How Vinco is Helping Employers and Workers Win With Education Benefits

Mexican startup Vinco is creating win-win situations for employers, employees and education institutions. The edtech provides continuous learning opportunities as a workplace benefit, fostering more engaged and fulfilled workers.

Vinco co-founders, from left to right: Sofia Sada, Lissy Giacoman and Miriam Fernandez.
Vinco co-founders, from left to right: Sofia Sada, Lissy Giacoman and Miriam Fernandez.
By Maria Saldarriaga and Pedro Mejia
6 minute read

In the past few years, workers’ lives and priorities have changed drastically. Many were forced out of a job in early 2020 due the pandemic, and two years later, some are quitting their jobs in search of roles that offer better compensation, more flexible working conditions and a greater sense of fulfillment.

Vinco, a Mexican edtech founded by three women entrepreneurs, is working tirelessly to help workers reach this sense of fulfillment without needing to shift jobs. Its learning platform connects education institutions, companies and employees with the best courses for upskilling and reskilling, offering continuous learning opportunities to achieve a more empowered workforce.

Professional development opportunities present a great way to reduce and offset employee turnover. LinkedIn's 2022 Global Talent Trends report found employees believe that professional development is the number one way to improve company culture. What's more: 86% of employees are willing to change jobs if a company offers them more professional development opportunities, per a 2019 survey by The Execu|Search Group.

Vinco is convinced that education is the most powerful tool for a better future and aims to reduce Latin America’s drastic skills gap — unfortunately, the world’s largest.

The Org spoke with Lissy Giacoman, Vinco’s CEO and co-founder about her experience founding the edtech company in the middle of a global pandemic and her plans for the future.

The making of a founder

A native of Mexico, Giacoman earned her undergraduate degree from Yale and her MBA from MIT, two prestigious U.S. universities. She spent her time at school exploring her curiosity in different areas and often found herself working as a teaching assistant.

“I have always been passionate about education, even when playing with dolls at a young age in the made up worlds I created, I was always the teacher,” Giacoman said.

Upon graduation, she returned to Mexico and began working for Boston Consulting Group, a large global consulting firm. She found herself challenged by her job, but yearned for a role that had a more direct impact on the people’s wellbeing.

During one specific consulting project, Giacoman recalls working with a large sales team that had an elaborate bonus and perks program as part of its employee retention efforts. When she followed up several months later, she found out the program wasn’t as successful as hoped. Giacoman concluded there had to be a better way to retain employees, and her quest to add value to people’s lives via education began.

Getting started on Vinco

In May 2020, Giacoman quit her consulting job and took a big bet on entrepreneurship. Luckily, she also had the support system to succeed.

“Entrepreneurship runs in our veins,” Giacoman said. “My family has always had a ‘can-do’ mentality, and it also helps that my brother and brother-in-law co-founded two wildly successful startups.” These Mexican startups are none other than Clara, a fintech that has raised over $308 million and Casai, a hospitality company for digital nomads.

Giacoman was convinced that education could be the key to employee retention. With this idea, she got to work building Vinco to connect companies and their employees to accessible online programs such as high school, college and language classes. Education as a workplace benefit was now Giacoman’s main focus.

Recruiting co-founders and teammates

Fully aware of the challenges she was taking on, Giacoman recruited two other female founders for her startup. The trio knew a thing or two about teamwork — they played on the same soccer team as children.

Sofia Sada and Miriam Fernandez joined Giacoman full-time at Vinco in December 2020 and began shaping the startup taking inspiration from Guild Education, a U.S.-based career opportunity platform. The co-founders began contacting local universities and companies to join their platform, and they quickly ran into a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Universities would ask which companies would be sending students to courses, and companies would ask which universities would deliver the courses.

The co-founders decided to approach universities with a “take a bet on us and we’ll bring you the volume” strategy, said Giacoman. Soon, Vinco signed up institutions such as Metropolitana de Monterrey, Tech Milenio and Open English, one of the world’s largest online language platforms.

Y Combinator boost

By the summer of 2021, Vinco was accepted to the Y Combinator accelerator. Vinco had yet to officially launch its platform at the time, and it counted just six educational partners and 10 confirmed companies.

YC helped the startup scale from 11 to 500 students in a couple of weeks, and it enabled Vinco to close large corporate clients such as Oxxo and Didi. Shortly after the program’s culmination, Giacoman and her co-founders raised a $2.4 million seed round to support their vision of “becoming the #1 solution for educational purposes for companies in LatAm.”

What’s next

Vinco has begun to prove that investing in employees’ education is an effective (and often overlooked) retention strategy. The startup is experimenting with new offerings, such as having dedicated coaches that encourage students to participate in classes and complete assignments, resulting in a 90% course completion rate. Vinco also recently applied for the B-corp certification, where they receive accreditation for how they create value for non-shareholding stakeholders — like their employees, local communities and the environment. Vinco’s business model has a double impact: growth is driven by greater social impact in the region, and their mission is to reduce the labor skills gap.

Giacoman and her team plan to expand from Mexico to the rest of Latin America to keep empowering the region’s workforce. Of her decision to start Vinco, Giacoman said she has “no regrets leaving consulting to jump into entrepreneurship. “

“It is incredibly fulfilling to get to the office and find everyone working towards a common goal of helping those who need it most to advance their education,” she reflected.

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