CHRISTIAN VAN DER HENST

Mexico 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

Platzi is helping to transform developing countries into digital economies and training the next generation of professionals in programming, marketing, design, and everything related to tech.

Christian Van Der Henst
BIOGRAPHY

Christian Van Der Henst is the co-founder and COO of Platzi, the largest edtech platform in Spanish. He is an Endeavor entrepreneur and was part of YC W15 target the Latin American market. He is Guatemalan and lives in San Francisco.

What added value do you offer the online education market?

At Platzi, we create effective online education, and that comes from the foundations of the company. There are three factors that make online education effective, and that is what we do at Platzi. First, we believe in a paying model because it makes you commit. We have scholarships, and we work with governments and many agencies. However, in the end, there should be a small financial transaction where one is actually committing to the formula. Second, students have to assign time to learn, and this is harder with online education. Third, online learning has to compete with all the other things happening online. To succeed, we have to create a business model for online education, ensure people have time to learn online, and create an ecosystem and community to facilitate this process.

What do you foresee as the future of online education now?

I am fairly sure 2021 will be a challenging year because every other institution that was doing education is now an online education platform as well, and that demand will remain. The biggest challenge is that we will also have to combine this with community. The third layer of focus for Platzi comes from our community. We are community based, so first we create cohorts where people with similar interests learn together. For example, if you want to become a back-end developer, or the types of developer who builds all the tools behind websites, we will create a community of peers around you who are at the same level. However, in the case of community, we cannot replace the real world, so Platzi has a big auditorium in Mexico City. In the future, when the crisis is over, we will likely open more auditoriums and facilities in other cities in Mexico where students can hang out and study together. We will also have mentors. The difference between a teacher and a mentor is that the teacher creates a digital library of content that students can take at their own pace. A mentor or coach, meanwhile, is the one who helps you unlock levels of learning—like in a video game. Learning should be seen more as a competitive sport where you create a routine and habit and you work toward a goal.

Initially, Platzi targeted consumers as its clients, but now it is looking to collaborate more with companies. How is Platzi's B2B segment growing?

We never really built a business plan where Platzi would be a B2C platform. What we created was a community, and this had many consumers who wanted to learn. We created our platform from there. Then suddenly, these consumers started requesting business strategies and products. Some of our main students built companies and engaged employees, and they wanted to pay Platzi for them. Other students told their friends at work about Platzi, and they were all paying individually. Then, they told their boss who wanted to start paying for the staff, so we had to work out how to organize this. We realized our students were already using Platzi as a corporate service, so we started talking to their bosses and asking what they needed. It was interesting because management wanted their staff to continue being motivated to learn, but they also wanted a dashboard to see who was performing well and who was not making use of the courses the business was paying for. The first thing we did instead of creating a new product or service was to create a dashboard that tells clients who their best students are and what courses they have done. Then, you can use this as part of your company culture. Some of our customers are now using Platzi for promotions. If you want to get a promotion, you have to complete particular courses. We are creating many small courses that really help and complement the development of one's career.