Hernán Aracena: “At Oja.la, our mission is to change an entire continent”

Venezuelan entrepreneur Hernán Aracena and creator of Pio.la and Oja.la discusses online education, technology, and Latin America's need to catch up.


A few years back, Venezuelan entrepreneur Hernán Aracena created Pio.la. Now, he’s dedicated to Oja.la, a library of technology-focused online courses. Now, Aracena is set to speak at this week’s PulsoConf. We reached out to him ahead of time to talk about his company and the obstacles he’s had to overcome.

To explain where Oja.la is at right now, Aracena utilized an analogy. In just one day, 168 Spaniards massacred 7,000 indigenous people and overtook the Inca Empire – without losing even one man. “Reading this, I couldn’t stop thinking of why, and there’s only one answer: technology,” he remarked.

The Spaniards had two technologies that the indigenous did not: the ability to manipulate steel to create swords, and the use of gunpowder. We didn’t have any idea of how to confront those moments of change and face those technologies,” Aracena affirmed. Something similar happened with the first industrial revolution and then later with computing:

Now it’s not the Spaniards, it’s globalization. This leads us to understand that if we’re not up-to-date with these technologies, we’re going to be replaced for failing to amplify our potential with them.

So what’s Oja.la up to today?

We’re face-to-face with this historic commitment, where we challenge the status of the tradition that began in 1532 of being the last to adapt to technology. At Oja.la, our mission is to change an entire continent. Teaching technology is necessary for the new world, and it’s a commitment with all of Latin America – from how to use Excel, to how to create programs for phones. Those are our swords and gunpowder. We are achieving a Latin American society that is competitive. We have to comprehend that technology is necessary to confront these new times of change.

Camila Carreño: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

ojalaHernán Aracena: Focus. In the world, there are many things that shine, like when we exchanged gold for mirrors. These things distracted our attention, much of the time unconsciously. Just take a minute and try to think of nothing, and you’ll see how noise distracts your attention. The same thing happens to me personally, and it happens with all of our students. But with practice, and by eliminating the noise, a space exists to listen to more subtle things that make the experience of being a student something extraordinary. You understand their needs, yours, what you can do to help. That’s where the focus is, where pure ideas are born that we place in the hands of our students and, along with them, improve each day.

CC: Several startups are geared towards the online education niche. Why do you think that is?

HA: Because technology is changing he world as we know it. The biggest bookseller is a technology company – Amazon. Its antecessor, Borders, was overtaken. The largest video rental service is Netflix. Do you remember Blockbuster? The fastest-growing entertainment businesses are video game companies, more technology. The telecommunications leader: Skype. At the top in recruiting: LinkedIn.

Startups are focusing on the online education niche because it’s logical, just as it was for all of the online companies that ate up those that stayed offline. The same thing is going to happen with education. It’s a historic opportunity. The question isn’t whether it’s going to happen, it’s who’s going to do it and when.

CC: In what sectors do you see the biggest opportunities in Latin America?

HA: In my opinion, internet consumers with a focus on education, finance and health.  

At PulsoConf, you can participate in Aracena’s workshop: Yesterday you said tomorrow, starting up in 90 minutes. You won’t want to miss it!

 Original source, featured image.

This text has been adapted and translated by Emily Stewart from its original Spanish publication