Laboratoria: Code That Transforms

Laboratoria: Code That Transforms

Lima, PeruLima, Peru
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Laboratoria is a social enterprise that empowers young women from low-income backgrounds by giving them access to education and work in the digital sector. We select, train and place young women as web developers, helping them kick-start a transforming career in tech.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if having a decent job was no longer a privilege?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Laboratoria provides an effective solution to two different, but related, problems: i) The lack of quality education and work opportunities for millions of low-income young women in Latin America and ii) The lack of gender diversity in a fast-growing tech sector. More than 22 million youth in Latin America do not study or work; over 70% of them are women. At the same time, the tech sector desperately needs more female talent to fuel its growth.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Laboratoria is taking advantage of a market need to empower young women by teaching them coding skills that enable them to develop a professional and sustainable career in the tech sector. We identify young women with the potential to work as coders and take them through an immersive 5-month training program in web development and personal growth. Upon graduation, a number of students come to work in Laboratoria’s Web Shop as front-end web developers on a wide range of projects for local and international clients. Others are placed in the job market through a network of partner companies in need of talented coders. Our model gives talented low-income women the skill-set they need to fill in the rapidly growing number of jobs in tech.


Google RISE Awards, Kunan Social Enterprise Prize, MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35, SOCAP15 Social Entrepreneurship scholarship and the PUCP Human Rights Award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The story of Juana Custodio, an 18 year-old women from the outskirts of Lima, is a perfect example of what we do. Unable to afford a private university, and after an unsuccessful bid to public school, Juana found herself spending most of her time at home doing chores. She learned about Laboratoria through a Facebook ad, and after taking a series of tests and interviews, she was in. During 5 intense months she learned how to code and worked on her socio-emotional skills. Emboldened by being one of the few people that can “speak” to a computer, she now believes she can learn anything. Thanks to Laboratoria's placement program, she now works at Peru’s largest digital start-up, earning a salary that nearly doubled her household’s income.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Laboratoria has a robust M&E system in place to track socio-economic, job related and education indicators over time for every Laboratoria student. Our ultimate impact measure is the percentage of students that sustainably increase their income after the program, improving their living standards and helping their families escape poverty. This increase in income is derived from their ability to secure and sustain jobs as web developers in tech companies after successfully completing the course and learning the languages and tools taught. To date, Laboratoria has trained and graduated 100 developers, out of which 70 have secured employment in the tech sector. On average, students securing employment have almost tripled their income compared to their income levels before starting the program. Over the next five years Laboratoria will train 5,000 developers, securing a 80% placement rate.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Laboratoria, at it’s core, is a new education model: one that responds to market demand, that is cost-effective and where students can learn at their own pace and choose individual specialization tracks. To keep expanding our education model, we will pursue the following strategies: 1) Scale-up to more mid-size and large cities in Latin America with a growing tech sector. 2) Developing a blended learning model where part of the training can take place online to reduce costs. 3) Expand training curriculum to further meet the demand of talent for the tech/digital industries.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have 4 key revenue streams: 1) WebShop: we offer web development services to clients and hire graduates to work on these projects. 2) Payback: students that secure employment through our network, contribute 12% of their salaries for 3 years. 3) Placement fee: companies pay a placement fee for each coder hired. 4) Continuing education: we offer paid complementary evening courses for graduates to continue developing their technical skills.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many organizations are attempting to tackle the issue of lack of opportunities for young women. However, most of the interventions are focused on building low-skill capabilities that do not necessarily guarantee sustainable employment, much less a growing and scalable career. In the education space, Laboratoria also differs from traditional models: we provide youth a path toward employment that: 1) Responds to market demand, 2) Prepares students in months, not years, and 3) Leverages the use of technology and “blended learning” methods to reduce cost at its minimum.

Founding Story

Laboratoria’s founders met at graduate school in Columbia University. Upon graduation they launched a web agency in Lima, offering digital solutions to major companies. Business grew steadily, and -along with it- came the need to hire more developers. A trend was apparent: finding talent was extremely difficult! Moreover, the team struggled to uphold gender diversity, as recruiting female coders was nearly impossible. This struck a cord on the founders. Inspired by the proliferation of coding bootcamps in the US, the team decided to launch a coding bootcamp that teaches web programming to young women from low-income backgrounds. It was then, on April of 2014, that Laboratoria was born.


