Babbel acquires FriendsAbroad in cash deal

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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.

  • Nicola Robinsonova

    This is a great fit for both organisations… and grows Babbel’s UK customer base.

    Will Babbel be adding more languages? FriendsAbroad offered their site in Russian, Japanese, Portuguese and Korean.

  • We found new friends abroad | The Babbel Blog

    […] Big things are afoot at the Babbel language platform these days: Besides reaching the 100,000 user mark, Babbel announced today acquiring the British language community This makes Babbel one of the largest players in the online language learning market. To incorporate the huge community of language learners from, Babbel is integrating new features, like “Writing topics” to write short texts and have them corrected by native speakers from the Babbel community. Meanwhile, the new “Friends” option makes it easier for learning partners and “Tandems” to find one another and stay in touch. For details head over to TechCrunch. […]

  • Mehdi Akiki

    They should use the new community to grow the site more rapidly.

    With a larger community they can accelerate the growth by validating features more quickly as well as adding more users, building a strong and loyal userbase.

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  • Simon

    Cool to see some cash going to learning communities

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  • Andrew Playford

    With Babble attracting @6k users per month and FriendsAbroad attracting $4k users per month (according to who cares? If they have a joint 600k registered users but only get a combined 10k uniques per month then something is not working…

  • Sergio

    This kind of news proves the potential behind the industry of language learning. After growing as a huge community, they should work on creating better content for their users.

  • Mike Butcher

    Dear Andrew Playford – Maybe you better read Compete’s small print: “Compete triangulates multiple data sources, including ISP, Panel & Toolbar to estimate U.S. traffic.” These sites have never been aimed at US audiences. This is a European story. Go check a world map, it’s to the right of the US after the blue bit.

    • greenlean

      That was a bit of a snarky reply Mr. Butcher! Still, checking around with available resources on the net, Mr. Playford’s overall point is still valid. LiveMocha, which has something like 1m users, has several multiples the traffic of friendsabroad at 500k users. As it is highly unlikely that someone would want to under-report their numbers, something does not add up. PR departments getting a little overzealous?

  • phenom

    Nice to see some cash flow for education.

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    Babbel Acquires FriendsAbroad In Cash Deal…

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  • Patrick

    @ Mike Butcher
    I think its quite funny.

    But in keeping with the new spirit of brotherhood I am happy to welcome all comers. Especially Americans, who no longer have to pretend to be Canadian.

    I work for an education startup, so what I am interested in is the sale price, not the traffic figures. Third party traffic figures can always be a bit flakey, whereas the sale price would give a more accurate picture.


  • jas

    You gotto be joking 500k+ profiles not users as most would be fake………have you seen the traffic to this site……….never mind compete check out Alexa,quantcast and everybody else.i think somebody is telling pork pies somehow.

  • John Dineen

    Just signed up to try this out. Site looks excellent – really sticky. Good luck to them.

  • Mike Butcher

    Hey guys – Look, I tried to get the sale price, but nether party were willing to play ball. My total guess, based on nothing, is that the sale was probably in six figures, but I doubt it hit seven.

  • jas

    Based on what i can see (which is nothing) it would be low to middle six figures maybe 300k-500k if they were extremely lucky……..

  • jeff hock traffic does more than both babbel and friendsabroad combined in the US. Yes, while only measures US traffic, there are problems with the Alexa numbers also, they are very easily inflatable, as we had a “problem” with that back when too many Phrasebase admins installed the Alexa toolbar and gave us a ranking of 46,000. We discouraged all regulars on Phrasebase from using Alexa, which in retrospect seems like a dumb thing to do.


    Please don’t fight on audience figures, only revenu matters especially during recession period. Friendsabroad and Babbel have no viable business modele right now! Learning a language is a painful process and teachers role is a key success factor that both companies seem to ignore at their risks.

  • jas

    @jeff hock…you said it “which in retrospect seems like a dumb thing to do” to encourage your staff and users to remove the alexa toolbar…..anyway i’ve worked alexa is pretty much accurate from 30K…anything after take your guess ;-)

  • Luke

    I am a friendsabroad/babbel “user”–meaning i signed up and tried out friendsabroad, liked it for like a day and have been too lazy to cancel my registration. i went to babbel’s site once and didn’t even like it for a day.

    I agree with Sergio that better content is needed and with Micheln that a teacher component is key.

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