Published on February 18, 2014
Bernhard Niesner @Busuu – Remain Passionate & Don’t Let People Ruin the Fun About Busuu Busuu is a language spoken in Cameroon based on an ethnological study conducted in the eighties, apparently only eight people were able to speak this language. That was a fact until 2008, when Bernhard Nieser and Adrian Hilti launched their language learning platform. Since then, the number who speak Busuu may very well have increased. What is Busuu? To put it simply it’s a language learning app, but Busuu is cleverer than that may initially sound! This digital platform offers interactive learning in currently 12 different languages. The key to Busuu´s success is that it’s a flexible tool to learn languages in terms of time and place, which takes advantage of technology and Social Media to personalize and monitor your learning and progress. On top of that, their multi-award winning mobile app allows worldwide users to correct each other´s exercises, creating a user community of over 35 million, with more than 40,000 new users signing up every day. “This mix of Social Media, users interaction and gamification dynamic is the key point of our success” says Bernhard, Austrian born entrepreneur and, up to date, linguist of five languages. The history of Busuu. The history of Busuu´s success starts back in Madrid in 2007 when the two founders were doing an MBA at IE Business School and struggling with learning Spanish. At that moment the question arose that led to the multi-award winning startup “Why is there not an easy, flexible and cheap language learning method yet?” And they started to work on it. “Back in those days Facebook was starting to expand in Europe” remembers the founder of the app” so we decided to add the brand new Social Media component to the language learning dynamic.” Of course having an innovational idea is not the only thing necessary for success, ”We were devoting 15 hours daily to the company plan and we still made mistakes. If today I had to start again from the beginning I would change things; I would try to raise money earlier, I would change the recruitment process but I will do everything again with the same team.” In fact, getting the
right people on board was one of the problems the founder of the app had to face in the early days. Making your project appealing to other professionals is difficult if you don’t have a company structure, an office to meet with them, a website to keep them interested, etc… As all entrepreneurs will already know, a talent hunt is not the biggest stumbling block that a new project has to face, but sometimes it can be the most complicated to overcome. Another common difficulty of the early years for every startup is the lack of funding. “We had to borrow money from our friends and relatives” comments the young entrepreneur. “We didn’t have the monetary support at the beginning so we stood for the free model, offering a few features version and trying to attract users, (something similar to the Linkedin strategy). The success wasn’t immediate but soon the users started to talked about the app and share their improvement on their Social Media channels. In fact, Facebook has became quite integrated in the marketing campaign of the company. With more than 500.000 fans, the app has a very active presence on the Social Network with daily publications and continuous interaction with the users. “We also put lots of effort into Blog marketing, which is an excellent, cheap and easy way of getting specialists talking about your product”. If you are developing a new product and want to get some free publicity, mirroring Busuu’s strategy may be a good idea. Blogs need to be updated with the latest innovation in their fields and that may be your product. But you cannot base all your marketing strategy on Social Media and Blogging, Bernhard states , “Email marketing is still an important part of our marketing campaign, it generates a lot of traffic by itself and it has proved to be a great way to reengage users.” In a new entrepreneur´s mind there are lots of things buzzing around, but when it comes to meeting a successful partner all concerns are focused on how to avoid making mistakes. Bernhard has a different approach to it, “Its really important, making mistakes, you learn from them. We didn’t scale right at the beginning and we lost few years of developing because of that. We were too focused on the B2B and we forget about the B2C. You cannot do both at the very same time” An invaluable lesson about how to learn from your early errors, even if that involves changing your whole corporate strategy. Maybe one of the reasons behind the success of Busuu is the ability of their founders to adapt their product to the market. As the founder himself confessed, they didn´t have any mobile technology in mind when they started, it was going to all be based on their website. Now, the app is one of the core pillars of the company´s strategy with more than 20 Million downloads and excellent reviews in both mobile markets. That is quite a u-turn in their initial strategy, right? Warm, friendly and with a few words for everybody who wanted to talk with him, it was an absolute pleasure sharing the networking evening with Bernhard. Best of all was the last tip he dedicated to all the entrepreneurs out there: “Remain passionate about your idea, and don’t let people ruin the fun of developing it.” Guillermo del Rivero Dehesa @G_delrivero
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Bernhard Niesner @Busuu - Remain Passionate & Don't Let People Ruin the Fun ... Bernhard Niesner @Busuu - Remain Passionate & Don't Let People Ruin the Fun.
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