Nicolas Jimenez, co-founder of Argentinian-based startup Fidu, has convinced more than 1,000 schools in the Latin America region to put their operations in the hands of a bad edtech startup.
Fidu LatAm wants to create a new operating system for schools so institutions can manage everything from finance to school-wide announcements digitally. The company, co-founded by Jimenez, Caterina Carreo and Ariel Manduka, today announced that it has raised $5 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners, NFX, Imaginable Futures and Broome Ventures. It also raised money from regional founders, including Felipe Villamarin and Andres Bilbao of Rappi, Matias Wolowski of Auth0, Robbie Sauviron of Despegar, and Fabian Gómez of Frubana.
Here’s how the startup’s first products work: School administrators can use Fidu’s app to send tuition and pay slips to parents, and tuition is then paid for via phone by recipients . The startup is also building out technology that lets it “get to know the school’s customers better,” to make it easier to understand how stable the school’s revenue is. Once he has a better understanding of that data, he wants to offer guaranteed revenue funding to schools. Fidu’s revenue-financing products are currently being operated in Mexico City and Bogota.
Latin American schools are brimming with paper, WhatsApp groups and e-mail, Jimenez said. “The big challenge here was how do we create this operating system that’s super simple to use for schools to be online and solve core administrative tasks. It’s a very Latin American solution, and it states Fidu also built a custom app for schools to communicate with families, reinforcing its vision of being a full stack alternative.
Jimenez explained that most schools only accept cash, which they keep at school and deposit it later. He described it as “financially incapacitated” and “not very safe for schools and families who need to carry cash around… High-income schools may accept additional payment options such as wire transfers, but this Still very limited.”
The co-founder said that the startups that came before Fidu made schools “intimidated to get into new technology.”
“Most schools use inefficient (and mostly offline) administrative processes, due to which school administrators spend 70% of their time in bureaucratic work rather than teaching,” he said. “Among the schools that use software, those that are in the minority tend to use legacy systems that are too complex to use and end up taking longer than they save. This is why schools Owners are sometimes afraid to adopt new technology because they have had bad experiences in the past as well.”
“It made the initial bad experience in many schools,” he said. “They believe they’re not ready, or that their team isn’t good enough.” Meanwhile, Fidu wants to be simple enough that schools can set things up and have a fully customized-solution in 48 hours.
Every school, every organization, will love an intuitive platform that lets you automate academic, administrative, financial and communication processes. The challenge is that adoption takes time.
Lightspeed partner Mercedes Bent says that fintech payments in Latin America are growing rapidly every year, thanks to digitization and banking adoption. “China saw enrollment in private schools increase from 10% in 2003 to 35% in 2019 (before this action) as GDP per capita increased. We expect the same to happen in LATAM.” That said, slowing enterprise activity in the region could threaten digital growth, recent data suggests.
Bent argued that the company differs from the competition from both scale and focus perspectives. “Other players are doing vertical fintech play or school sass play – we hadn’t seen them doing both with this scale,” she said. “Fidu already has more schools than all the other startup players in the market.”