Tonight’s the night! It’s our Education Startups #MeetandEat and we can’t WAIT. Here’s the very last startup spotlight for this dinner.
Ollie Capehorn is Co-Founder and COO of EduLift. Their flagship product is LinguaLift - a web app for those wishing to learn Japanese, French, Russian or Chinese.
What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?
LinguaLift is a set of tools for motivated self-learners to introduce themselves to, and master a foreign language. When you use our E-Textbook, flashcard systems and games, we learn about how you learn, and help you get to fluency more efficiently.
What were you doing before you launched your startup?
I had just taken my A-Levels, and was preparing to represent the UK in an international Japanese-language speech contest. Although I ran a couple of websites, and was interested in how technology can help us learn I had no plans to start such a project, and was preparing to study Law at Oxford.
Where did you meet your co-founders?
This is always a funny question to answer. I met Philip, my co-founder, online. He paid for an advertisement on a website that I ran (that I soon after closed down!) for a game he was developing. I emailed him with some suggestions for the game (as I was coincidentally also a customer), and we started chatting by email. We had our first MVP months before we had even met in real life.
What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?
When we were starting out we got obsessive about trying out all of our competitor’s products, and when we came across a cool feature or service, we’d simply make our own and integrate it into our own. It meant we had dozens of pricing options, and a tonne of features we didn’t know how to support.
When we incorporated our company, we rebranded our website, and had just one pricing option, and removed around 80% of our features, just to speed up our re-launch. Both sales and customer satisfaction went up. We could focus more on what we knew best, and we gained credibility when we made suggestions to our customers about competitor’s services that they could use to complement their learning at LinguaLift.
EduLift Co-Founders Ollie Capehorn and Philip Seyfi working in Taiwan, August 2013.
What will 2014 bring?
The most exciting thing for us is that we now have a model that we have proven for three languages. We have a team hard at work putting the finishing touches to the Mandarin version of LinguaLift, which users have been begging us for for years. Soon after, we’ll be launching Spanish, German and Korean versions. As we treat each language we teach differently, each will present their own pedagogic challenges, and will require us to develop new games, new approaches, and new ways of presenting information. It also means hiring new staff, which we love, as it keeps us on our toes.
1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the education space?
Know that education, like health, is quite a touchy area. People will tell you that you should offer your service for free, and will have very strong views about who should have responsibility for a curriculum. On the other hand, education has become extremely commoditised: you really can put a price on university education, and customers expect value for their investment.
These big pressures have the capacity to distract. Don’t let them. Focus on making your product achieve the goal it sets out to achieve. If enough people identify with that goal, and find that your product helps them get there, then it doesn’t matter if it’s paid, and it doesn’t matter that it may not be the best, or the most polished, or even the only means they use to achieve that goal.
Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
Polyglots earn more, know more, and are sexier than those who only speak one language. Nobody really has the time for full immersion, classrooms can be frustrating and textbooks are boring. With LinguaLift, we break down the language-learning journey for you, and make sure that it’s fun along the way.
What’s your favourite startup in the education space (not including your own)?
Although I consider that their business model isn’t in the best interests of the learner, and the quality of their product is still pretty poor for the languages I’ve tried it out for, Duolingo is getting people excited about learning languages, and that’s great. Lesser known is a Japanese start-up Lang-8, which connects language partners to each other, and provides a great system for correcting second-language journal entries. I use the service myself and recommend it to all of my users.
What’s your favourite London restaurant?
The one that has most meaning to our startup is a great Japanese restaurant called Toku on Regent Street, which we’ll often take friends and potential partners to for one of their delicious cocktails over some nibbles. However personally, I’ll never tire of going to Crème de la Crêpe in Covent Garden, which even after having lived for a year in France still impresses me with the quality of their delicious pancakes.
Thanks again to our sponsors Taylor Wessing, Rackspace & Blick Rothenberg for their continued support.