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“Talent is Everywhere; Opportunity is Not”: How Microverse Connects People With Tech Jobs Anywhere in the World

Where you're born shouldn't determine the opportunities you're presented with. That's the founding belief of Microverse, a startup that helps people around the world learn software development at no upfront cost and connects them with global jobs, no matter their background.

Courtesy of Microverse.
By Maria Saldarriaga and Pedro Mejia
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7 minute read

At 24 years old Ariel Camus, who had just spent time in Burundi, in East Africa, was offered a $300,000 salary for a tech role in Silicon Valley.

Camus felt that part of the reason why he received the offer was the opportunity of his location—he had just returned to the U.S., and it wasn’t lost on him that such access and opportunities were rarities in the community he had returned from, despite the surplus of talent there. Camus knew firsthand that one’s place of birth heavily dictates the opportunities they are presented with, instead of one's talents and capabilities. Camus met the offer with gratitude, but mostly with confusion, disappointment and an immense desire to create change.

Realizing that access is a massive factor that determines someone's ability to progress, Camus got to work and began building Microverse. The startup, which has raised $33 million, helps people from around the world learn software development at no upfront cost and connects them with global jobs no matter their location, gender or background.

Becoming an entrepreneur

Microverse is not Camus’ first rodeo with entrepreneurship.

After graduating from college in Spain in 2009, he co-founded Touristeye, one of the first apps that offered offline maps to users. Having gained traction and a significant amount of users, Camus and his co-founder decided to “follow the money” and headed to Silicon Valley, where they faced rejection and were told by many investors to “stop wasting the company’s resources and time,” in Camus’ words, and to go back to Spain where they belonged.

Fortunately, they decided against it and shortly after were accepted into startup incubator 500 Startups, where they grew the company to more than one million users and looked into selling Touristeye. The duo eventually reached an agreement with Lonelyplanet in 2014 and in an effort to take a break from the startup world, Camus headed to Africa where the seed for his next idea, Microverse, began to bloom.

During his time in Burundi, Camus met some incredibly talented people that faced an unfair disadvantage compared to him simply because of where they were located. He had lived and worked in several countries and was keenly aware of how much tech talent was valued in Western society. “Burundi had plenty of talent but it was disconnected from opportunity,” Camus reflected.

He became obsessed with solving this “access problem,” and upon his return to Silicon Valley he met GitLab’s founder, Sid Sijbrandij who told him about the way GitLab’s employees worked: fully remotely. Not only that, but GitLab found that remote work yielded higher employee retention and happier workers. People were paid good salaries in accordance to their talent and not the cost of living in Silicon Valley, for example.

Learning about remote work was a pivotal moment that sparked the idea of remote quality learning, and Camus spent several years investigating how he could provide people with little to no access to education a higher quality of education and more opportunities to land a job that aligned with their skillset—jobs that weren’t limited to an employee’s geography or socioeconomic status.

Creating Microverse

In his quest for better education, Camus tried out several methodologies, such as peer-to-peer learning and a flipped classroom, a type of blended learning, which aims to increase student engagement and learning by having students complete assignments and lectures at home and work on live problem-solving during class time. After many iterations, Microverse launched with its first cohort of 12 students from different countries. The startup not only provided accessible education—it also became a place where cultures and barriers were broken down. A Kenyan student who participated in that tiny cohort graduated with a job at Microsoft, something he never thought was a possibility; and a student from Kosovo was paired in a group work assignment with a student from Serbia. Students from two cultures that had been taught to dislike each other were now collaborating and helping each other out in an effort to reach a better future.

Around the time that Microverse launched, a new type of school popped up in Berkeley. The school had a new idea known as an income share agreement, in which students gain access to education by committing a portion of their salary upon graduation to the school to pay back their studies. Microverse quickly adopted the model.

“The alignment of incentives has proven to be a very powerful phenomenon. When a company's success depends on a student's success this creates an incredible thing. This changed the game for Microverse,” Camus said.

The 8th time’s the Charm: Y Combinator

In 2019, after having applied eight times to startup incubator Y Combinator, Camus was accepted into the program with Microverse. At that point, the startup had 12 employees from eight different countries, and Camus made the decision that this determining milestone was going to be a team experience. For two months he and the team lived in San Jose; during the day, Camus attended the accelerator events and in the evening, he would come back to share his experience with the rest of the team.

Y Combinator made Microverse move and iterate at a pace that allowed the startup to become highly productive. Camus recalled that “you will never move as quickly as you do during the three months you spend at YC.” To this day, the high-paced environment the team learned from during Y Combinator dictates the rate at which Microverse ships products.

The startup’s time at YC also provided great exposure. Prior to YC, Microverse struggled to raise a $2 million seed round, but while at YC, the company had many funding offers ranging from $3 million to $9 million; people were willing to invest in Microverse without even having met Camus or the team. By the end of the program, Microverse raised a $3 million seed round from General Catalyst.

Accelerated growth and future plans

As more and more people became familiar with online learning during the pandemic, they were willing to give Microverse a try. In 2021 Microverse raised a $12 million Series A round, and so far in 2022 the company has quadrupled its number of students compared to 2021.

Ninety-six percent of students who finish a Microverse course graduate with a job. More than 1,500 people have completed Microverse programs, and there are currently 2,000 people studying within the learning platform.

To continue this path of accelerated growth Camus plans to offer courses in different languages (currently courses are offered in English) and experiment with providing a living stipend for students while they study full time. He envisions Microverse also becoming an offline offering in different communities. Eventually he would like to offer the model as a franchise in what he deems “microverses.” His goal is to have one million students by 2030.

Camus is absolutely convinced that the peer-to-peer learning model with the income share agreement methodology that Microverse offers will continue to change the way people learn and improve their quality of life. “It’s about doing something that gives life meaning and happiness,” he said.

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