Currently raising a round of funding, Fleex’s video Language-learning startup rolls out a premium service

Mar 19, 2013
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After wrapping up LeCamping, EduTech startup Fleex has launched a premium version of its video language-learning service. Taking advantage of the international tendency for TV viewers to watch US TV Shows in VO (Original Language), Fleex hopes to help users learn English by providing dual subtitles – 1st language and English.

Fleex launched its free beta service last June, and has already seen 12,000 registered users sign up since then. Co-founders Alexandre Point and Guillaume Dupuy are Stanford grads (we did a piece on French entrepreneurs who are Stanford Engineering grads) and recently announced that they’re in the process of raising a 300,000€ round of funding to continue growth.

I talked with Guillaume about how Fleex is doing, what makes it awesome, and what we can look forward to:

Was Freemium always the goal? Why do you think this model will work for language education?

FLEEX1-1024x682We see ourselves as pragmatists, and we’re willing to iterate until we find the right approach. We did that with our product, initially giving it for free in order to get as much feedback as possible from our community. We’re having a similar approach with monetization, and freemium is probably the first of several iterations. I can’t guarantee this is where we’ll end up – we’ll have to see how people respond.

Freemium was a rather obvious first step though. Consumers have learned that they can find a great number of resources for free on the internet, and in that regard education makes no exception. It’s become really hard to get people to pay upfront, especially when they have no way to tell what exactly they’re paying for. In the end, I think the success of any sales business on the web relies on your ability to convey a sense of the value you’re bringing to your customer. Freemium is great for that, unveiling just enough for the user to get a sense of what they’ll get while keeping some of the best value behind a paywall.

We also think freemium is coherent with the fact that there are different kinds of learners, and we want to cater to both. The free version will satisfy casual learners, providing them with a couple of tools to occasionally enhance their video experience. Fleex premium is our full-blown suite, targeted towards serious learner and giving them access to all they need to make fast progress.

Tell me a bit about the technology that’s powering Fleex – what makes you uncopy-able?

It’s the web – no one is uncopy-able! There are, though, several things that we think give us a considerable edge.

One of the core principles we try to respect at all cost is scalability. Technically-speaking, fleex is designed as a service-oriented, plug’n’play component that can be used with any subtitled video stream. We’ve implemented integrations with YouTube and Vlc for local files, but in the future there may very well be a fleex for Netflix, for instance. That means we’re very flexible and can adapt to a whole universe of content.

We’re also flexible in terms of languages. Today fleex is only open to French speakers, but the reasons behind that have more to do with our early stage and the size of our team – they are in no way technical. Preserving English as the target language, fleex’s reach can very easily be extended to any other language and that’s something we plan for the coming months.

Another thing we’re particularly proud of is our user interface. We’ve polished every aspect of it, and our users are particularly vocal about how intuitive and easy to use they find it. This is the result of hundreds of successive iterations, and we’ve developed a certain sense of what works and what doesn’t with interactive videos.

What do you need the 300K for? Will you be raising in France only?

Foreign investors have become very wary of the French fiscal environment, and taking outside investments usually requires moving out of France – something we’re not ready for yet, mostly for personal reasons. So France it is.

We estimate that 300k€ will buy us about 18 months. In this timeframe our objective is to get to 100 000 registered users and turn our first profit. With that in mind we plan to experiment various distribution and marketing strategies, and are currently looking to hire a Marketing director to assist us with that.

What is your biggest problem today?

The first funding round is always a difficult moment for early stage startups, because they have limited resources and fundraising eats up a lot of time. We have tons of plans for our product, and how to sell it, but 50% of our workforce (that’s me here!) can’t work on that. It can be a bit frustrating.

Photo via Numerama