“Every problem, in the end, is an educational problem. Changing education is one of the best ways to make the world a better place.”, - Federico Hernandez, Co-Founder and CFO of Blended, a solution that improves communication between parents and schools, shared with us Blended’s story and gave us the scoop on where they stand today. Among their numerous achievements is the victory of the Seedstars Global Winner Prize at the Seedstars Summit 2019. We are so proud to have Blended in our alumni network!
What is the story behind Blended?
The Blended story started five years ago. I set out on this journey with my business partner Nicolas Gimenez. At that time, we decided to found an NGO and tried to learn how schools and K-12 work. We noticed that the most significant pain point for schools was communication with parents. Schools organized thousands of events for students, but very few parents ever showed up. Our team started to do research in the field and learned the best practices from US and European companies to find an efficient solution to this endemic issue. Inspired by ClassDojo, we made a plan to build something similar but with specific features for Latin America. That’s how Blended, a communication platform for K-12 schools in Latin America, was born three years ago.
Why did you decide to start a business in education?
I think that every problem, in the end, is an educational one. For us, changing education is one of the best ways to make the world a better place. The industry is a bit behind in comparison to fintech or cleantech, for example, that’s why we see a huge opportunity here.
How big is your team, and how would you describe your company’s culture?
Right now, we are 20 people, with the entirety of our team being based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thanks to the MVP we launched at the very beginning, we managed to attract seed funding, which allowed us to invest in marketing, technology and grow in quantity and quality. Of course, three years ago, we were all young entrepreneurs, with a lack of expertise in some areas, but now, we are attracting more senior talents with 15+ years of experience who worked at companies like Google, for example.
When you just started did you have any competitors in the market that were building a similar solution or you were the pioneer?
We are pioneers when it comes to communication between parents and schools. The tool has a user-friendly interface, with a convenient newsfeed and functionality tailored to the needs of schools and parents. We are the only solution that tackles this specific problem. Of course, there are a lot of other tools focusing on evaluation, student attendance, etc., but usually, schools want to have one integrated system. That’s why we plan to grow our product as a marketplace with various solutions for school education. We would like to process information not only from Blended modules, but we would also utilize third-party solutions so that any school can have access to all educational tools in a single platform.
You mentioned that in the beginning, parents didn't engage much in their kids’ school life. How did the situation change after schools began using your platform?
We have an NPS score which gathers feedback from our clients, and we’ve received more than 85% satisfaction rate. Now parents feel that they have control over their communication with schools, and schools see parents engaging with the product; thus creating better relations between parents and the school staff. Through our platform, we’ve managed to bring together two major actors - parents and schools. When teachers, principals and managers collaborate effectively, it results in better student performance. For example, if Juan is having a problem at school, parents can get the information earlier in the year. On our side, we can start working on a solution to solve that problem, and at the end of the year, we will see that Juan is performing better by utilizing our solution. If they didn’t have Blended, it would be impossible to predict and fix.
Actually, you’ve already answered the question I wanted to ask - how do you leverage student data? Basically, the platform helps track the learning path of each student, and then, in case of an emergency, takes necessary steps towards preventing him/her from failing an exam, right?
Yes, exactly. The way it works today, not only in Latin America but all over the world, is that parents find out the results of their children’s exams only at the end of the year. We currently have 250K students registered on our platform. It’s very likely that student who misses a lot of lessons during the semester will fail their exams. Our predictable analysis allows us to anticipate possible outcomes and start working on the issue in advance by notifying all of the stakeholders. Our solution can even suggest different materials that allow students to catch up in case they miss a lesson.
That’s amazing! The impact is right there. What are you most proud of so far?
I am really proud of the culture. It's not only about building solutions, but also about creating a great workplace. I come every day to the office, and I see everyone enjoying what they do. That’s what inspires me the most.
How does the future of Blended look like?
We are planning to expand to more countries in Latin America in the next two years. Currently, we are present in Argentina and Uruguay. We closed our funding in December 2018, and now, we are starting to invest all of that money not only in the tech team but also in the marketing and sales teams. Peru and Columbia are the countries we would like to expand to first. If I imagine my company two years from now, I would like to see a bigger team with the same great company culture and a presence in at least six or seven countries in Latin America.
Education needs a big change. Blended is aimed at solving all the problems that teachers and administrators have in one single place so that they can focus on the most important part of their job - teaching. We want to provide them with better tools, better content, usability, and everything needed to boost the quality of the student learning experience. As a result, happier and more fulfilled students - the stronger society.
What do you want to achieve as a company CFO? What are your aspirations in this role?
I think the biggest issue CFOs and finance managers usually face in startups is pricing and how do define your value in the money equivalent. For example, you don’t know how many resources you need to allocate in the marketing strategy and what would be the return on investment. But, if you want to build a successful company, as a leader, you have to focus on building the processes, understanding your numbers, setting realistic KPIs, making your team result-oriented and having a robust measurement system.
My objective as a CFO is not only to ensure that the company is well-funded, but also to create a data-driven culture inside Blended. Every penny counts, and each step would impact our company’s future. That’s why a smooth process for tracking analytics is fundamental.
How does your business model work?
We charge schools a monthly fee, which depends on the number of students participating. It’s a basic pricing package that is almost free. If a school requests some premium features, like grading or attendance, then we have a different pricing policy where we create subsequent packages that are tailored to the school’s needs.
As I mentioned before, at the moment, we are working on enhancing our product. There would be three different options: Basic, Standard and a Premium plan giving schools access not only to Blended’s modules, but also to the third-party solutions like Google classroom, or internal grading systems.
Is there something specific about Argentina's entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps your business prosper?
If you analyze different emerging markets around the world, Argentina might be one with the most advanced entrepreneurial ecosystem. This week we’ve got our fifth unicorn - Auth0, a universal authentication and authorization platform. Moreover, Argentina has quality tech talents. I would say that we have quite a good competitive advantage over other emerging economies because we have access to venture capital and successful companies like Mercado Libre, the most valuable company outside US & China or Endeavour. Such companies are a good source of knowledge and provide valuable business connections for ecosystem development.