CORDIS - EU research results

LINGOKIDS: Adaptive mobile platform for language learning for early age children

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LINGOKIDS (LINGOKIDS: Adaptive mobile platform for language learning for early age children)

Reporting period: 2016-04-01 to 2016-09-30

In a globalized world, learning a second or third language is becoming a key concern and need. In order to maximize the chances of finding a better job, it is important to increase the level of communication and understanding between cultures - a key issue, specially in Europe, in the increasingly fragmented world.
Because of the globalisation, language learning and bilingualism has been introduced in education from the earliest years of schooling. Recent studies show that the best age for a person to learn a second language is 2 to 6 years. Language learning is a natural process and therefore should be given special importance to the cognitive development of children and do not let that age range is wasted. Monkimun, aware of this need, is developing an ecosystem of educational game-based Apps that are based on a rigorous joint research on the psychopedagogy of the learning process in early childhood, together with Universities (Polytechnic University of Madrid and Complutense University of Madrid) and research centres (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology).
Current education system and methodologies for learning a new language are not optimal for many reasons:
1. It starts too late. Most educators and experts agree that the best time is before 6 years of age.
2. It is not adaptive. Not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way.
3. It is mainly based in supervised courses and additional material not easily accessible for children without help.
4. It is not cheap. Supervised training requires investment in a teacher, so not everyone can access quality education.
For these reasons, we are developing an adaptive language learning platform, based on a rigorous scientific methodology that facilitates, through play and exploration, a funny and motivating process for learning a foreign language without supervision (but monitored), and targeting children between 2 and 6 years old.
Motivation is a factor of great importance in acquiring new knowledge but there is another important factor when learning foreign languages: age. It has been shown on numerous occasions that the younger the individual, the greater his/her ability to learn is due to the large neuronal plasticity presents humans in his early life. Children learn through play and exploration and if they like the game, it can be taken as an opportunity to continue learning through it. The fact that children could play and learn by themself also brings independence and autonomy. Less guided learning methods, with minimal interference from an adult, also help to encourage initiative and creativity of children.
In this sense, ICTs are an effective tool for improving knowledge or acquiring them in younger children who can only learn through more dynamic and interactive means. And thanks to the proliferation of touch devices (smartphones and tablets), interface barriers are no longer a problem for early childhood. The educational digital resources that prioritize "learn by playing" above other more passive methods, such as rote learning (memorization by repetition), are more effective for children in acquiring or improving skills and mental strategies. And that is what Monkimun’s educational Apps do.
General Objective and expected outcomes:
The main objective of LINGOKIDS project is to become the reference mobile platform for language learning focus on early age children globally, through the development of a disruptive scientific-based set of procedures, algorithms and adaptive routines to optimize the learning process of children. With this project, Monkimun seeks to become the first company to develop the most advance horizontal platform for the language-learning sector.
Lingokids update since Grant Agreement
The Lingokids subscription platform was officially launched to the public in February 2016 after a brief beta period, with the goal of commencing market validation under a subscription model to parents and educators. The platform was launched under a freemium subscription model in which free users had access to a limited number of activities and paying users received a series of additional benefits including new lessons and activities every month, offline mode for children, progress reports for parents and multi-profile feature to allow multiple children in a household to learn under the same account. As we will set out in the following pages, these first 6 months of market research and project validation have produced very encouraging results and allowed for extensive learning that we are already incorporating in terms of product development, go-to-market strategy and partnerships.

1. An overview of the work done and results of the Feasibility Study:
1.1. Market analysis and risk assessment: Our potential market is determined by three main factors, internet and 3G/data penetration, mobile device penetration and socio-demographic trends. Based on these factors we have identified our core target markets as Latin America and South East and Central Asia. These markets meet the requirements of 1)Low English speaking penetration (less than ~20% in Latam) 2) limited access to quality English learning sources, 3) Fast economic growth (% GDP growth), 4) High fertility rates with large population of children under 7 years of age, 5) high/fast growing mobile device penetration and 6) high/fast growing internet penetration. By 2020 we estimate our Total Market to be approximately $11.4bn while our Serviceable Market would be $5.5bn.

Additionally, we have been carrying out a market intelligence strategy by providing platform access for free to educators, mainly daycares, pre-k and schools, in exchange for feedback and the results have been very positive. As of today we have over 1 thousand educator accounts created and the feedback we have been receiving has been positive. The most desired features that educators would like to see next would be book support as well as the ability to tailor the contents to their liking from a cms (please see product roadmap).

