Miami Entrepreneurs Determined to Make Colombia the Tech Hub of South America

Miami Entrepreneurs and Colombian nationals Hernando Barreto and his son Andres have always seen technology as one of the country’s main paths to economic growth and the 4th industrial revolution era.

As Simón Borrero, co-founder and CEO of Rappi said “The future of LATAM is digital, and we are leading the revolution in Colombia. But this success will depend on available high-quality software engineering talent”. Rappi is Colombia first homegrown “unicorn” (a $1 billion valuation startup) and recently raised $200M in VC funds. The country’s newly elected president, Ivan Duque, is also making it a priority to migrate the economy from manufacturing to “mindfacturing.” The challenge: their colleges lack computer science programs to fulfill companies need. Until now.

Enter the Barretos and Holberton School, a Silicon Valley-based full-stack engineering school that provides world-class peer-learning and project-based software engineering training in only two years and charges no upfront tuition. Students acquire practical skills and an understanding of theory through hands-on learning closely advised by mentors from Silicon Valley’s leading tech companies. Students have been employed at top-tier employers like Apple, LinkedIn, Google, Dropbox, Tesla and more.

“We’ve seen the impact high paying tech jobs can make on an economy,” said Hernando Barreto, Executive Director at Holberton Colombia. “We searched for years to find the right way to train our population, but we wanted a system that could train the most, prepare them to step into a job quickly and by immediately impactful, and perhaps most importantly — be gender, color and social blind.”

“The ability of Holberton to attract students of all genders, rich or poor, educated or not and to effectively train them on in-demand skills is exactly what’s needed,” added Simón.

Supported by the Barretos, the Colombian government, Rappi, and other entrepreneur groups, Holberton has already opened a school in Bogotá, with more than 5,000 applicants for the initial 50 slots, and will open another campus this spring in Medellín — with the goal of educating thousands of students in just a few years. Rappi has already agreed to hire some of the graduates.

“We started in 2016 in the city of San Francisco. After we expanded our school to the state of Connecticut, with support from the Governor, we were flooded with inquiries from other cities, regions and even countries, all seeking a Holberton School,” said Julien Barbier, CEO and Co-founder of Holberton. “Colombia’s digital growth is so impressive that they cannot currently train the required pool of software engineering talent fast enough. These new schools will enable Colombia to take a quantum leap into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and give so many of its citizens lasting skills and high-quality jobs.”

And Colombia is just the beginning, several other Latin American countries are in talks with Holberton to bring their unique brand of learning to educate thousands of students. Holberton’s curriculum combines project-based and peer learning where students help each other to learn and reach their goals — there are no lectures and no formal teachers. The school is free until students find a job and there are not required degree to apply. Students acquire practical skills and an understanding of theory through hands-on learning and the development of actual systems and applications. This practical, hands-on knowledge guarantees that students possess the skills necessary for the technology industry’s most demanding jobs and will satisfy any growing economy needs

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