Founder and CEO Andres Moreno lived in eight countries growing up, including the United States, Chile, his native Venezuela, and Slovenia. Move around that often, and you’re bound to become empathetic to others trying to learn a foreign language. You’re also probably going to grow keen to how much leverage speaking fluent English gives you if you plan to work in international business. Today, Moreno has translated his experience and such sensibilities into his company Open English.
Open English is an online language school. Currently, the platform targets Spanish and Portuguese-speaking students in the Americas. Factors such as middle class growth and younger generations spending more and more time online have contributed to a rapidly increasing need for web programs designed for acquiring English proficiency. The company already helps over 80,000 people say “apple pie” in over 20 countries.
Open English combines multi-media language content with live instruction from native English teachers to build customized courses of study. The program has won numerous interactive media and e-learning awards. Apparently, both the program and Moreno are fluent in success.
Moreno began his entrepreneurial career in Venezuela by launching Optimal English. That company involved English language instruction as well, offering one-on-one classes to Latin American executives at Fortune 500 companies like Proctor and Gamble, Sun Microsystems, and Cargill.
Like many other successful entrepreneurs, Moreno had to overcome initial setbacks. His first company failed to scale adequately enough to meet demand. That hardly spelled defeat for Moreno. Instead of giving up or closing the door on that chapter, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He spent four years developing the appropriate technology and techniques that would allow him to succeed where he’d previously faltered.
Moreno launched Open English in 2006. The company now has offices in Miami, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Bogotá, and Panamá, and competes in over 15 markets. The team has grown to over a thousand members, and all signs point to continued expansion. The results are not always so easy to gauge or so overwhelmingly positive, but Moreno’s efforts tell a common startup story–perseverance pays.
The company is speaking the right language in the ears of investors. A third round of funding recently gave Open English another $43 million to set tongues free. Backers included Insight Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures. New money should match the company’s ambition to scale in South America. The generous boost also reflects the company’s booming potential, having brought in a total of $6 million during the first two rounds of funding. Just last year, revenues grew 350 percent. Open English anticipates another 300 percent leap in 2012.
Find yourself on la playa during a tech conference in bustling Brazil in the coming years, enjoying caipirinhas while conversing in English casually with the locals, and chances are you will have Moreno to thank.