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Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig


Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.

Sep 11, 2018

Not all global startups were founded in a Silicon Valley garage. OpenEnglish, an online platform for teaching English with over 500,000 students in 40 countries, started in a student apartment in Caracas, Venezuela in 2007. Open English started as in person English classes for Fortune 500 companies’ Latin American offices and morphed online so that it could reach a wider audience. While Andres Moreno understood the importance of speaking English for Latin Americans, he might not have guessed how far OpenEnglish would go.

Today, Andres Moreno is the CEO of OpenEducation, the parent company of OpenEnglish, Next U, and OpenEnglish Jr. and has raised over US$125M in venture capital from investors in the US and Latin America. Check out this episode to learn about Andres’ childhood moving around Latin America following his dad’s career, how he got started teaching English, why he picked Miami as a base, and how he has supported Latin American entrepreneurship as an investor, entrepreneur, and mentor.

“Once you know it, you can go anywhere”

Andres Moreno is talking about the English language. He understood the value of speaking multiple languages as a young age, while following his dad’s diplomatic career across Latin America and the world. He credits English for his effectiveness as a cross-border entrepreneur during the first iteration of OpenEnglish, which he founded right after graduating university.

With that knowledge in mind, Andres has built a global company that is by far the leading and best-recognized brand in Latin America for online English teaching. Find out how Andres leveraged the internet in 2007 to bring his business online and scale the reach of his English programs.

How to get the attention of angel investors

In 2007, an English-teaching business in Venezuela was far from any Silicon Valley investors’ mind. Andres Moreno realized they wouldn’t pay attention to him if he stayed in Caracas, so he went to them. It took a year of sleeping on a friend’s couch, but OpenEnglish eventually raised the capital it needed.

But Andres says raising capital in Latin America is still harder than it should be. The capital is there, but the culture of investing in early-stage ventures is still lacking. Find out how Andres convinced investors in the US that his brand was worth building, even in the first few years after the 2008 financial crisis.

Miami: Global talent that understands how LatAm works

Silicon Valley may be an incredible place to build a startup, but it is also very far away from Latin America. Miami turned out to be a better fit for OpenEnglish due to its close connection to Latin America and strong tech talent. This proximity allows Andres to mentor startups across the US and Latin America because he has seen the firsthand impact of successful entrepreneurs. His businesses have employed thousands of people, and former executives from OpenEnglish have founded 12+ companies.

Andres Moreno is a well-recognized face across Latin America for starring in his own homemade commercials for OpenEnglish. He also represents a strong example of success for a Latin American founder, inspiring future entrepreneurs across the region by leading a global business with humble beginnings. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear how Andres brought English to the world through OpenEducation.

Show Notes:

[1:12] - Nathan introduces Andres Moreno

[1:48] - Andres explains the beginnings of Open English

[3:38] - Where is OpenEducation going over the next 3-5 years?

[4:45] - Where was the garage you started in?

[7:30] - Tell us a bit more about your first investors

[8:27] - Tips for LatAm entrepreneurs that are looking to raise money

[10:28] - Why did you choose to start this business?

[11:34] - Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?

[13:05] - When did you know OpenEnglish would be successful?

[14:10] - Parallels in China

[15:29] - Andres’ advice to his younger self

[16:03] - Why Miami is a good base for OpenEducation

[17:01] - Why the LatAm ecosystem matters

Resources Mentioned:

OpenEnglish

NextU

OpenEnglish Jr

Endeavor

Exito - Andres Moreno’s consultancy