Babbel operates an online language learning platform that is designed to make learning a new language a more accessible, fun and effective experience.
Babbel was founded in 2007 by Markus Witte (“Witte”), Thomas Holl (“Holl”) and Lorenz Heine (“Heine”). The Company is officially incorporated under the name Lesson Nine GmbH. The three co-founders began pursuing opportunities in the online language learning space after realizing that there were no accessible ways to effectively learn a language through the internet.
Witte, Holl and Heine began developing a system that would help users learn a language online based on patterns and systems they already knew from their own language.
Babbel released its mobile app in 2008 using seed capital from the Investment Bank of Berlin and Kizoo. It has since completed a further two formal rounds of funding, raising $32 million from investors including REV, Nokia Growth Partners, Scottish Equity Partners and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft.
Today, Babbel is a market leader in the online language learning space, with around 1 million premium customers and courses for 14 different languages. The Company has won several awards for its work, including the Comenius-EduMedia-Award for the Didactic Multimedia Product category in 2016. It was also named in 2016 as Fast Company Magazine’s Most Innovative Company in Education.
The Babbel platform is designed to provide general consumers with an accessible, affordable and flexible means through which they can learn a new language.
In 2016 the platform’s premium customer base reached 1 million subscribers, making Babbel a market leader for online language learning. Babbel recently conducted a survey with its users, which found that the platform’s users principally comprise people that wish to learn a new language for the following reasons:
To communicate better when travelling;
For general self-improvement;
To improve or maintain mental fitness;
Out of cultural interest;
To refresh existing language skills;
To further their careers;
To prepare for living abroad; or
To communicate better with a partner or family member.
Babbel is available to customers worldwide. The top five countries that generate traffic for the Babbel platform are Germany, Brazil, the UK, France and the US.
Babbel provides value to its customers in the following ways:
The flexibility and accessibility of its platform, with users able to learn autonomously, at their own pace, and from anywhere through the platform’s mobile and desktop applications;
The affordability of its platform, with its premium memberships priced competitively for the sector and its provision of free trials for new users;
Its technology and teaching style, with the platform using an innovative teaching method developed by a professional team of linguists and language experts that is constantly being refined;
Its range of language courses, with the platform now offering courses in 14 languages, including French, Portuguese, Indonesian and Russian; and
Its community features, with users able to interact with and support other learners.
Babbel operates a website at www.babbel.com, which provides details on the platform’s courses and services. Its homepage also doubles as the login page to its online learning platform, which is available through desktop and mobile browsers. Babbel also offers several mobile applications for Android and iOS, including for iPad and iPod Touch.
Babbel’s website and mobile apps operate as its principal sales channels, with users able to subscribe to the platform’s content directly. The Company uses a variety of marketing channels to attract business, including a range of digital and social media marketing techniques. It also operates its own online magazine, which, as well as providing interesting content regarding language learning more broadly, serves as its own content marketing channel.
Additionally, Babbel operates an affiliate marketing program, with affiliate partners earning commissions on sales made through the Babbel website.
Access to the Babbel platform is available on a self-service basis, with customers able to register a user account, make subscription payments and utilise the platform’s learning resources autonomously with no interference from members of the Babbel team.
Babbel provides a range of support services to its customers, including a number of online resources such as FAQs and user guides. It also allows its customers to contact members of its support staff by email so as they are able to receive a personalised response to their queries or concerns.
Babbel also interacts with its customers through various media channels. It publishes press releases and media coverage on its website, and hosts two blogs, one of which is dedicated to technology developments, keeping its customers updated with the Company’s activities. It also operates social media accounts with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google+, through which customers are able to interact with Babbel directly.
Lesson Nine GmbH, operating under the business name Babbel, is engaged in the development and implementation of an online language learning platform.
It offers online, self-paced courses that enable its users to learn 14 different languages – Spanish, English, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Norwegian, Danish, and Russian – through various educational methods, primarily a range of interactive lessons.
In addition to its desktop and mobile websites, Babbel’s platform is available on iOS and Android systems, allowing users to learn on the go. Babbel also compiles and publishes an online magazine and is engaged in a variety of digital and content marketing activities.
Babbel partners with a number of companies in the development and operation of its online language learning platform. This includes technology and software development partners that assist the Company in the creation and operation of its platform, marketing and advertising partners that extend the Company’s marketing reach, and language partners which contribute to the Company’s educational content.
Babbel continues to depends to a large degree on funds provided by its financial and investment partners. The Company completed its most recent round of formal funding in 2015, raising $22 million from investors including Scottish Equity Partners, Nokia Growth Partners, VC Fonds Technologie Berlin and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft.
Babbel’s key resources are its technology and its software platform, its IT infrastructure, its online learning content, its partnerships and its personnel – notably those working in content and software development.
Searches of records published by the US Patent and Trademark Office and the German Patent and Trademark Office identified no patent applications filed in the name of Babbel or Lesson Nine.
Babbel incurs costs in relation to the development of its online platform and its online learning courses, the maintenance of its IT infrastructure – including a network of servers and data centres, the management of its partnerships, and the retention of its personnel.
The Company accrues substantial personnel costs, paying the salaries and benefits for its workforce of around 400 permanent and freelance employees. Babbel must also pay fees relating to the operation of its offices, including rent and utilities, and recently incurred set-up costs for its new office in New York.
Babbel derives its revenue from subscription fees paid by customers for its premium language-learning content. The Company offers four payment plans for its online subscriptions. Users are able to pay $12.99 per month paid on a monthly basis, $8.95 per month paid every three months, $7.45 per month paid every six months, or $6.95 per month paid annually for full access to the Babbel platform and its content.
Babbel remains a privately-owned company and as such does not publish its financial performance figures. The Company is reported to have around 1 million paying customers, conservatively putting Babbel’s annual revenue in the tens of millions of dollars. Reports in 2013 stated that Babbel is growing its annual revenue by around 200% each year.
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
info: Marcus has served as Babbel’s Chief Executive Officer since co-founding the Company in 2007.
Witte has worked within the technology and education spheres since the 1990s, beginning his career in 1997 as a teaching assistant at New York University. He went on to work a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Humboldt University of Berlin from 1999 to 2001. After a brief spell as a freelance researcher for the Institute of Electronic Business, Witte was appointed Head of the Systems Department at Native Instruments, his last executive role before co-founding Babbel. Witte also lectured at Germany’s University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economy as a visiting lecturer for a short period in 2003.
Witte holds a master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the Humboldt University of Berlin.
Co-Founder and President
info: Thomas has served as Babbel’s President since 2014, having served initially as the Company’s Chief Technology Officer from 2007. He is also a member of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation of New York, a global business network spanning 35 countries.
Holl began his career as a software developer at Native Instruments in 2002. He held this role for two years before leaving the company to join Accenture as a consultant. He does not appear to have any significant executive experience outside of his time at Babbel.
Holl holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Philipps-Universität Marburg, and a master’s degree in Computer Science and Economics form Universität Karlsruhe.
Chief Operating Officer
info: Martin has served as Babbel’s Chief Operating Officer since 2015.
Kutter has significant executive experience. He began his career in 1998 as an executive assistant at MediaWays, part of Bertelsmann. After two years in this role, he left the company to serve as Managing Director at Telefonica UK, going to serve as Chief Operating Officer at Telefonica Deutschland from 2003. From 2007 Kutter held a number of interim management positions, specialising in turnarounds and start-ups. He eventually joined Delivery Hero in 2014 as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, being promoted to the position of Chief Operating Officer at the company in later that same year.
Kutter holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.