1.2. Regulatory framework analysis: According to our investigations, we have no significant barriers in terms of regulatory issues. Since we only take the parents’ information such as email and telephone number and are not taking any of the children’s data. In terms of child safety, we have instated market standard child protection elements within our product to ensure we are safe for child use. In the majority of market leading apps, the Chinese wall between the children’s interfaces and the parents’ interfaces are kept through adult-identification mechanisms (“what is the sum of 3+8?” for instance). Additionally, we show no advertisements in our products to keep the learning environment safe for child use. These standards keep the learning environment safe for children and our commercial success with both parents and early childhood educators, without complaints about the safety mechanisms, has allowed us to confirm the suitability/sufficiency of our approach. Additionally, we do not share the data with any third parties, which is in-line with a strict privacy policy and benchmark in quality educational programs and compliant with all national regulations.

1.3. Stakeholder’s engagement: As we layout in the following pages we have already partnered with both distribution and content partners that have validated our product and the need for early ELL tools for kids. List of current partners:
• Oxford University Press: content partner under a revenue share agreement
• 7 top Youtube original content creators already onboard in the app featuring their ELL videos for kids
• Vodafone: carrier billing in Spain. Follow-on option deal for rest of Europe.
• Google- featured during the family apps launch in 2015
• Apple – all of our products have been featured by Apple during or after launch
• DTAC/Digicrafts: nº2 telecom in Thailand – premium placement and distribution agreement on the appstore
• Apploaded+Multilaser+Kurio: 3 different OEM tablet makers, over 2M preinstallations planned for Q4 2016

Additionally, we have a strong pipeline of interested partners that have already approved our product internally for massive distribution, including Telefonica Latin America (Vivo), Claro Brazil and Xurpas in SEA. We have also received multiple unsolicited partnership offers that further validate that we have a strong product and there is demand, including an offer for distribution to schools in Turkey; a white-label product for a listed (ASX) Australian mobile content and marketing company for SEA distribution; and a partnership offer from the top global production company for childhood entertainment founded in the early 20th century.

1.4. Operational, technical and financial requirements analysis: We are currently seeking investment of $3M to scale distribution and continue product development over the next 18 to 24 months. We believe we can reach over 6M users and $6.6M Annual Recurring Revenue by the end of 2017 and over 21M users with $28M Annual Recurring Revenue by the end of 2018.
In terms of technical requirements, we will require the development of the platform tools required to attract and retain educators and content creators. Based on the feedback we’ve received we will need to invest resources and effect many engineering hires to develop some of the core product initiatives later described in the business plan and include:
• Parent/educator web cms to allow them to elaborate their own guides to present the material to their children or students.
• Develop a content creator cms in order to allow our content partners to upload and manage their content, making it available to educators and parents for their guides elaboration
• Book support

1.5. IPR protection plan: We have already registered the brand Lingokids in Europe, the US and China. The brand will need to be fully registered for protection in Latin America and the rest of key countries in Q1 2017 after our planned funding round takes place. Additionally, as we develop the machine-learning algorithms and develop the IP strategy of the product, we will need to carry out further registrations.
In conclusion:
We have conducted extensive market validation research by launching the platform live and laying out the foundations for a truly scalable ELL global platform. The validation and learning has come from 5 sources: 1) paying customers that validate the demand (notably with high ROI), 2)industry players in the education space, 3)Venture Capitalists, 4)distributors and 5)content partnerships from global tier-1 providers that have shown a strong interest in the product and company.
The key strategic objectives and takeaways that have emerged as a result of these initial months of validation have been:
• We have confirmed that there is a large, accessible market with latent demand that can be met with attractive margins and ample room to maneuver as the market structure unfolds.
• A clear shift from a linear traditional business model of content creation (app developer studio in education segment) to a true platform with an exponential business model with network effects built into the product. This is the way to achieving a ~$1bn+ valuation as opposed to a $100M valuation.
• This shift to a platform model will require a shift in the competitive advantage that we nurture going forward and will affect the core competencies we need to develop (described in doc)
Since 2014 we have been developing original ELL games, videos, songs and offlilne activities for children which has allowed us to understand what the key needs are to produce successful ELL tools for kids. We have built upon this learning and launched in Feb '16 our successful subscription platform for parents and educators based on our initial EDUFYING games approach. Since the launch we have been able to add much learning to our approach and today we are confident that the right approach to democratizing access to quality ELL tools is through a platform model for which we have laid out the foundations. The platform model for us is the natural result that arises from a deep understanding of how early education works. At the core of the platform is the child, which we serve with a wide selection of fun, play-based activities in different formats (games, videos, songs, offline) with an affective learning approach through real-life teachers that guide the child while we cater to the rest of the stakeholders in the child's education with a unique solution for each.
By adding value to all the key players and reducing the human involvement for the child’s learning we will be able to provide the most affordable and high quality ELL platform that will truly connect the current and future young generations through language. And the financial potential tied to becoming the premier early ELL platform is truly attractive as we estimate the market at ~$11b by 2020.