This article was originally published by Diego López Marina on Peru Reports, a sister publication.
In 2018, when Maria del Mar Velez founded the Peruvian startup Crack The Code, she had one thing clear: her mission was to transform education in Latin America by teaching children programming languages. Over the next five years, she thinks it will be as important to succeed in business as knowing English.
“There will come a time, five years from now, when programming education will be obvious and necessary. Parents need to realize that these will be crucial skills that will open doors for their children and that all the time spent on a computer is not bad,” Velez said in an interview with Peru Reports.
“English is necessary and I think it’s ‘the English of the future’,” said the CEO of the Lima, Peru-based startup. “A child can change the family income, then a city, a country, a region.”
Crack The Code specializes in online programming courses for children and teenagers. So far this year, the company has 55 employees, 1,300 active students in more than 21 countries and was selected by HolonIQ as one of the 100 most promising Edtech companies in the region.
In 2018, Velez invested all his savings to create Crack The Code and launched the company with just 20 students. But she had a clear objective: “to undertake something that has a social impact and not only economic results”.
“We provide access to low-income children with scholarships, but also by being profitable and growing across the region. We have entered into alliances with foundations and NGOs to reach public schools,” she said.
According to Velez, Crack The Code seeks to combat technological illiteracy, to empower its students to be creators of technology and to have the tools to take advantage of opportunities in the future, where engineers will be more more necessary.
Peru still faces great challenges in advancing its education system and technology sector. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Education, 60% of educational establishments do not have adequate technological equipment, 79% of schools do not have access to the Internet and 55% of teachers do not have the necessary skills. to use digital technologies in the classroom.
Despite the technological lag, Peru currently has around 20 edtech companies that, in 2020, received more than $20 million in funding from domestic and foreign investors, according to an analysis by Hero Startup.
“At Crack The Code, we seek to supplement traditional education, but in a way that children have fun learning and becoming experts,” Velez said.
“Learning to program gives you a logical structure to solve problems in different and creative ways,” she added.
How Crack The Code Works With Kids
Crack The Code has an educational and instructional innovation team that develops strategies and adapts platforms to deliver lessons, according to the CEO.
“Continuous innovation is very important. It must be taught through technological platforms to enhance the educational experience. On the other hand, we have the content, which must constantly evolve, reflecting what our students are asking and wanting,” she said.
Crack The Code offers courses for creating video games, courses for kids programmers, video editing, and other design and creativity courses, including their popular “learn to program with Minecraft” course.
“Maybe in a year we will release a crypto or blockchain course for kids. Who knows? But we also don’t want to overwhelm them, because you have to start with the basics and evolve gradually,” she said.
The company’s professors are all engineering students in their final year of university who “love their job and at the same time need an economic income during their studies”.
“They want to share their passion and pass on the love of technology to children,” she said.
Velez explained that after hiring the teachers, they train them, pay them for that training, and finally pay them for teaching hours.
“It’s a win-win,” she said.
Insights from Peru with EdTech
According to Velez, with the pandemic, there has been a “boom of EdTech startups in Peru”, because “there is a great need to correct educational problems”.
“We love seeing more and more startups making an impact in Peru.”
And the company is seeing some traction. In December last year, Crack The Code raised $2.7 million in funding from Kaszek Ventures.
“It’s a feat to get the stamp of approval from Kaszek, which is the first fund in the region. It means we are showing the country and the world that we have something valuable and that we are on the right path to improving it,” she said.
Velez said Crack The Code “continues to grow a lot in Peru,” but they’re also “expanding to other Latin American countries, including Mexico, Colombia, and Central America.”
“We do webinars with schools, partner with tech companies, give benefits to workers at big companies, and help with marketing,” she said. Peru Reports.
For this year, Velez said they aim to “triple revenue from last year and have 6,000 more active students by December.”
“We want to continue to raise awareness of why this matters and has the power to change lives and families,” she concluded.
Sabrina Seltzer, head of transfer and entrepreneurship at Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of the largest engineering universities in Latin America, said in 2022 that Peru is emerging as a country with an ecosystem ed- high-potential tech, with other notable companies such as Silabuz, Lutea, Code en mi Cole, uDocz, Ipluton, Wempo Academy, Musa and Queestudiar.
“In all startups, we are always looking for engineers and there will come a time when universities will require students to have programming knowledge. Technology is here to stay and so, from now on, we are helping to find a positive way to work with it and with our children,” Velez added.