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The state of venture capital -- Americas style

From left: Juan Pablo Cappello, Manny Medina, Boris Hirmas Said, Andres Moreno and Cate Ambrose discuss the state of venture capital in Latin America at The LAB Miami. Photo by Jose Pimienta.


Andres Moreno, founder and CEO of Open English, said it took him more than a year to raise his first $400,000. “Every morning I’d get off my friend’s couch in Menlo Park, put on the same suit jacket and go ask for money,” explaining that he was meeting with Silicon Valley angels and sometimes raising $25,000 at a time. “I was getting really good at it.”

Fast-forward to today, and Open English -- the fast-growing Miami company that offers live online English courses to more than 50,000 students all over Latin America -- has landed major venture backing. The company has already raised more than $55 million and is in the process of raising another significant round. That will fund the expansion of Open English beyond the region.

Moreno, who started his company in 2006, was part of a panel that explored venture capital and entrepreneurship in Latin America. The panel, hosted by AS/COA and the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (LAVCA) and held last week at The LAB Miami, also included Cate Ambrose, president of LAVCA, Juan Pablo Cappello, co-founder and board member of Idea.me, Boris Hirmas Said, chairman of Tres Mares Group, chairman of Yellow Pepper and Entrepreneur in Residence at FIU, and Manny Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital Group and chairman of the Technology Foundation of the Americas.

Panelists described the venture landscape in Latin America as way ahead of where it was just five years ago, but still with a ways to go. Some U.S. venture firms have entered the market recently and “we are seeing more Latin venture firms co-investing with U.S. firms, learning how venture capital
is done,” Ambrose said. According to LAVCA research, Colombia and Mexico’s entrepreneurial ecosystems have made great strides in the past year, outpacing Brazil by some measures. Similar to what we hear locally, the panelists said the region could use some more big exits, or success stories, to attract more venture attention.