Laboratoria’s leadership team is characterized by two things: a unique passion for the impact of our work, and the operational excellence we strive for at all times. We are dreamers, we are makers, we are changers. We are going places. MARIANA COSTA - Executive Director Mariana hates to brag, but she is apparently one of the most innovative people in Peru under 35, at least according to the MIT. Before becoming a social entrepreneur, Mariana worked for organizations such as TechnoServe and the Organization of American States on social development projects in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru and Kenya. She is a firm believer in the idea that social entrepreneurship is the way to bring together the best of two worlds. Mariana is originally from Peru and holds a BSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in New York. HERMAN MARIN - Technology Director Herman is literally a rock-star (not kidding, check out his band: LEGS). He is also the techie of the team with over ten years of experience leading tech projects in the social, private and political sectors in the United States and Latin America. Before starting Laboratoria, he worked for UFCW, The ONE Campaign and The Human Rights Campaign creating tools for community engagement and online strategies that transformed legislation. His main interest is to promote digital innovation to empower citizens and facilitate social development. Herman holds a BSc in Computer Engineering from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and a Master’s Degree in Communications from The Universidad de Barcelona, Spain. RODULFO PRIETO - Operations Director Rodulfo enjoys adrenaline, probably that’s why he opted for the psychological roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. Prior to Laboratoria, Rodulfo spent eight years working in finance at Procter & Gamble in Venezuela, Chile and Panama. He is driven by building a society where opportunity is equally distributed and believes job-oriented education has the power to do so. On the weekends you can often find him rock climbing in the outskirts of Lima. Rodulfo holds a BSc in Engineering from The Simón Bolívar University(cum laude) with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in New York. ANA MARTINEZ - Communications Director Ana is always willing to go for the extra mile, sometimes quite literally: she has competed in many marathons and triathlons, including the Boston Marathon, the half Ironman world championship and even a full 140.6 miles Ironman. Before Laboratoria she was P&G’s Marketing Director for Peru, Chile and Colombia, bringing +12 years of experience in brand-building. Passionate about brands with social impact and curious about the entrepreneurial world, she decided to leave a promising corporate career to support Laboratoria’s expansion across Latin America. Ana holds a BSc in Engineering from The Simón Bolívar University (cum laude) with a Master’s Degree in Corporate Social Responsibility from The University of Barcelona, Spain. GABRIELA ROCHA - Mexico Director Gabriela’s friends joke that they still don’t know where she’s from. Having lived in 13 cities in seven different countries, she’s discovered a passion for travel, different cultures and languages that has guided her dedication to issues of development in the last several years. Before leading Laboratoria Mexico, Gabriela worked as a public policy consultant in Mexico City, as project coordinator for different development projects in the slums of Rio de Janeiro with the IDB and in the Andes mountains of Peru with Odebrecht. She is driven by a strong conviction that social enterprises have the potential to impact millions of lives and contribute with an economy that supports greater equality in opportunity. She holds a BSc in Psychology from Boston College and a Master’s in Public Administration and Development Practice from Columbia University in New York. MARISOL ALARCON - Chile Director Marisol is always working for others to have the opportunities she has had, hoping that some day it will not matter where you are born to succeed in life. Doing so, she has experienced extreme realities from the slums in Latin America and the Caribbean, to the richest cities of the developed world. From Haiti to Dubai and from Ban Ki Moon to Bon Jovi she has mingled around key social agents of change around the globe with UN Habitat. Before opening Laboratoria in Chile, Marisol led international jobs in public and social sectors like the Government of Santiago, Chile’s International Cooperation Agency and in Un Techo, one of Latin America’s leading NGOs. She holds a BSc on Business Administration from Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Development Practice from Columbia University in New York. For a full list of the +30 full-time employees working at Laboratoria please visit:
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Candela Justribó, Changemakers de Ashoka en Brasil

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

This is actually out first time as entrepreneurs... but hey, there is always a first time, right?

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Laboratoria has recently partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fuel Laboratoria's growth plans in Perú, México and Chile for the next 3 years. The IDB is providing close to $US 1MM in funding while Laboratoria is committed to raising a matching amount through the support of other partners. All cash prizes received from the changemakers competition would be destined to fueling this expansion during the 2016-2018 period. The partnership is committed to: 1) Strengthening Laboratoria’s institutional foundation. 2) Recruiting and training 700 young women in web development, securing placement for 50% of graduates in tech related jobs and 15% in non-tech related jobs. 3) Solidifying Laboratoria’s Web Shop business model, with accumulated sales of US$ 1MM. 4) Inspiring other impact sourcing efforts, through knowledge sharing and communications.