural shifts, the founder said that the company grew revenue by 350 percent last year and is expected to grow by 300 percent+ this year. Open English also sits in the middle ground between increasingly popular online language translation tools, like Babelverse and MyGengo and web-based learning platforms and online courses like Lynda.com or Coursera.
While not nearly as advanced, Open English has elements of 2tor, using live online classes with native-English-speaking teachers for its instructional model. The key, especially for those eager to soak up the language, is that students can access classes at any time from anywhere, or take as many live classes as they want over the duration of the startup’s 12-month program. Yup, 12 months — because the team believes that immersion has to take place over an extended period of time for it to be most effective.
Going forward, Moreno says that the team’s goal is to get to 80K students by the end of the year, while actually maintaining and growing the quality of teachers and the education. No easy task, and it will be tough to do that with the scale they seem to be going for. But key nonetheless.
For more, find Open English at home here.