ESCALA is a higher-education savings program for lower and middle-income families in Colombia. ESCALA combines a savings program with support services, arranged through ESCALA partners, to increase access to higher education for low and middle-income families in Colombia and Latin America. Their ultimate goal is to generate upward social mobility and reduce the income inequality gap in Colombia and Latin America.

Company Overview

CEO: Jonathan Duarte
Founded: 2012
Market: Colombia
Product: Higher Education Savings Program
Sponsor: Quona Capital

About Escala Educacion (in Spanish)

Over the next six months, ESCALA will receive $100,000 USD in grant capital and receive the mentoring of its Catalyst Fund sponsor, Quona Capital as part of the first cohort. The company will also work with BFA to identify specific advisory engagements towards strategic milestones and a growth trajectory.

THE Problem and Solution

Public universities in Colombia are overwhelmed by demand and private ones are out of reach due to their high cost and limited availability of financing options for fees and living expenses. More than half (70%) of college freshmen drop out due to financial concerns. ESCALA has developed 2 products that help families save for their children’s education or their own higher education, coupled with career counseling.

The Innovation

  • ESCALA is a platform that seeks to generate greater access to higher education for families in Colombia by providing a pre-paid tuition service with a long-term instalment payment plan
  • The company has 2 products
    • ESCALA Futuro - designed for employees of companies who want to save for their children’s education &
    • ESCALA Progresa - designed for employees of companies who want to save for their own education
  • Companies pledge matching contributions to complement their employees’ savings
  • Career counselling is offered for children and personal finance & higher education counselling for the parents

The Value Proposition

  • Savings plans for higher education with additional economic value-added benefits.
  • Matching contributions are directly deductible for income tax purposes and companies retain their employees for a longer period
  • Clients get tuition discounts from select institutions
  • Services delivered in a manner that engenders confidence and client trust


We see a strong fit with Escala's service offering and the Catalyst Fund's objective to accelerate early-stage inclusive fintech innovators. Escala will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about:

  • 10x Better Value Propositions: How can a more flexible and accessible savings product increase access to higher education for low income families? How can ESCALA push regulators and banks to simplify Know Your Customer (KYC) processes and lower the bar of entry for these customers?
  • Limiting Factors: How can ESCALA engender sufficient trust from customers through a user centric process adapted to low-income customers and incentivize them to save with traditional banks?

Awards / Recognition

  • ESCALA won Concurso Ventures
  • They also participated in the Harvard Innovation Lab, Venture Incubation Program 2013 - 2014
  • They were part of the Babson Residents in Center for Entrepreneurship 2012