February 23, 2024

60th Anniversary

Six Floridians to Watch

| 4/27/2018

Andres Moreno — Entrepreneur

When Andres Moreno began looking for investors to launch his internet startup, Open English, he moved from Venezuela to San Francisco. His idea was to offer English lessons in emerging markets via online classes with native English speakers.

For nine months, Moreno slept on a friend’s couch and pitched the startup to Silicon Valley investors, who generally were skeptical of a strategy focused on Latino internet users. “If you were going to teach them anything,” Moreno once said of investors’ attitudes about the Latino market, “you’d have to use cassette tapes.”

Moreno managed to get Open English off the ground in Latin America in 2008. Since then, Open English has raised $125 million in venture capital, served more than 600,000 students in 20-plus countries and opened regional offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

Eight years ago, Moreno, who became a U.S. citizen through marriage, moved to Miami and established a headquarters in Coconut Grove, where Open English’s parent company, Open Education, now employs about 100. Open Education also includes another Moreno startup, Next University, which teaches technology skills to Latin American professionals online.

“Ten years ago, raising money in Miami for an early-stage business was very difficult. There wasn’t an ecosystem to encourage you and connect you to investors, but that’s really changed,” says Moreno, a founding board member of Endeavor Miami, a non-profit that connects entrepreneurs with personal mentors for one-onone support. “I’m surprised all the time now by how many startups I see.” — Amy Martinez

Alexia Carrasquillo — Sports

Earlier this year, before she turned 12, Alexia Carrasquillo verbally committed to play softball at the University of Florida — the youngest athlete ever to commit to a major university. The commitment, which would include one of the three or four athletic scholarships UF’s softball team awards each year, won’t become binding until the sixth-grader signs an official letter of intent with UF — probably in 2024 — but it’s an indication of how young athletes with outsized talent are identified and courted by sports programs years before they can put on a school’s uniform. UF softball coach Tim Walton isn’t the only coach who’s impressed with Carrasquillo. Before verbally committing to UF, Carrasquillo, who moved from Windermere to Georgia when she was 9, took official recruiting visits to UCLA and Oklahoma. She’s also getting attention from softball coaches at South Carolina, Georgia and LSU.

Carrasquillo, a catcher, is known both for her offensive and defensive skills. Her “pop time” — the time it takes her to catch a pitch at home plate and then deliver the ball to a middle infielder standing at second base — is 1.6 seconds. She also batted .680, hit 12 home runs and knocked in 120 runs for her touring softball team. — Art Levy

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