Back in August, MindSnacks, the DreamIt Ventures accelerator grad and makers of language learning games for the iPhone, raised $6.5 million from Sequoia. The funding was validation of the 2.5-year-old startup’s core mission: To help gamers turn those nagging Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja addictions into opportunities for learning.
In the same way those of my generation were spurred to learn basic math concepts from desktop “edu-tainment” classics like Number Munchers, MindSnacks set out to leverage the mechanics (and popularity) of mobile gaming to teach anyone and everyone the fundamental building blocks of the language of their choice.
The startup’s portfolio of games now consists of 14 language acquisition and test preparation apps — that range from SAT help to French and Mandarin — all of which have collectively attracted over five million downloads.
What’s more, according to CEO and founder Jesse Pickard, MindSnacks users have learned over 100 million words and phrases to date, 50 percent of users actively recommend the apps to their friends and over one-third of users have downloaded more than one app. This traction and engagement is impressive for a mobile-focused edtech startup and was part of what led to Sequoia’s recent investment.
Building on what is impressive traction and engagement for a mobile-focused edtech startup, MindSnacks is today announcing its most significant upgrade thus far, including the arrival of its bite-sized educational games on the iPad, six new mini-games and three redesigned classics and a new user interface.
The new version adds to the MindSnacks education experience, Pickard says, by covering additional areas of learning that are specific to each subject, which intend to impart a deeper understanding of the subject material by allowing users to practice sentence composition, conversation skills, and so on.
Each game is designed with a personalized learning algorithm that helps users maximize memorization, retention and contextual usage at their own individualized pace. Collectively, the startup’s games include 50 different lessons that teach these grammar and contextual concepts along with over 1,000 essential vocab words, phrases and concepts. MindSnacks develops its games in-house, thanks to its growing teams of designers, engineers and educational content specialists.
Pickard says that the startup’s games aren’t meant to be a replacement for traditional learning tools, but are instead meant to act as a supplement to schoolwork and homework — or to provide extra tutelage for life-long learners. The key is to blend the addictiveness of the top mobile games with proven teaching methods so that language acquisition and test prep content becomes more digestible — and learning becomes something that’s actually enjoyable.
Next up, Pickard and MindSnacks will be looking to expand their portfolio to additional subject areas, like Math and Geography. Eventually, MindSnacks wants to be the go-to resource for those looking to learn about any subject in a gamified way on their mobile device. The CEO says the team isn’t looking to replace traditional educational tools but instead provide a complement to textbooks, video — and the other media that people are already using to learn new languages and study for those upcoming tests.
Find MindSnacks’ new iPad app (for Spanish-language learning) here. And find more on the startup in our previous coverage here.