Santiago Maldonado is clear that for Lernit, his business training startup, to become the next unicorn, it has to reach a value of $ 1 billion in the capital raising stages. And it is already moving in that direction.
The industrial and systems engineer, graduated from Tecnológico de Monterrey, managed to raise $ 300,000, a seed capital that allowed him to expand and take his training courses to more than 80 companies in Latin America, including Sephora, Cemex and OXXO.
Lernit, which now has a presence in Mexico, Argentina, and the United States, is one of the technologies that emerged in the era of social networks and took advantage of the digitalization boom to grow in the market. The first investment round was closed in 2018.
Maldonado assures that thanks to this financing they have had a sustained growth of 350%. It also opened the doors to YCombinator (YC), an American seed capital accelerator that has catapulted companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, Webflow, Weebly, Rappi, Platzi, Stripe, DoorDash, Twitch and Reddit.
The founder and CEO of Lernit is confident that acquiring the YC entrepreneur label will give him the boost he needs to raise capital at Silicon Valley valuations – that is, between $ 2 million and $ 4 million to move to the next level, and subsequently, between 15 and 20 million dollars. “That gives you more opportunity to reach your goal because you need the capital to grow quickly. As a startup you have that challenge and that your competition becomes smaller ”, he mentions.
Currently, Lernit is billing around $ 120,000 a month, and has a workforce of 68 people. As a result of the alliance with YC, Maldonado has had talks with more than 25 funds. The idea is to expand to more Latin countries in 2022, starting with Chile and Colombia.
The differentiator in the business model
The poor quality of corporate education motivated Santiago Maldonado to found Lernit. He realized, he says, that the platforms companies use to train their staff are very outdated.
Some still use power point slides, others only give compliance topics and believe that that is enough. “That’s the learning relationship with the company, when people would actually have to develop personally and professionally in another way,” he says.
Lernit was created in order to offer training for companies. Digital courses and tools that help them define and monitor their business objectives, develop talent, while evaluating their performance and the skills they require to reach their goals.
For example, in the sales area you have clients who have improved their conversion rate up to 15%. In the case of human resources, staff retention has increased to 18%, through the creation of new engagement plans. And in training costs, the savings for some organizations has been 45%.
The strategy to grow in the edTech market, the manager points out, is to offer a comprehensive service, that is, instead of a company buying software for objectives, another for performance evaluations and another for training, it finds in Lernit one solution for all your talent training needs.
“Companies want to know what their return on investment is when investing in developing the skills of their people. Lernit has an integrated performance module where the organization’s objectives are defined, and evaluations are made not only of performance but also of individual competencies ”, he explains.
Maldonado is now focused on looking for companies that have between 200 and 2,000 employees, but don’t have the budget to invest in expensive technology solutions. To reach them, you are betting on an inbound marketing and lead generation strategy.
Today, the platform offers more than 150 courses, including teamwork, remote leadership, excel, word, sales closing improvement, email marketing, agile frameworks, scrum, design spring and design thinking. A week, it launches five new programs, as the goal is to reach 500.
Its methodology is microlearning. They offer 45-minute capsules, some of up to an hour and a half, but the contents are distributed in series of five minutes, in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
“When you know that your product is well accepted, it is time to scale. One reality is that we compete with everyone, and an advantage that you must have is the agility to detect a problem and solve it quickly. It is not easy, but with the right team we can continue to grow in a structured and orderly way, ”says Maldonado.
Digital technology in business education
The coronavirus pandemic was a springboard for online education. Tomás Rosales Mendieta, professor at the Faculty of Accounting and Administration at UNAM, assures that the traditional chair will not return to the classroom. Nor the way professionals used to train before COVID-19.
Hybrid models make their way to take advantage of the benefits of the physical and digital world. The latest study by the association AMBA & BGA, in conjunction with the collaboration solutions firm Barco, in which 216 decision makers in international business schools were surveyed, reveals that 52% of leaders believe that the methods Online teaching are much better than traditional ones.
However, 73% feel that the biggest problem with teaching online is transforming courses to fit an online format, followed by getting feedback from students on their understanding.
45% believe that technology is ineffective in providing networking opportunities; 39% think online technology is ineffective when it comes to developing soft skills; and 37% believe that technology has not been effective in delivering wellness initiatives to students in their institutions.
In contrast, 87% think that online technology offers flexibility in learning; and 67% rate its effectiveness in supporting team projects and collaboration.
Business school leaders also predict that blended models will replace traditional classroom delivery within five years, so 82% plan to invest in more technology over the next two years.