German Language Learning Startup Babbel Buys Disrupt Finalist PlaySay To Target The U.S. Market

The world of language learning startups is going international. Today, Berlin-based Babbel, which creates online and mobile-based language learning courses, is buying PlaySay, a TC Disrupt finalist that focused on creating mobile apps that turned the process of learning languages into a game — modelled somewhat loosely on the back-and-forth paired-play concept of “Draw Something.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, except to note that the acquisition was being made out of operational cashflow.

Babbel says that it will be using the acquisition as a way to better tackle the U.S. market. The company already says it has some 15 million users worldwide, with 8 million downloads of its language learning apps and 200% annual growth. Languages covered by Babbel include Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Indonesian, Polish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch.

PlaySay is not disclosing how many users it had of its English/Spanish app at the time of acquisition, its founder and CEO Ryan Meinzer does point out that it picked up about 100,000 users within a month of launching its iOS-based service last year. At that time, it had secured $820,000 in backing from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and executives from PayPal and HigherOne; along with a distribution deal with Harper Collins.

The deal will see PlaySay close down its service and “invite” current users to join Babbel. Meinzer himself will be coming on as an advisor, as he now has a full time job at Salesforce’s Heroku. He declined to tell TechCrunch what that role is, saying only that “it’s to make the awesome company even awesomer.”

The deal is in part a way for Babbel to expand more into the U.S. market — and, in Meinzer’s words, apply some of PlaySay’s learnings around gameplay to its wider portfolio of services — but it is also a reaffirmation of PlaySay’s emphasis on the mobile platform as a key entry point for language education.

“Education is going mobile,” said Markus Witte, CEO of, in a statement. “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.”