Bogota, Colombia, October 11, 2017 – Colombia-based ESCALA Educación announced today that it has closed a seed funding round to increase savings for higher education, generate social mobility, and ultimately reduce the income inequality gap in Colombia. This funding will allow ESCALA Educación to scale operations in Colombia by expanding its team, and boost digitization of operations. Investors include Accion Venture Lab, the seed-stage investment initiative of financial inclusion leader Accion, Mountain Nazca Colombia, Invictum Capital, and several other Colombian angel investors.
ESCALA Educación works with businesses and universities across Colombia to boost directed savings for higher education. ESCALA Educación offers safe, automated savings plans and coaching services for higher education to lower- and middle-income workers by partnering with businesses to distribute the plans to their employees. Employees’ monthly contributions are automatically deducted from the payroll and transferred to independent and secured interest-generating accounts. Employers then match up to 100% of the employee contributions. To bring even more savings to families, ESCALA Educación partners with select private universities to offer discounted tuition pricing.
“We look forward to working closely with our new prominent partners Accion Venture Lab, Mountain Nazca Colombia, and Invictum Capital. Accion Venture Lab’s strategic portfolio engagement support and global expertise in financial inclusion, Mountain Nazca Colombia’s regional expertise in scaling innovative businesses, and Invictum Capital’s strong local network and engagement capacity can help expand ESCALA Educación’s savings plan to an underserved market in Colombia,” said Jonathan Duarte, Co-founder and CEO of ESCALA Educación.
“In Colombia, nearly half of the students who start college drop out, and a majority of those students leave for financial reasons,” said Michael Schlein, CEO and President of Accion. “ESCALA Educación helps families and students overcome these challenges. It uses an innovative model that combines automated savings plans and coaching to reach the underserved through employers, providing them with access to savings plans that ultimately help them reach their educational goals.”
“Accion Venture Lab is excited to make its first investment in Colombia,” said Vikas Raj, Managing Director of Accion Venture Lab. “ESCALA Educación’s strong management team, initial traction proving a strong market fit, and exciting combination of customer acquisition and engagement strategies position it well to promote directed saving plans to support higher education and upward mobility of lower- and middle-income people across the country.”
“Mountain Nazca firmly beliefs that education is key to reach sustainable development and improve the region’s quality of life. ESCALA Educación has the capacity of helping emerging countries to overcome the access barrier for education,” said Patricia Saenz, Managing Partner of Mountain Nazca Colombia. “We are excited to be part of ESCALA Educación, as we believe that with a great team and great partners we can consolidate a great impact.”
Educación ESCALA Educación is a social enterprise that promotes access to higher education and financial inclusion by offering enhanced saving plans with educational benefits. ESCALA partners with companies and becomes their main educational benefits provider, through which employees save through their paychecks for education either for themselves or their children. These savings are coupled with company matching funds, tuition discounts, career counseling and other education benefits that make higher education accessible for all. Based in Medellin, Colombia, ESCALA launched commercially in 2016 and works with more than 15 companies and hundreds of customers and beneficiaries in the country.
About Accion Venture Lab
Accion Venture Lab is the world’s leading seed-stage investor in fintech for the underserved. Venture Lab invests capital in, and provides support to, innovative fintech startups that increase access to, improve the quality of, or reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved at scale. Since launching in 2012, Venture Lab has deployed over US$10 million across more than 30 startups that work in over 20 countries worldwide. Venture Lab is a part of Accion, a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. Accion catalyzes financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of – or poorly served by – the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through its work with more than 90 partners in 40 countries. For further information, visit https://www.accion.org/venturelab.
About Mountain Nazca Colombia
Mountain Nazca Colombia is a local Multi-Stage venture capital fund investing in early stage tech companies with high impact potential. We are backed by experienced entrepreneurs; part of a regional group with operations in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. We benefit from a Regional Network through Mountain Nazca Latam (Chile, Mexico, Argentina), and a Global Network through Mountain Partners (+90 portfolio companies with 9 international hubs), high learning curve form investments in LATAM, altogether more than 39 years adding value to companies. We are all former entrepreneurs “by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs”.
About Invictum Capital
Invictum Capital is a boutique investment firm focused on exponential organizations in Colombia and Latin America. It was structured within Andi del Futuro, local network of high-profile entrepreneurs members of ANDI, the most important association of the private sector in the country.
Maria Alejandra Acosta (ESCALA Educación)
Katie Mounts (Accion)