Martin Claure knows the power of education to enable entrepreneurship. Through Aprende Institute, he is helping Hispanics across LATAM and the United States enhance their economic mobility and change their lives.
Martin was born in La Paz, Bolivia. His mother’s family originates from Argentina and his father’s from Bolivia. His father was a geologist for the United Nations which led the family to move to the Dominican Republic where Martin would spend most of his formative years.
Martin attended Boston University and graduated cum laude in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering.
“I definitely did not want to get a job as a manufacturing engineer, but I guess back then it was, ‘you are good with numbers’, and your dad tells you ‘if you want me to pay for college, you’re going to do engineering.’”
While he did not want to go into engineering, he did want to get an understanding of factories and the processes that make a business run. Post-graduation Martin would join Brightstar, a Miami-based telecommunications company started by his brother Marcelo. The company expanded rapidly and the brothers recruited as many friends and family members as they could to keep the business growing. After a few short years, they had gone from $40 million in annual revenue to $400 million in annual revenues. This was Martin’s first experience with entrepreneurship and also where he would meet his wife.
After getting married, it was time for a change of pace. “I wanted to just get into business, take a break, and move to a different city and just go through a new experience with my wife and my little girl,” shared Martin. He left Brightstar and decided to move his family to Chicago as he worked on earning his MBA from Northwestern University. He started a student housing business that paid for his graduate school tuition and netted him six figures by the time he graduated. It became apparent that Martin had developed the same entrepreneurial spirit as his brother.
Building by Leveraging Trends
With some capital saved, Martin analyzed trends and recognized the increasing significance of lithium in the shift from combustion engines to electric vehicles. Thanks to his father’s occupation as a geologist, Martin knew that one of the world’s largest lithium reserves was located in Bolivia. Unfortunately, the Bolivian government was unresponsive to any requests Martin made.
Undeterred, Martin contacted Global X, an ETF issuer, to create LIT—an innovative $5 billion ETF focused on the cleantech sector and centered around lithium. LIT received recognition as the most innovative ETF by the New York Stock Exchange.
While LIT thrived, Martin launched Pagaltoke in Peru and Bolivia, tapping into the untapped market of Latin America in the late 2000s. By collaborating with top-up network owners and major banks, he established the second-largest branchless banking network in Peru. When private equity firms consolidated these networks, Martin made a successful exit from Pagaltoke.
From Founder to Investor and Back to Founder
Taking all the lessons he accumulated from creating an ETF and running a startup, Martin created MC Capital to start investing in startups. He also became involved with Miami Angels and 500 Startups, giving back and multiplying his impact in the startup ecosystems of South Florida and LATAM.
With his entrepreneurial spirit still lit, there was one company that caught Martin’s eye — Gastronomica, a Colombia-based culinary education platform where people could learn to cook from instructors based around the world. He noticed that students who enrolled in courses were not hobbyists but people looking to apply their skills for economic and social advancement.
“I saw people that wanted to make more money. Not a golden escalator, just incrementally more money. An extra $2 per hour can be life-changing. It helps people save towards a down payment for a house or pay for a better school for their kids.”
From this discovery, Aprende Institute was born.
Aprende Institute is a leading vocational and entrepreneurship education platform, committed to empowering the Hispanic markets of Latin America and the US for economic mobility. The company started in the culinary industry in Mexico and quickly expanded its range of offerings as well as operations to Colombia and Peru. However, there was hesitation in entering the U.S. market. Martin noted that the cost per lead was nearly 10x in the U.S. market vs LATAM markets.
After careful evaluation, the decision was made to jump into the U.S. Hispanic market and the result was exponential. Immigrants come into the United States looking for opportunities to work and better their lives. Martin found that Hispanics in the U.S. face two key challenges: 1. Limited access to high-quality vocational and entrepreneurship programs in the US. 2. Language and cultural barriers affecting navigation of the business world.
He also read up on Stanford’s “State of Latino Entrepreneurship” reports showing the Hispanic population’s inclination towards entrepreneurship. According to the report, from 2012 to 2022 the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew at twice the national rate (34% vs 17%) and contributed $2.7 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2022. It became clear that Aprende was exactly what this market needed.
Martin Claure (Back, Center) with the Aprende Institute Team
“It [cost per lead] was an order of magnitude [more expensive], but boom. The message resonated so much more. The American dream is absolutely up and running, especially for our consumers.”
Continuing to Multiply His Impact
While raising his Series A, Martin was introduced to Endeavor by Esteban Sosnik, Co-Founder of Reach Capital and Endeavor Entrepreneur.
“I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. Not only to receive and extract value, but eventually be in a position where I can give back.”
Aprende would be selected into the Endeavor network in 2021. Endeavor Entrepreneurs are selected for their ability to dream bigger, scale faster, and pay it forward. One of Martin’s core tenets for leadership is asking for feedback, taking bits and pieces from those that inspire him to create successful solutions.
“Endeavor was a really valuable sounding board when fundraising. There are so many entrepreneurs that go through these processes and share their benchmarks. Emotional support is a lot more valuable when it comes from someone that has data.”
Aprende Institute was selected into the Endeavor Outlier network in 2023 for its consistent growth amongst the fastest-growing companies in Endeavor’s global portfolio. The company has its sights set on becoming THE platform for Hispanics looking to learn and develop professionally in the U.S. with nine out of ten graduates testifying that their overall quality of life has improved. As of March 2023, Aprende offers more than 40 study programs across 6 schools, helping over 150,000 students change their lives across the Americas.
“There are 2 million [Hispanic immigrants] that come into the U.S. every year to hustle, work hard, and find a better life, and we want to be part of that.”