Once Upon a Founder: BRAVE UP! – When the Startup Makes the Founder

A project initially intended to facilitate communication between teachers and students, ends up saving kids from bullying.

Aug 28, 2023 · 4 Minute Read

This story was written by Mauro Berchi as part of the “Once Upon a Founder” series, where Mana Tech aims to provide a behind-the-scenes look into the unique and impressive origin stories of Latin America startups.

Álvaro Carrasco, a 34-year-old from Copiapó, Chile, had an epiphany about “social entrepreneurship” during the final semester of his Business degree. The idea drove him to question something he had pondered a lot during his college years: “Are numbers the only thing that matters in business?”

At the age of 24, Carrasco went out for a walk with his thesis partner, Patricio Marín. They enjoyed the educational environment so much that, instead of taking a final exam, they chose to develop a project linked to this sector in order to graduate.

In only a few months, they developed an online platform prototype that allowed middle and high school students to interact with teachers and provide feedback on their classes. Improving educational quality by digitizing communication between students, teachers, and authorities presented highly beneficial measures. As a result, the Faculty of Economy and Business of the National University of Chile accepted their proposal.

However, the project took a personal turn for Carrasco due to his experiences with school violence. When going through the messages from one of the Chilean schools chosen to carry out the pilot test, they stumbled upon a confession – a revelation made under the anonymity of Carrasco’s project, though that wasn’t its original purpose.

A ninth-grade girl recounted reading discriminatory messages against her Colombian ethnicity in the school bathroom. She desperately tried to erase the insults written on the walls. These inscriptions not only instructed her to leave the country but also expressed explicit disdain towards her. This experience led Carrasco to fully grasp the enormity of the problem unfolding right before him.

Months later, he and his partner, who are still friends to this day, both graduated with degrees in Business, but unfortunately disagreed on what to do with the project. After discussing it, they decided to go their separate ways.

Carrasco was convinced that, in business, numbers weren’t everything. He understood his partner’s viewpoint, who highlighted that establishing the foundation of BRAVE UP! by concentrating on school violence entailed getting into a humanly complex matter that demanded extensive research.

However, Carrasco reasoned that his father, Ives, does not build buildings solely because they are profitable. As a child, he was fascinated by the magic of witnessing a condominium emerge where there had only been an empty lot. As he grew up, he came to understand that what his father builds is known as social housing – a project that offers accessible credit so that families with fewer resources can afford their own homes.

This conviction solidified Carrasco’s mentality, leading to the development of BRAVE UP! as a digital sociogram. The algorithm embedded in the platform takes 20 minutes to provide a precise analysis of how interpersonal dynamics unfold among students both within and beyond the class setting. It detects possible conflicts, and identifies mediators in each classroom.

BRAVE UP! being used in a classroom

In 2014, the Organization of American States (OAS) recognized BRAVE UP! as the social innovation venture of the year. In 2015, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) also acknowledged BRAVE UP!. Three years later, they restructured the company and won the go!ODS (Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Organization) award for contributing to educational quality by improving student life.

On two different occasions, the team reached out to Mana Tech, which became a key partnership in the company’s expansion. The first time they reached out was in 2021 when BRAVE UP! planned to enter the US market after expanding through Latin America. During this period, they connected with mentors, advisors, and subsequent investors, leading to a perfectly executed soft landing in Miami.

In 2022, with Carrasco already settled in New York, they returned to Miami to complete another program with Mana Tech, exclusively designed for educational technology ventures. Linking with peers, and the intervention of Carlos Vázquez, CEO of Miami EdTech, became essential for them to win clients and establish themselves in the most competitive market in the world.

Today, with the company valued at $12 million, Carrasco has no intentions of selling. He relishes the knowledge that he is following in his father’s footsteps, having built a technological tool whose success confirms that it is possible to do good business while also helping build a better society.

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