Monkimun is an award-winning ed-tech startup that makes language learning for kids fun. Monkimun offers language learning apps in the three most-spoken languages in the world, English, Spanish and Chinese Mandarin, for young children two to six years of age. The company’s language learning apps are designed to reinforce a young child’s mother tongue or introduce the sounds and structure of a second language, a very important step in being able to speak it fluently. Below is our interview with Cristobal Viedma, Co-Founder and CEO of Monkimun:
Q: Cristobal, you’ve recently announced $1 Million in new funding, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs raising money?
- Think about your audience’s needs, rather than your own beliefs. We always take our students’ needs into consideration. Two to six year old children need something engaging and fun, something that feels like a game but is really an education lesson. In addition, kids this young, even if they are exactly the same age, differ greatly in their psychological development, so the presentation of our material is driven by and adaptable to our students’ interaction with the material and matches their needs at their learning level. Because of the age of our audience, we pay special attention to safety and that means an environment free of ads or consumable in app purchases. Finally, our audience’s attention span is limited (even 30 seconds can sometimes seem like a long time), therefore our lessons are short, impactful.
- Believe wholeheartedly in your product and the value you bring to the table–and make sure you can differentiate yourself from what’s on the market. We believe in children’s language learning and in speaking multiple languages, as we live in an increasingly more global marketplace. Kids learn languages best between two and six. It was clear there was nothing on the market that served them well. Monkimun’s apps were born to fill that void and have been in high demand ever since. Clearly we are doing it right–young children have spent millions of minutes engaged with Monkimun’s language lessons.
- Bring creativity and energy. This kind of work is fantastic and rewarding, but it is not easy. We work hard. We use everything we have to make great things happen for Monkimun and ensure our growth path is always clear and everything we’re doing keeps us moving the right direction.
- Note the time you spend chasing capital–or chasing anything, for that matter. There’s a fine line to establish regarding how much time you spend raising capital versus how much you spend building and selling your product. Be conscious about how you’re spending your time. We built and sold products consistently and didn’t wait for investments first. That worked well for us.
- Welcome in mentors. There was no need for us to build Monkimun alone. So many people have stood behind the development of Monkimun. We recognize there are many who truly believe in our mission and are grateful for all of our supporters. They have taught us things they learned throughout their careers and introduced us to investors and other useful contacts who helped propel us forward.
- Work on your popularity, your network and learn from the people you meet. Attending business events, training programs, and conferences in your industry and those you plan to sell into can teach you a lot and help you make connections you might need in the future. We got to know a lot of people and not only did we share our ideas, but most importantly, we listened and learned. So many things we did right were because we learned right and wrong from others.
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Marieta Viedma and Cristobal Viedma, Co-Founders of Monkimun
Q: What is your experience from 500 Startups’ accelerator program?
We’ve gotten huge benefits from the 500 Startups’ accelerator program. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and more tangible and intangible benefits than I can list, so here’s the top three:
- We perfected our pitch. With help, we honed in on how to sell our vision, products, and Monkimun, in general. We learned from day one the importance of metrics and we continue to push forward to improve them and understand how they work for us.
- We gained incredible mentors and peers who are willing to help us any anytime. They want us to succeed and are overwhelmingly happy to share information. As a result, we have knowledge beyond our years, contacts beyond anything we would have ever been able to collect on our own and a network of others who have walked or are walking in our shoes. In addition, we’ve had so many introductions and doors open as a result of our participation–doors, that again, we never would have considered had it not been for this program.
- We were encouraged to put our noses to the grindstone to do some high intensity hard work on our business. We learned about all aspects of creating and promoting our business and worked alongside so many talented entrepreneurs who inspired us. We were constantly challenged to work harder, faster, be realistic and aim high–and we did.
What we didn’t get was a guarantee that our business would be successful. That has come from our ability to do what it takes to build a great business and be seriously focused and passionate about delivering great, engaging, high quality, in-demand, products to our key customers now and in the future.
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Q: How many apps do you have currently?
Monkimun currently offers five children’s language learning apps in English, Spanish and Chinese, including:
- Monki Hide and Seek: Winner Mom’s Choice Silver Award Honoring Excellence
- Monki Animal Builder: Winner Mom’s Choice Gold Award Honoring Excellence
- Monki Birthday Party: Winner of the 2014 NAPPA Silver Award
- Monki Shake It: Winner of the 2015 NAPPA Silver Award
- Monki Chinese Class: Winner of Google’s 2014 Best App Award & Lovie Awards 2014
All Monkimun apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Amazon and Google play.
We also recently released a new application called “Monki Home”, currently available only in the Apple App Store.
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Q: What can we expect from you in the next six months?
This summer, Monkimun will release a subscription-based adaptive language learning platform for children aged two to six years old that integrates all lessons and content to offer a one-stop-shop for parents looking to raise multilingual kids.
Benefits of the platform:
- Engaging: All lessons take the shape of mini-games to keep children engaged. In addition each of the games are built by Monkimun specifically to meet requirements of our key audience, who have important characteristics, including short attention spans, inspired by fun, differ greatly in their psychological development, and must be kept safe.
- Scalable: New content is added easily and regularly. One new lesson in a weekly basis.
- Adaptive: The difficulty of the lessons are modified based on the performance of the child.
- Provides formal feedback: Assessment reports are available for parents and teachers via email, notifications and a dashboard.
All lessons are an immersive, interactive experience and provide a clear learning outcome for a target language. The lessons are shaped as mini-games in order to engage our target audience. Based on the child’s learning level, the lessons will adjust, and generate reports. Post launch, Monkimun will deliver a new lesson on that platform every week thereafter.
Together with this platform, Monkimun is building tools and assets which streamline the development of new lessons. The company will also build a tool so communities of teachers and parents can also contribute lessons to the platform. We see a huge expansion in the platform happening rather quickly, certainly having the power to revolutionize digital learning and enable any child throughout the world to learn at their own pace.
In addition, Monkimun will launch a new stand-alone application once a month in one of our three core platforms: Apple, Google and Amazon.
Finally, we are exploring partnerships with a variety of notable educational institutions specializing in early childhood education and publishing powerhouses. We are considering co-development of some lessons with them, and investing in the areas in which our young audience will reap the greatest benefit.Activate Social Media: