The boards of two Miami-based online learning companies focused on the emerging markets have decided they are stronger together.
Open English, an online English-language learning school in the Americas, announced Monday it has acquired technology education startup Next University. Both companies were founded by Miami entrepreneur Andrés Moreno.
With this acquisition, Open English expands its portfolio of online educational products beyond English for the first time.
“The combination of Open English and Next University is a perfect fit and a natural progression in the life cycle of these two companies, as they offer a complementary value proposition to their students,” said Moreno, founder, CEO and chairman of Open English and founder of Next University. “Now we can offer a real path to success, so if you are an Uber driver in Colombia or a call center worker in Brazil you could become a bilingual web developer — that is a real transformation for someone in their lives and in their ability to provide for their families.”
Open English, founded in 2007, offers personalized live online classes with native English-speaking teachers in Latin America, Brazil and the U.S. Hispanic market. The company recently expanded into its first non-Hispanic market, Turkey. Open English has raised over $120 million in venture capital, has served more than 450,000 students and has about 1,500 employees in six offices across the Americas.
Next University, founded two years ago and now with 65 employees, offers digital technology certificates in high-demand areas such as mobile app development, web development and computer programming, and it plans to roll out six other certifications including entrepreneurship and digital marketing in the next year, Moreno said. It’s a lineup of products Open English can now offer its current and prospective students.
“Next University borrows from the success of Open English in terms of the model — an online 24/7 access to high-quality education — but instead of the English language learning space we wanted to go after everything else,” said Moreno. “We wanted to create a school that could provide certification in the areas of the highest job demand and really transform someone in 12 to 18 months and give them a career, with the focus on emerging markets.”
The company raised the lion’s share of its $4 million in funding from investors in Miami. Next University also built a management team here, including bringing on CEO Gabriel Montoya, who was an executive at Cisneros. “The vision came together and hopefully it’s another proof point of companies that can be created locally,” said Moreno, who is also on the board of Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs.
Next University has enjoyed fast growth, Moreno said, but at the 18-month mark it became clear that together with Open English the combined vision was worth so much more.
“To have the support of an experienced and successful team like Open English’s will allow us to focus on improving our academic offering, learning experience, and the overall satisfaction of our students,” Montoya said.
About two months ago, Open English launched quietly in Turkey and is opening in an even bigger market early next year, Moreno said. “We are really bullish on our ability to take Open English to markets where there isn’t a dominant player in an online English offering, and now we can take Next University there much faster with all the infrastructure in place.”
Both Open English and Next University employees will work in the Open English headquarters in Coconut Grove. As the companies begin the integration process, students from Open English and Next University will receive preferential terms on educational products offered by either institution.
For Open English, at the highest level the acquisition meant a change in vision, said Moreno. “The vision went from being the leader in online English in emerging markets to being the leader in education in emerging markets. Now every phone call we make offering English to prospective students, now we have a whole suite of products to offer.”
Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg