Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Ana María Aristizábal, managing partner at Winnipeg Ventures.
Spiffy: Welcome, Ana. Thanks a million for talking to me today. Can you tell me what challenge Winnipeg Ventures is addressing?
Ana: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Winnipeg Ventures is launching the first educational technology (edtech) and future of work fund in Latin America. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for millions of children and adults by investing in technological innovations that will transform the way we learn, teach, and work. Can you imagine that eight out of every ten children under the age of ten in Latin America do not understand what they read? Did you know that half of the students who start college do not finish it? Or that only 30% of teachers in secondary schools meet standards for teaching? It’s not surprising that 60% of companies struggle to find the right talent. We aim to change the fate of Latin America by investing in amazing founders who are building child and human-centered technologies.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Ana: I come from a humble background out of the Colombian coffee region, the most beautiful region in the world (laughs), but also a region challenged by drug trafficking, poverty, and inequality. I am proof that, through education, you can achieve upward mobility. I worked my way from a small school in Pereira to Columbia University to become an investment banker, an impact investor, a nonprofit operator, and a university professor. And I am now building a new investment company, thanks to the power of education. I want to democratize education to alleviate poverty. I am convinced that if we want to have a radical impact on the communities we work with, we must invest in education solutions that work at scale, and for all.
Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?
Ana: We are building the first edtech and future of work fund in Latin America to catalyze and grow innovation in the region. Building on the success of the United States and European edtech funds that have invested and supported amazing companies in their regions, and seeing that nobody was doing it, we decided to be pioneers. Through this fund, our goals are to mobilize private capital for education, democratize access to high-quality education and job opportunities, break the cycles of poverty, reduce inequality, close gender gaps, prepare the new generation with knowledge and skills for the jobs of the future, and overall improve life quality.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make?
Ana: Yes, definitely. We are raising this fund in a difficult environment. This challenge is particularly true for diverse managers, female managers, and people of color in the United States. We are very proud to have secured three anchor investors for our fund from the United States, Switzerland, and Peru. We are thrilled to see more investors, foundations, and corporations betting on entrepreneurship and technology as key levers of societal change. For our team, this is a great accomplishment, since the approvals came after long due processes and analyses. This takes us closer to the goal of launching the fund and being able to invest in the next generation of leaders and innovators.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Ana: I am a mother to a boy who just started kindergarten. I can’t stop thinking about how similar or different to mine his school experience will be. Despite working in education, I am often frustrated about the speed at which education systems, and the people who lead them, change. However, I turn optimistic and hopeful when I meet entrepreneurs, leaders, and influencers who are building amazing projects like Ladderworks and having journalists like you, Spiffy. I look forward to sharing with my son the books and stories you are writing. Growing up, books, and particularly books about foreign cultures, were my treasure. Let's continue working together on behalf of the next generation.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ana—it’s been an honor!
Ana María Aristizábal, managing partner at Winnipeg Ventures, is building the first edtech and future of work fund in Latin America. She teaches at Columbia University and serves on the board of Village Capital. Previously, she advised JFF Ventures, led the growth of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in California, led Bamboo Capital’s investments in Latin America, and was an investment banker at Citi and ABN AMRO. (Nominated by Siya Raj Purohit at Pathway Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 13, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.