Old school meets new school – PONS teams with language learning startup busuu.com

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b[Spain/Germany] In what looks like a classic example of old media trying to stay relevant in the social web era, PONS Publishing Group, the second biggest publisher in Germany as part of the Klett Group, has teamed up with Madrid-based startup busuu.com.

The free-to-join language learning community now comes with a ‘powered by PONS’ badge in reference to the site’s inclusion of content from the traditional publisher. PONS has a 30 year legacy of producing and selling a range of language learning courses and dictionaries in 35 different languages – from Chinese to Hungarian – and says it want to reach new audiences. Busuu.com, founded at the start of 2008 and with more than 250,000 users from over 200 different countries, appears to fit the bill.

Along with giving access to a range of audio-visual learning materials, like its many competitors, busuu.com provides video conferencing functionality so that members can exchange expertise in one language in return for help learning another.

It’s not a unique offering and online language learning as a whole remains a very crowded and hot market epitomised by incumbent Rosetta Stone‘s IPO in April 2009. Other startups in the space include Livemocha and Babbel, both of which have more users – 4.5 million and 500k respectively – and are much better funded than busuu. Livemocha has taken $14 million of investment and Babbel around €1.3 million, while busuu is currently bootstrapped.

In this context, the startup’s partnership with PONS certainly represents a vote of confidence, although the meeting of minds of a traditional publisher and a web 2.0-styled startup in the language learning market isn’t unheard of. Pearson have hooked up with Livemocha and Huebner with Babbel.

  • Lukas Zinnagl

    nice to see this development at busuu – congrats to the team! however it’s an austrian/liechtenstein startup now based in spain.

  • http://blog.busuu.com/busuu-com-partners-with-leading-european-language-learning-publisher-pons/ busuu.com | the language learning community

    busuu.com partners with leading European language learning publisher PONS…

    Today is a very important day in the history of busuu.com – we are pleased to announce a new partnership with PONS, one of Europe´s leading language learning publisher!
    PONS, based in Stuttgart and belonging to Germany´s second largest publishi…

  • http://www.kirstenwinkler.com Kirsten Winkler

    The secret of busuu is the very dedicated community they build up. What are 4.5 million accounts worth if they don’t convert into sales of premium products?

    What you need in this space are people who sign up to learn and not “make friends”. Sure, there is a social component but the focus is on learning. For friend hording you go to MySpace or Facebook.

    The busuu community is smaller but disciplined about learning a language and hence the chances to sell are much higher than on Livemocha where it is mostly about friend adding and spam.

    PONS as partner is a very good move especially for the EU market and I was already curious when Klett/PONS would join the game. SO congrats to both.

    Last thing: why is it always about funding? I think it is more remarkable to build up a service like this with bootstrapping. Look at all the positive press they get about saving the Silbo Gomero, winning a Silver Lion at Cannes and so on. Funding makes it sometimes too easy, bootstrapping keeps you hungry and focused, there are no margins to play around.

    • http://www.livemocha.com Clint Schmidt

      Funding is not “easy” these days, and scale matters in a peer-based learning community. That notwithstanding, congrats to Busuu.

  • http://www.kirstenwinkler.com/busuu-and-pons-announce-partnership/ busuu and PONS announce partnership | Kirsten Winkler

    […] market so they share the same client base. Another important factor for me is the community. TechCrunch Europe pointed out that busuu is not only the smallest language learning community compared to Livemocha […]

  • http://pone patricia

    it mack me hot a honey
    that wuz the bets

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/09/22/language-community-busuu-learns-to-love-iphone-7-apps-launched/ Language community busuu learns to love iPhone, 7 apps launched

    […] say community, but after its recent partnership with PONS Publishing Group, the second biggest publisher in Germany as part of the Klett Group, and now with its iPhone debut, […]

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/10/28/busuu-partners-with-publisher-collins-to-push-more-traditional-language-learning-content/ Busuu partners with publisher Collins to push more traditional language learning content

    […] represents the second traditional publisher tie-up for Madrid-based busuu following a similar arrangement with PONS Publishing Group, the second biggest publisher in Germany as part of the Klett Group. […]

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