Babbel acquires PlaySay in bid to bolster US language learning presence

Darren Murph
D. Murph|03.21.13

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Darren Murph
March 21, 2013 10:00 AM
Babbel acquires PlaySay in bid to bolster US language learning presence

Babbel's been doing a solid job of picking up users as it attempts to help people around the world learn new tongues over their lunch breaks, but evidently, it's not picking up steam in the US as well as it would like. The remedy? Buy the market share one so desires. Today, the company has announced the acquisition of San Francisco's own PlaySay -- a language learning company that has been tearing up every app store it approaches since launching at TechCrunch Disrupt in September of 2011. With that, however, comes some pretty unfortunate news for users. PlaySay apps are going to be yanked 45 days from now, with website visitors funneled over to Babbel's site. Moreover, we've confirmed that none of PlaySay's technologies will be integrated into Babbel's programs, and that only PlaySay's founder (Ryan Meinzer) will remain on staff as an "adviser."

We've got nothing but love for Babbel's software, but what this means for consumers is simple: one less player in the space, and a dead-end for the technology that was developed in order to launch PlaySay. Of course, we aren't going to pretend that this type of thing doesn't happen all of the time, but alas....

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Education Startup Acquires San Francisco based PlaySay

· Acclaimed mobile language learning app PlaySay prompts its users to move to
· Deal fueled from operative cash flow
· Acquisition part of international expansion strategy

San Francisco, 21st March 2013 - Today announced that it will complete the acquisition of PlaySay, a social language learning app for the iPhone that incorporates real conversations and pronunciation feedback with native speakers. PlaySay users are invited to join the Babbel Community. PlaySay CEO Ryan Meinzer will join the Babbel Team as a strategic advisor.

This move demonstrates babbel's long term goal to extend its presence in the worldwide mobile learning market, and in the USA in particular, a market considered 'the most mature' by CEO Markus Witte. With 15 million users worldwide, over 8 million downloads of its apps and a growth of 200% a year, has been at the forefront, internationally, of e-learning via mobile devices.

Founded by Ryan Meinzer in 2008 PlaySay is 'a language learning experience', offering a unique, visionary and fun way to learn Spanish and English. The 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt finalist PlaySay Inc., which has its headquarters in San Francisco, has seen its app ranked #1 in the education category of the iTunes store in ten countries, including the USA.

Markus Witte, CEO of, says: "Education is going mobile. This acquisition represents a continuation of our strategy to offer a complete range of mobile solutions to language learning and the possibility to leverage market share in the US." will recruit Ryan Meinzer as advisor for babbel's US operations. "With an affordable price point and focus on mobile, is poised to usurp giants like Rosetta Stone who have neglected the majority of the users in the USA market that spend <$100/year on self-study language learning products. The winner of the race in language learning software will be the one that does mobile the best and will be well positioned in the principle USA market armed with the acquisition of PlaySay."

Users of PlaySay can continue to use the app for at least 45 days and can also access the babbel language learning apps on the web, for the iPhone or the iPad. Babbel's online language learning offers can be found at Learners can choose to practice Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Indonesian, Polish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch.

Markus Witte (CEO) and Thomas Holl (CTO) will make their first visit to Ryan in San Francisco in the first week of April.

Markus Witte, Ryan Meinzer and Thomas Holl will be available for interviews in San Francisco in the first week of April.

Link to the iTunes Store:

About is the new way to learn languages. With the online language learning system, both beginners and continuing learners can study Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Indonesian, Polish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch through interactive listening, writing and speaking exercises. The website offers numerous online courses with over 6,500 hours content. In addition there are vocabulary trainers for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Kindle Fire as well as interactive eBooks and a full-featured app for the iPad. More than 15 million people from over 190 countries are already learning a language with is operated by Lesson Nine GmbH in Berlin. The company was founded in August, 2007, and now has around 170 employees and freelancers. Since July, 2008, Lesson Nine has been involved with Kizoo AG and VC-Fonds Berlin. Further information at: or

About PlaySay and Ryan Meinzer:

PlaySay is an iPhone game connecting language learners so they can have real conversations with pronunciation feedback. A 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Finalist PlaySay is backed by the most active VC's in the education space of the USA (Novak Biddle Venture Partners). The company has closed premium content deals with one of the largest publishers of language learning books and materials (McGraw-Hill) along with the largest foreign language learning dictionary publisher of the world (HarperCollins).

Ryan Meinzer's areas of business expertise are sales, new product development, business development and international expansion. Before PlaySay, Ryan led the international business of a Japanese marketing firm in Tokyo, Japan with Fortune 500 and major multinational clientele. Ryan will now be joining the team at Heroku (owned by Salesforce).

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Babbel acquires PlaySay in bid to bolster US language learning presence