After Open English began attracting students in Venezuela, the company moved on to Colombia, Peru and other Latin countries. Currently, Brazil has the largest number of students, followed by Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. Brazil has been one of the fastest-growing markets for the company. Open English started with less than 50 students there in November of 2011 and now has more than 10,000, Andrés said.
Aside from its unconventional Internet English classes, Open English also has an unconventional human relations executive, who the company calls its Director of Happiness.
Alain Lagger, who assumed the new post last October, is responsible for creating a culture of optimism and cooperation in the company. His role includes creating motivational initiatives, team-building activities that emphasize the company’s core values, organizing group sessions and personal counseling. “We want people to feel a sense of purpose in their work,” Andrés said. “Some work — like call centers — can be tedious and we want to show employees that their jobs have a real purpose, that their work has the power to transform students’ lives.”
Interviews with Open English students — who range in age from teens to people over 50 — indicate that the convenience of online courses, the ability to practice English in a small class and the availability of teachers and coaches set the company apart from other types of courses.
Diego Fernández Acevedo, a 31-year-old teacher from Bogota, took English classes in school but turned to Open English to gain fluency and studies about one and a half to two hours daily. “I’ve been studying with Open English for more than six months and I find their small classes and interactive programs very interesting. It is difficult to practice English in the course but the experience is very valuable.”
“Learning English is not just one more language” Andrés said. “It’s a global communication tool that allows us to be better at work and helps us understand our social surroundings. We’re excited that Latin America is being transformed, how people today can start up companies like ours. And Miami is a kind of hub for startups in Latin America.”