Get our latest Startup List: Language Learning Europe, featuring 80 Language Learning Startups across Europe.
Introduce your startup and give a short description of what you are doing.
Speaky is a social network to learn languages by meeting and practicing with native speakers.
Who are the founders, how did you meet, what are your different roles in the startup.
Benjamin Defrenne (@bdefrenne) who graduated as an Engineer in Applied Mathematics from the Polytechnical School of Louvain. Benjamin is in charge of the front end development, user experience and data analysis. He is led by a competitive mindset and a willingness to change the world around him. Ben believes that whenever you decide to do something, you better do it well or don’t do it all.
David Defrenne (@daviddefrenne): David is Ben’s little brother who graduated as a Computer Science Engineer from the Polytechnical School of Louvain. David is in charge of all the back end development. David is always looking for new things to learn and ways to accelerate his personal development. With his “Do it, or die trying” mindset, there is no room for failure.
Ludovic Chevalier (@l_chev) graduated in Business Engineering from the Louvain School of Management. Ludovic is in charge of customer acquisition and all other business related aspects of the project. Ludovic is a born entrepreneur and launched several projects while still at university. His favourite saying is “if you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs”.
David & Ben grew up together and since the age of 15/16 they have been working together to make spare money selling websites and other web related services. This money paid for their studies and is still financing the early days of Speaky.
Ludovic met Benjamin and David playing football together while still at university. We directly knew that our complementary skills coupled with our huge ambition could make amazing things happen.
The entire team started working together full time on 1st September and moved from Belgium to Malaga on 6th December to take part in an early stage accelerator program called Bolt.
If you want to learn more about our team, here is an introduction video we made before the accelerator program:
How was the idea for your startup born?
We are three co-founders from Belgium who noticed a real problem regarding language learning in our country. There are three official languages: Dutch, French and German.
During our childhood we were forced to learn Dutch using traditional methods. A couple of years later, we were bound to see that the result is pretty disappointing since we still struggle to have basic conversations in that language.
However, the three of us enrolled in Erasmus (EU program for international students) and reached a high level of proficiency in English and Spanish in only a few months.
One question inevitably came to our minds: Why was it so difficult to learn only one language at school while we learned two in a matter of months?
The answer appeared to be crystal clear! We were talking to native speakers all the time, which means that we had “experts” to correct us, to show us the right way to pronounce words and to familiarize ourselves with common expressions.
But, the thing that really made the cut was that we were talking to people that shared the same passions and interests as we did, people we enjoyed spending time with.
Our conclusion was pretty obvious: it is easy to learn a language when you are actually willing to interact and practice.
What is the main problem in education that you aim to solve.
Practicing with native speakers is considered by many people as one of the – if not “the” – best way to learn a new language.
For that reason, there are millions of language learners around the world that want to practice and exchange languages with native speakers.
Here are three problems learners encounter:
- First, find the right partner(s). Current matchmaking is really basic and finding the best language partner for you can be really difficult and time consuming.
- Second, meet and interact. Current solutions do not allow people that don’t speak the same language to meet and interact in an adequate environment.
- Third, practice the language. The problem here is that to practice the language you have to use services that are not tailor-made for language learning and that are completely dissociated from the first two steps.
Who are your competitors? What sets you apart from them?
Our direct competitors are language exchange websites such as conversationexchange.com, mylanguageexchange.com or italki.com ;
All these websites essentially focus on the matchmaking, they do not integrate the whole process from finding, meeting and practicing with the right partner.
We enhance the matchmaking process and we integrate the entire process into one platform.
Other competitors in the social language learning industry are busuu.com, babbel.com or livemocha.com
Those websites are language learning software. The social aspect is therefore not their focus. There are made for people willing to learn languages on their own rather than to connect people to make them practice together.
Duolingo is different as it is entirely free for users. Nevertheless, it remains a way to learn languages on your own. Our companies are complementary, and many of our users already ask for an integration with Duolingo. Who knows? Maybe one day…
In which markets / regions are you active. What markets / regions are next.
Our activity is worldwide. You can create a profile in more than 110 languages.
Most of our traffic comes from the United States, Taiwan, Brasil and Spain. But we really have users from all around the world.
The website is currently only available in english, but this is about to change in the coming months.
Who is your target audience.
Our target audience are language learners willing to learn by exchanging and practicing with native speakers using message chat, call or video call.
How do you engage with your target audience. How do you convert them into users of your product.
We currently don’t spend any euro on marketing and our user acquisition is essentially based on content marketing, Search Engine Optimization and Social Media.
What is your business model. How much does your product / service cost.
Our service is 100% free.
We have some plans for monetization that should be introduced by the end of the year but this is not our focus at the moment.
If you raised funding, how much did you raise. Who are your investors. If not, are you planning to raise funding.
We will be actively raising funds soon. We are currently making first contacts with potential investors.
Are there milestones you are especially proud of and would like to share.
We just reached 20.000 registered users yesterday, six months after our beta launch. Those figures are really great but what’s more exciting is the 50% growth rate we have had over the past 4 months.
What are the next steps in growing your startup.
At the moment, we are still focusing on our product as there are many features that our users are really asking for and that are essential to make Speaky an awesome website.
After that, our next steps will be to raise funds and scale our service on mobile platforms.
We also have great challenges coming ahead of us regarding monetisation.