Online University Created by Cubans with almost a Million Users

The creators of the project.   Photo: Facebook EducUp

By Laura Seco Pacheco (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – They say Cubans don’t travel to the moon because they don’t want to. This phrase has been repeated to death in all kinds of contexts, and it flaunts Cuban inventiveness and determination to achieve anything they put their minds to.

In line with this inventiveness and determination are the creators of EducUp, an EdTech[i] created by three Cubans: a mathematician, a software engineer and an online business entrepreneur.

“We are three Cuban-American founders, all living in Miami, with an interesting mix of entrepreneurs, educators and engineers,” explains Carlos Raul Garcia, an engineer in Computer Sciences and one of the project’s founders.

He is joined by Yamel Barroso, a businessman with a long career in starting up businesses in Spain and the US, and Yusnier Viera, a math whizz and mental calculator, who holds three Guinness World Records for mental calendar calculations.

The team is much bigger and is composed of engineers, designers, professors, almost all of whom are Cubans living in Panama, the UK, Spain, Bulgaria,jf and Havana, of course.

EducUp has been providing technological solutions to education issues since 2019. This platform concentrates on making learning fun, simple and accessible via a mobile phone app, which can be downloaded for free.

“We have over 50 courses focusing on languages such as English, Portuguese and German, math for all levels, personal finances, digital marketing, etc.,” Carlos Raul says.

They have created their own teaching method for this: GET (gamification + educators + tutors). Based on this, they combine courses by world class educators with tailored learning in the hands of a tutor, in a fun environment, where students learn while enjoying themselves.

The founders had been working on other projects since 2015, which slowly built the foundations of what is the platform today. This should soon hit the milestone of one million students in 175 countries.

Carlos Raul talks to elTOQUE about the past, present and future of EducUp.

What was the process to create a startup?

“Creating a startup is an emotion-filled, passionate experience of hard work. Like lots of people say, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and uncertainty. It’s like jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane as you’re falling. It is definitely a chaotic experience at times, full of action and challenges. But it’s also enriching, you learn and grow so much, as a human and professionally. You come out of it a lot stronger in every aspect, regardless of the result.”

They were recently selected to form part of startup accelerator On Deck, how beneficial has this been for the project?

“We are very happy to have been selected for ODX as it not only represents our first external capital for EducUp, but also support from one of the most solid networks of founders, consultants and investors in the world.”

What are the next steps for EducUp? Are you thinking about branching out to Cuba at some point?

“One of our objectives in the first half of this year is to take out our investment seed capital and reach four million students before the end of 2023. Our vision is to become the most impressive education company in the world, changing the way people learn any subject, making learning fun and enjoyable for billions of people worldwide.”

“We are very interested in taking our platform to Cuba, as it’s where we were born and raised. In fact, we have many students learning English there right now. This is our main objective regarding the Cuban audience living on the island. There are some obstacles, of course, such as the need to use the Internet (we’re thinking about working around this soon) and the way to pay for courses.”

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[i] EdTech refers to companies, startups and organizations dedicated to education using technology.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.



One thought on “Online University Created by Cubans with almost a Million Users

  • Congratulations to Carlos Raul Garcia, Yamel Barroso, and Yusnier Viera for their entrepreneurial zeal in starting “EducUp” an education start up providing technological solutions to education issues via a free mobile phone app. Any education whether in traditional, in person, classroom content, on-line, or via mobile phone is a good thing.

    As they outline, they have created their own teaching method for this: “GET” (gamification + educators + tutors). Certainly sounds unique, different perhaps to the traditional correspondence courses or enrolling in a traditional on-line course offered by a plethora of colleges and universities throughout the world. According to the article their educational entrepreneurial endeavor “… should soon hit the milestone of one million students in 175 countries.” Impressive.

    As Cuban-Americans they would like to see their business also flourish in Cuba. However, there are obstacles as they have alluded to for foreigners attempting to provide education to communist Cuba: many obstacles.

    The most obvious is the fact that the majority of Cubans are impoverished and lack disposable funds for, say, learning English. That is to state they do not have money to pay for tuition to take courses such as learning English or any other subject. The majority of Cubans struggle day to day to pay for the basic life necessities such as adequate food and clothing. There are “schools” or tutors in Cuba who will provide English lessons for free or for whatever a Cuban can afford to pay to take English lessons.

    I have met visitors to Cuba who are willing to provide free English learning lessons to Cubans, particularly those in high school and/or university who want to improve their English speaking skills – at no cost to the Cuban. Any outside business venture will find it extremely hard to compete with domestic competition providing a service at little to no cost and expecting no revenue. Internet access is also a huge impediment as most Cubans do not have Internet in their homes, plus it is highly regulated by Cuban authorities.

    Also, anyone with a basic understanding of Cuba knows public education in Cuba is free. Any Cuban completing high school and wanting to advance to university with prior good academic standing can take any course in a Cuban university for free. Unlike most other countries where a college or university course, whether through correspondence, on line, or in person, in any discipline, is very costly.

    Lastly, another impediment to entry to the Cuban education market is that Cuba’s education system is sacrosanct to the Cuban government. Any foreigner(s) attempting to provide “education” to the masses in Cuba must first submit their plans and objectives to the Cuban Ministry of Education for approval. There are specific areas where the government strictly forbids outsiders to meddle in Cuban internal affairs: education and health care are two.

    Providing a few English courses to those Cubans who can afford it is acceptable as “EducUp” has demonstrated; however, the Miami based company will face insurmountable challenges trying to provide educational courses not in keeping with the socialist/communist ideology of the ruling Party. Try offering a political science post secondary course eschewing the benefits of capitalism to a group of Cuban university students. Good Luck with that!

    Because “EducUp” via “GET” can provide to the world, Cuba notwithstanding, educational courses with added incentives differentiating themselves from other educational providers, their education entrepreneurial endeavor and model is thriving and probably will continue to do so into the future. That is a good thing.

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