Babbel acquires FriendsAbroad in cash deal

Berlin-based language learning site Babbel, which won an undisclosed round of funding from German VCs KIZOO and VC-Fonds three months ago, has acquired FriendsAbroad, the older UK-based language community startup. The amount of the deal has not been disclosed but is understood to be for cash.

Under the deal FriendsAbroad will be closed after six months and its 500,000+ users encouraged to transfer to Babbel over that time. FA founder Dr. Simon Murdoch will stay on as adviser for “at least” the next six months.

Markus Witte, managing director of Babbel, said the courses offered by Babbel will apeal to FriendsAbroad’s existing community and they “don’t have plans” to roll up any other langauage sites in Europe after this deal. He confirmed the cash they raised three months ago was for acquisition.

The significance of this is that Lesson Nine, the Berlin-based company behind Babbel, will now find itself the significant player in the growing online language learning market. So far it concentrates on offering free courses in French, Spanish, Italian, German or English.

It’s clear that although Babbel had already acquired 100,000 users it still needed to scale faster after only launching in January this year. FriendsAbroad has been around for the last four years and been mainly an online community for making contact with other language learners and hasn’t concentrated on the multimedia courses Babbel offers.

Babbel has also recently added new fatures including the ability to allows learners to write short texts and have them corrected by native speakers from the community, and strentghtened other community features.

Lesson Nine GmbH was founded in 2007 by Lorenz Heine, Markus Witte, Toine Diepstraten and Thomas Holl. Prior to this they worked for the audio software company Native Instruments, which Heine co-founded. Serial entrepreneur Murdoch headed-up Amazon in Europe in the 1990s after selling his Bookpages startup to the book giant, and is an investor in Betfair and Lovefilm.