Product & Design
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PlaySay

I built games that leveraged social connections to teach languages.

In 2010, I was a recent grad from Georgetown University with degrees in Spanish and Linguistics, a Masters in Linguistics, and a few years under my belt as a researcher in Neuropsychology and as a web designer. At the ed tech startup PlaySay, I had the opportunity to draw upon these diverse experiences to create an innovative language-teaching product.

Building the business, we looked to the casual language-learning market following the success of big brands in the space - Rosetta Stone, Babbel, Livemocha. In their struggle to retain users, we saw opportunity. Rosetta Stone in particular had become the gym membership of language education: sell the promise of self-improvement at a high price but offer little to keep the customer engaged and committed to their goal of fluency. Therefore, we sought to create learning experiences that would continuously engage users long-term.

At that time, most self-study e-learning platforms were solitary experiences that served up arbitrary lesson content. Our research on casual learners led us to hypothesize that if we made the learning experience and the lesson content more relatable, it would inspire engagement. We decided to use learners' social networks to do this, and found early traction with a Facebook game that allowed friends to trade messages in a foreign language then play a mini-game to decipher each message’s meaning. This iteration of PlaySay was selected as a finalist in the Startup Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011, and I presented our Facebook game to a crowd of thousands.
 

Presenting on stage in the Startup Battlefield Finals | Tech Crunch Disrupt 2011, San Francisco, CA

Presenting on stage in the Startup Battlefield Finals | Tech Crunch Disrupt 2011, San Francisco, CA

 

In 2012, I led the development of the PlaySay iOS app, which paired native English speakers with native Spanish speakers in structured conversational games. The PlaySay app reached #1 in Education in the iTunes app store, and ultimately led to the company’s acquisition by the German language-learning company Babbel

 

PlaySay was a venture-backed education technology startup company specializing in social and mobile language-learning games. The company was acquired in 2013 by Babbel, a language-learning software company based in Germany.

I worked at PlaySay from 2010-2012 as the head of Product.

 

In the PlaySay app, learners play out "choose-your-own-adventure" conversations with native speakers based on real-life scenarios like asking for directions and ordering at a restaurant.

 
 

As players record their chosen phrases, pronunciation is evaluated and scored in real time.