Jonathan attended our recent Education Startups dinner, a lively evening with guest speaker Ben Whately from Memrise and a wonderful bunch of people and startups in the sector. We caught up with Jonathan afterwards to have a chat about his startup Phrasewise, who create learning apps mostly to teach English to people who want to travel. Over to him:
What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?
Our company is called Phrasewise and we’re old fashioned (not many edtech companies say that)! We create learning apps with modern technology but traditional values of rich, entertaining content. Our first apps teach English to adult non-native speakers who want to travel. But the best bit about our company is this: we can use our platform to create learning apps for anyone at almost zero cost.
What were you doing before you launched your startup?
Writing English language learning coursebooks for Pearson Education (and before that I was a teacher). For many years all I wanted to do career-wise, was create books – and then suddenly it wasn’t.
If you have co-founders, where did you meet them?
I co-wrote several books with my co-founder, Ingrid Freebairn. She’s one of the most successful coursebook writers in ELT (English language teaching). I keep meeting people who grew up using her books.
What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?
We spent a lot of time worrying about how our first app looked instead of worrying about how people interacted with it.
What will 2014 bring?
Three more months if I’m lucky. 2015 promises a full twelve, during which we hope to launch our first app and create and launch at least two more.
1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the the sector
Understand that edtech companies are not popular among many teachers and education administrators. They are synonymous with rapacious profiteering and solutions to non-existent problems. Once you understand that, forget it and carry on doing what you were doing (as long as none of that rings true for you).
Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
We believe you DON’T NEED to learn
- long lists of vocabulary
- complicated grammar rules
- how to translate meaningless sentences
We believe you DO NEED
- entertaining input
- professionally created audio and animation
- a wide variety of interactive practice
We believe you CAN
- use our apps as part of a successful learning strategy
Thanks Jonathan and wishing you all the best in startup life! See you at a table soon. Check out our upcoming tables here.