Virtual English Language School "Open English" Is Worth Millions

The rags to riches story of a Open English, an online English learning startup.

ByABC News
June 25, 2013, 3:01 PM

June 26, 2013— -- Yes, you can make your entrepreneurial dream come true even if you only have $700 in the bank. That's what Andres Moreno did eight years ago in Venezuela when he and his friend Wilmer Sarmiento launched Open English, an online English school targeting Spanish speakers in Latin America, now worth a cool $350 million.

Prior to launching Open English, Moreno, who's 30 and a college dropout, had launched a traditional English language school in their hometown of Caracas. They would fly recent U.S. college grads down to teach executives of Fortune 500 companies based in Venezuela. But despite the school's success and big name client roster, Moreno and his team realized that the model was not scalable. So he ditched the brick and mortar model and switched to an all-online model, 21st century style.

Raising capital from Caracas was a hard task, however. So with $700 left in his bank, Moreno bet everything on their new idea and traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles. There, angel investors handed him $10,000 and $20,000 checks that allowed them to build a beta site and proof of concept.

Fast forward eight years, Open English is now based in Miami, Florida, has 2,000 employees and has raised over $120 million.

In the process Moreno, also met his future Chief Product Officer and wife, Nicolette, who also doubles as "Jenny" in all their quirky, homemade, commercials.

And like other tech giants Zappos and Google, a friendly company culture ranks high among Open English's priorities. Case in point: they recently hired a Director of Happiness to ensure their employees have a sense of purpose and that they accomplish their aspirations.

We visited Moreno at his office in Coral Gables in the latest installment of our Tech Journey series. Watch the video above.