Thomas Holl: Co-Founder & President of Babbel

My NativeAdVice:

How did you get into the Ed-Tech industry?

My journey in the tech industry began years before Babbel started, when I was in the music technology realm as the creator of Traktor, a music software which ended up disrupting and completely changing the industry. As for the Ed-Tech industry, years ago, my fellow co-founders and I were dissatisfied with the existing tools on the market, unable to find a great tech product to learn a foreign language. So we decided to take on the challenge and build a great language learning platform for ourselves from the user perspective. This ultimately allowed us to create a product with our love and passion, making the “daunting” task of learning a new language something fun.

Tell us about Babbel. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

We want to make it possible for everyone to learn a language. We created Babbel to fit into your life; it’s easy to use whether you have a couple minutes or a couple hours to spare; you can use it at home or on the go, online, on your phone, your tablet, and – most recently – on your Apple Watch.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Babbel's success?

We launched our innovative Apple Watch app in partnership with Foursquare, which opened us to a new audience by offering a unique approach. Babbel uses Foursquare to find nearby locations, such as restaurants or museums, and creates opportunities for learners to collect vocabulary while they interact with their surroundings. Babbel for Apple Watch was a groundbreaking product for us and for the language learning industry.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

There’s been a noticeable trend within the e-learning industry focusing on globalization and mobility. At Babbel, we’ve been able to leverage the current emphasis on mobility by building a highly accessible app that allows users to easily learn wherever they are: on their smartphone, tablet, and Apple Watch.

Your greatest success as Co-Founder/CTO of Babbel? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

My greatest success would absolutely be developing Babbel to where it is today. I’m so proud that we’ve helped learners from around the world become fluent in over 14 languages. We've honed our educational platform to sustain learners for over 12 months on average, and our data shows that over half of our U.S. users feel conversational in less than 10 hours of learning a new language. We set out to create an easy-to-use, engaging and fun app to help anyone to learn a language, and we’ve done just that.

Our current struggle is surviving the startup phase – our team is constantly evaluating how to grow and improve, while relentlessly striving towards our big goals.

Describe the ideal experience using Babbel.

We want users to easily incorporate Babbel as it best fits into their day – and have fun with it! Whether that means a short fifteen minutes on a train commute for a few weeks before a short trip to Spain, or the intent to become fluent in prep for a study abroad in Italy. We strive to support and seamlessly fit into the lives of learners through whatever language they choose – all while enjoying the learning experience Babbel provides.   

How do you motivate your employees?

Babbel’s employees have chosen a career here – a company with a 100 percent growth rate that's dramatically changing the industry – and we've been able to attract extremely intelligent, unique and giving team members along the way. This Babbel team has a global culture obsession, which is essentially a requirement for the tech industry. Ultimately, this diverse group has helped to create impactful projects, such as Babbel’s refugee support, various community volunteer work, and much more to help provide individuals from different areas of lie the opportunity to easily learn a language. They’re extremely motivated to work hard and tangibly see the success of a great product. We’re always looking for ways to share small tokens of appreciation with our employees, such as flexible work schedules, Babbel bikes, various team building exercises and much more.

What's next for Babbel?

Our future truly comes down to our commitment to ongoing improvement of the product, empowering users to stay motivated and continue on their language learning journey. I’m excited, and quite eager, to see where we go!