Last updated: Feb 15, 2023
The Org spoke with Domenica Obando, co-founder and CEO of Talently, a Peruvian tech-talent marketplace powered by an upskilling platform that is helping thousands of people upgrade their technical and soft skills in order to make LatAm’s digital talent the best in the world.
Obando never received a single English lesson during her time in highschool in Huaraz, Perú. Her story is not an exception. According to the English Proficiency Index, in Latin America, only Argentina is considered a country with high proficiency in English — the rest of the countries are considered middle (50%) or low (45%) in proficiency.
“For me, learning English was super difficult. I grew up in a province in Peru where I didn't have the opportunity to go to a bilingual school,” Obando said. She learned to speak English on her own while at college because she knew not speaking it was going to be the biggest barrier in her professional life.
This situation led her to start Andi, an English academy, in 2018 with tech recruiter Roxana Kern, who experienced firsthand that 90% of her placement processes crumbled because of the language barrier. Kern is now her cofounder at Talently.
After three months of launching, Andi stopped growing. Obando and Kern began interviewing their clients and rapidly understood that the opportunity was in the tech world helping people that already had technical skills, but were lacking soft skills.
In August 2019 the founders launched an experiment consisting of a landing page that promoted a fellowship along with a sign-up form to help developers get to the next level. In less than 24 hours they received more than 100 applications. “After the first night I woke up stressed out because we had to switch to a premium version of the questionnaire service, since the free one allowed only 99 answers,” Obando recalled.
With the first validation of their new business hypothesis, they shut down Andi and refocused their attention on helping tech talent level up by empowering them with soft skills, preparing them for interviews and teaching them English. They called it Talently.
While Obando began her new entrepreneurship path, 500 Startups, the worldwide famous startup accelerator, was closing applications for the 2019 fall cohort. Without hesitation Obando applied and against all odds Talently was selected. “We were the least developed startup of the batch. In all honesty, we were the outlier bet of the year,” Obando said.
The experience was tough for Obando and Kern because of the pressure they felt from the program, but it simultaneously became the platform that allowed them to turn their idea into an scalable experiment. During this time, Obando recruited her CTO, Cristian Vega, who became Talently’s third co-founder.
While at 500 Startups they launched their first eight cohorts, which thanks to a particular piece of advice they received from a mentor, were a complete success. “We were told to accept everyone into Talently and become a tech company. This was a game changer for us,” Obando said.
At the end of 2020 with a proven model that had gained traction, Obando raised an $800,000 pre-seed round led by Alaya. “It was only when we raised this capital that we started to feel like a company. Before this we were literally running an experiment and with the financing I felt that Talently became a reality,” Obando said.
Like most startups and companies in the world, the pandemic affected Talently for a few months, but after the fourth month, they learned to thrive in the uncertainty and have since grown the company 55-fold.
Since 2019 Talently has had more than 1,500 students who have completed their tracks and landed new jobs with a 90% average increase in their salary. The company now generates more than $200,000 in monthly revenue.
With these metrics at hand, and inspired by Andela, the African unicorn that is “connecting brilliance with opportunity,” Obando reflected on her business and decided to broaden the scope of the mission and set Talently to become the “most relevant marketplace for tech talent and the leading platform for job readiness in Latin America.”
With this renewed purpose, Talently raised a $3 million seed round in May 2022 in which 500 Startups, Alaya Capital, Salkantay Ventures, Newtype Ventures and other investors participated. With this influx of capital, the startup is aiming to:
“We have seen many recruiting companies stagnate because they focus on connecting talent with employers and miss the big picture that is helping to build quality digital talent that fits the needs of the market,” Obando said. “There is an illusion of thinking that all digital talent is equally good, and there is a talent war going on. Only 10% of talent in the region is outstanding. Talently is leveraging the remaining 90%.”
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