Digital Innovation One (DIO) has a dream: free tech training for everyone, at any level, in any place. That’s why they launched a free e-learning platform for budding software developers, which has already grown into a community of 415,000 users.
DIO arrived at our Miami Campus in 2019, bright-eyed and ready to spend the next few months working hand-in-hand with TheVentureCity team. A pandemic and one investment round later, we caught up with the founder and CEO Iglá Generoso to see how working with TheVentureCity helped his team refine the product and raise USD$650K.
DIO and the Product-Led Growth approach
When we first met DIO, we immediately knew they were a prototype of the Product-Led Growth startup. The PLG growth model is one of our main pillars here at TheVentureCity. It’s highly user-focused, and relies on the product as the primary driver of user acquisition. Here’s how DIO used this model to their advantage:
- Focus on the end-user: everything at DIO was made with developers – their end-users – in mind.
- Deliver value before capturing value: DIO is an open education platform, offering most of their training for free.
- Product as your go-to-market strategy: the open education platform was very attractive, but there were some details missing here, and it became one of the main focuses for us at TheVentureCity.
The result was a one-stop-shop for aspiring developers. DIO’s platform not only has free software development training for people with different levels of experience, it’s also a network that connects talent and companies, facilitates hiring processes and helps build competent IT teams. They also provide an enterprise training program for employees. Already, their programs have issued more than 300,000 certificates; and in 2020, DIO increased its YOY revenue eightfold.
During one of TheVentureCity’s Demo Days – a pitch session where we present founders to potential investors – DIO was introduced to DOMO Invest, a leading Venture Capital firm in Brazil focused on early-stage consumer-focused technology startups. DOMO became DIO’s first investor, with a seed round of R$3.5 million (around USD$650K).
Product as your go-to-market strategy, and Power Users
“When you are building a startup, you want to develop many things, but time is not infinite”, said Iglá Generoso. “It is really important to understand what taking the right course of action means for you. TheVentureCity helped us focus on what matters the most: the product.”
One of the breakthroughs for DIO during our time together was discovering who their power users were, and using that knowledge to refine their product. Together, we did a deep dive into the data from DIO’s users: experts, intermediates and entry-level students. DIO spoke to hundreds of customers, listened to users, invested in product data, and made data-driven decisions. We found that their power users were entry-level students, because they love to share certificates on social media, giving DIO a lot of visibility and generating value.
Finding the Ideal Customer Profile was key. “By envisioning the user journey for this persona we were able to develop useful and cool features for them. It helped us to improve metrics such as MAU (Monthly Active Users) by 490% and finished courses by 900% by the end of the program.”
Change of mindset and seeing the bigger picture
A common issue in product development is to think wide, but not deep. With TheVentureCity’s emphasis on Product-Led Growth, the DIO team was able to jump out of the daily grind, and see the business from above. That bigger picture helped them position their startup in the current market, and identify the opportunities they needed to take advantage of.
“We learned to have an exponential entrepreneur mindset, to be more aggressive in such a competitive environment.”
A change in business model that led to corporate sponsorships
When DIO joined TheVentureCity, their pricing model involved charging a fee to the companies that hired DIO candidates. As they began to more deeply understand what it really meant to be “product-led” thanks to TheVentureCity, the conclusion that it was best to focus on developers became even more clear.
DIO understood companies are more willing to hire experienced candidates rather than take risks hiring junior people. To bridge this gap, they created their Sponsorship program to increase the value of junior developers’ profiles, while also generating revenue. To date, more than 300,000 users have benefited from the program with companies like Carrefour, GTF (online bank), Avanade, Everis, Santander, Impulso, Cognizant, Microsoft, Capigemini, among others. These opportunities give candidates the experience they need to enter the job market, while giving companies an opportunity to give back to the greater community and invest in training growing talent.
“Having worked together with TheVentureCity validated our business, gave us more credibility and a reputation of being different and serious entrepreneurs, also helped us to have more visibility to investors”.
Working with the Fund team prepared Iglá to raise capital. “We needed to establish our vision with financial sense, aligning our numbers to our objectives. TheVentureCity guided us in building a 5-year financial plan which was fundamental in preparing us to be investor ready.”
DOMO contacted DIO shortly after meeting the team at our quarterly Demo Day, even though it was not yet the time to invest. “They were interested in following our execution results, keeping track of metrics, which were coherent and aligned with our 5-year financial plan.”
Having a mission-driven mentality is crucial to gain investors’ attention. Likewise, having a validation in the venture capital ecosystem helps in the process.
What has this investment meant for DIO
DIO will invest these new funds in two core areas: team and product engineering. “We aim to grow our software development team and sales team. In addition, we are creating more programs together with universities and technical schools, to offer more free programs that contribute to inclusion and democratization of technology.”
Improving their social impact is also important for DIO. There is a big gap between what is taught in universities and what companies need from tech professionals. DIO wants to close the gap by working on developing partnerships with universities, governments, and NGOs, and enabling more job opportunities offering training in specialized software development, in areas such as front-end, back-end, mobile, cloud computing and Big Data.
We love to see how our startups grow and achieve more and more goals with a positive impact on their stakeholders. This is surely the beginning of more things to come for DIO and its team! 🙌