The edtech wants to help address the tech skills shortage in the Latin country.
Tech education startup Kenzie Academy has started its international expansion with the announcement of a physical campus in Curitiba, Brazil. The company plans to expand to São Paulo and other cities and has a goal of training 700 people in-person and online in the country in 2020.
According to Kenzie’s founder and CEO Chok Ooi, Brazil was chosen as the starting point for the expansion outside the US due to the country’s “large pool of untapped talent” and the demand for tech expertise from local companies, who struggle to find the skilled professionals they need.
“We believe that talent is evenly distributed but access to high-quality skills training opportunities are not. Our goal is to bring Kenzie’s model and access to people globally who want to break into tech,” he says.
Kenzie’s initial offering in Brazil is a one-year software engineering program, which will cost 32.000 reais ($7.800) paid through income share agreement (ISA) financing model, whereby there is no upfront investment but students commit 17% of their future salaries for 60 months, or a maximum cap of 48.000 reais ($ 11.670) once get paid a monthly salary of 3.000 reais ($731) or more.
Since the ISA concept is new in Brazil, Ooi expects his company will need to educate the Brazilian market, but the entrepreneur is optimistic about the attractiveness of the model: “Hopefully, people will come to realize the benefits of ISAs versus traditional student loans as they only pay back their ISAs when they get a job making 3.000 reais or more per month.”
The Indianapolis-based startup claims to have trained 500 people across the US since launching in 2017. The company places a lot of focus on the virtual classroom model (Kenzie expects to train more than 60% of students in Brazil online) to train people faster for technology jobs, offering “a way out of declining industries and low wages.”
According to the Brazilian Association of Information Technology and Communication Technology Companies (Brasscom) there will be a deficit of 150,000 professionals in the sector in the next four years – and Kenzie’s founder believes that his company will help address the issue more efficiently than universities.
“Many non-traditional students in Brazil could not afford to put their lives on hold for four years to attend a computer science program. Shorter 12-month programs like Kenzie’s allow them to learn both the technical and workplace skills to land a job that pays at par with a four-year computer science degree,” argues Ooi. The edtech has also identified a lack of high-quality vocational training programs in Brazil and intends to fill the void.
Kenzie will start its efforts in Brazil with some noteworthy partnerships, including cross-border payments unicorn Ebanx, which will be one of the destination workplaces for the edtech’s students once they graduate. The pool of initial partners also includes Curitiba-based companies James Delivery, Bcredi, Social Wave, Banco Bari and CPlug.