aqlogo_white X
Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Countries   |   About    |   Subscribe   |   Newsletter |   Videos
aqlogo_white

aqlogo_white
aqlogo_white
AQ Feature

AQ Top 5 Young Entrepreneurs: Claudio Sassaki

This former Wall Street banker found a new calling by working to democratize education in Brazil.
claudio
Courtesy of Geekie

This article is adapted from AQ's most recent print issue. See all our Top 5 Young Latin American entrepreneurs here. Leer en español 

Degrees from the University of São Paulo and Stanford University, a lucrative career in investment banking — Claudio Sassaki had achieved the success his Japanese immigrant grandparents wanted for their family.

But after 10 years on Wall Street, that life felt empty, he said.

Sassaki wanted to make a difference. Education seemed the place to start. He was keenly aware that Brazil’s deep inequality and high levels of violence were rooted partly in the failures of the education system: More than 50 percent of Brazilian adults have not finished high school, according to the OECD, and studies show only 8 percent are proficient in Portuguese and math. 

To help break this vicious cycle, Sassaki and Eduardo Bontempo founded Geekie in 2011. The startup uses personalized learning strategies to upend what Sassaki calls the “factory school model” of education and make opportunities available to more Brazilians.

The company’s digital platforms — which can be used on a cell phone, tablet, or computer — determine each student’s learning gaps and then customize lessons through text, video and exercises. The technology allows students to move at their own pace through the curriculum and provides teachers with real-time data about their progress.

It’s working: Geekie now has 5 million users throughout Brazil. In 2016, users improved their scores an average of 72 points on the 1,000-point national ENEM exam. To scale up the technology across Brazil, the company donates one free subscription to a public school for every one purchased by a private school.

“We need to be smart enough to build a business plan that is sustainable,” Sassaki told AQ. “But we should not penalize people who don’t have the ability to pay.” 

The company declined to disclose revenue, but said they have 85 employees and users in nearly every city in Brazil. Education involves many stakeholders and presents distinct challenges, but Sassaki believes that integrating technology into the classroom is the next frontier.

And it certainly beats Wall Street, he said.

Starting a social business like Geekie “fulfills your soul,” Sassaki said. “There’s no way you will want to go back.”

--

Steiker-Ginzberg is an independent journalist

Like what you've read? Subscribe to AQ for more.
Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: AQ Top 5 Young Entrepreneurs

Like what you're reading?

Subscribe to Americas Quarterly's free Week in Review newsletter and stay up-to-date on politics, business and culture in the Americas.