Questions with Founders: Speakly

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Meet incredible founders from Trind portfolio.

Ott Ojamets, co-founder & CEO of Speakly
Ott Ojamets, co-founder & CEO of Speakly

What happens when two co-founders speak 7 languages 💪, combine science, computational algorithms, and language learning? Time to meet Ott Ojamets, co-founder & CEO of Speakly, a language learning app that leverages a unique language learning methodology and teaches you 4000 statistically most relevant words of your target language.

Ott Ojamets shares the story behind Speakly and the underlying language learning methodology. Fancy learning a new language, why not focus on statistically significant words to speed up the process?

Let’s begin 🚀🚀🚀


What was the inspiration behind establishing the startup?

Ott: Having grown up in Southern Estonia watching German TV and German cartoons with my friends, understanding German was something very natural for me. Only when I started to study French as an additional language at school, did I realize that understanding and speaking German is not what most people can easily do.

The French classes in my high school were based on traditional language teaching methods. There was a huge contrast between my two experiences: learning German naturally from cartoons and “learning” it through some hundred-year-old textbooks.

So, after studying physics and chemistry at Tartu University — from pure love for science — I left (exactly like Franz Kafka did, fun fact) and went to teach guitar for a year in a private school, after which I went to the university of Tallinn to study linguistics.

I found myself researching all kinds of languages and creating my own approach to learning a language. In 2012 I arrived at publishing a book called “The LIVE-methodology”. Despite its multi-layered system, the core is extremely simple: to learn a language, one has to learn only the statistically most relevant words in the order of their relevance. If one does that, it’s possible to get from zero to solid speaking skills in just a few months.

While it’s easy to formulate this idea, it took me and the co-founder of Speakly Ingel Keskpaik around 5 years to run the analysis on tens of languages and more than 3500 real-life learners. After running a language tutoring company for these 5 years, the creation of Speakly has been something extremely natural!

Ott Ojamets and Ingel Keskpaik, co-founders of Speakly
Ott Ojamets and Ingel Keskpaik, co-founders of Speakly

To learn a language, one has to learn only the statistically most relevant words in the order of their relevance. If one does that, it’s possible to get from zero to solid speaking skills in just a few months — The LIVE-methodology

What have been the biggest challenges for you in the first years?

Ott: Honestly, looking back and thinking about what I could have done better would drive my analytical mind crazy. So I don’t think from the perspective of mistakes and challenges but rather focus on performing better every day.

Though, in more practical terms, most of our mistakes and challenges have been related to growing into the role of a leader and making the best business decisions starting from the nuances of the business model, marketing, and ending in deep development cycles.

As Elon Musk said, everything we all do always takes twice the amount of money and twice the amount of time compared to the initial plan. And it’s alright. Our Speakly team takes time to reflect on the decisions made, results and uses learnings to become much smarter.

Why now is the time for your company?

Ott: The language learning market has immense potential. Let alone the yearly sector growth rates: the online language learning market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18.7% from 2020 to 2027.

Despite considerable innovation in the EdTech sector, language learning and education methods are still widely outdated. People are quite literally using horses instead of cars. In the next 5–10 years, the online education sector will transform itself from the inside, and everybody who’s in the position to reap these benefits will be very smart.

What would be one piece of advice you could give to the early-stage founders?

Ott: There was a quote from the Linkedin CEO, which takes together a piece of advice that I believe to be central to building anything: If you’re flying without at least one of the wings being in flames, then there’s something wrong.

Ott Ojamets, CEO of Speakly, and Speakly app
Ott Ojamets, CEO of Speakly, and Speakly app

What is your next big milestone?

Ott: Speakly is just getting fun! We’ve built the business foundation over the last 5 years. Now, we’re in the exciting part where we optimize everything and improve our metrics to make Speakly the best language learning platform.

Our goals include a vastly widened language selection on Speakly and other new elements. But like a great magician one never shares the trick before showing it. On a personal level, I’m developing as a leader every day and I’m excited for the challenge and the growth.

“If I could choose to be young again, or the same age as I am, then I would without a doubt stay the same, as it would be unbearable to be even a day worth dumber”. I agree.

What are your favorite books? Podcasts? Any other sources of inspiration and new ideas?

Ott: My information diet is incredibly uninspiring to most people! I read studies for 60–70% of my reading and listening time. It feels right to dive into a single topic like language learning and understand it from different perspectives.

That said, I also enjoy discovering other topics related to building Speakly including psychology, marketing, product development.

It all boils down not to what you consume, but to which cause. Being CEO of Speakly is like writing a novel, where everything I absorb, I’ll put onto the pages of this exciting book called Speakly.

Which ideas and learnings resonate with you? Feel free to share your thoughts on social media, hit up Ott Ojamets via LinkedIn or us on Twitter @trind.vc.


About Speakly

Speakly is a language learning app that leverages a unique language learning methodology. Speakly teaches you 4000 statistically most relevant words of your target language, combining science and computational algorithms.

Founded in 2016 in Estonia, Speakly is empowering users to learn to manage real-life conversations in just months.


About Trind Ventures

Trind Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund with a team based in Tallinn, Helsinki, and Munich. Trind VC is investing in software startups across Europe with a focus on startups with consumer and community components.

Are you an aspiring founder driven to make a significant impact with your startup? Send your application here or reach out to the Trind team via mutual contact.

The article has been prepared by Daria Shepetko, an Investment Analyst at Trind Ventures.

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