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Language tool Babbel acquires San Francisco's PlaySay, sets eyes on US market Written by Charmaine Li on 21. March 2013



Popular language learning tool Babbel has today acquired PlaySay, a social learning iPhone app hailing from San Francisco. PlaySay CEO Ryan Meinzer will join the Babbel team as a strategic advisor for its US operations.

Under the deal, users will continue to have access to the app for at least 45 more days before being prompted to Babbel.

Markus WitteThe latest move, which was driven by operative cash flow, fits into the company’s plan to expand its international reach – especially in the US, which CEO Markus Witte (right) considers to be “the most mature market”.

“Education is going mobile. This acquisition represents a continuation of our strategy to offer a complete range of mobile solutions to language learning,” said Witte.

While many competitors such as Rosetta Stone, Busuu and Duolingo also offer mobile solutions, Babbel’s deal – marking its second acquisition since snapping up language social network FriendAbroad in a cash deal in 2008 – could give it a social gaming edge in the crowded language market.

The Babbel story – from Lesson Nine to PlaySay

Babbel was launched in January 2008 by parent company Lesson Nine GmbH, which was founded by Witte, Lorenz Heine, Toine Diepstraten and Thomas Holl. In November 2009, the startup ditched their freemium model in favour of a paid-for only offering, and subsequently reported a positive cash flow in April 2010.

Despite Babbel’s reported growth of 200 per cent a year, the company hasn’t announced any additional funding since October 2009, when it secured €1m from European Funds for Regional Development and the state of Berlin. Prior to that, the company received an undisclosed amount from German investors Kizoo and VC-Fonds Berlin.

Image credit: Markus Witte via Twitter @mkwi

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