Image | Monkimun
These games are educational, language-focused and targeted for the 2-6 year-old age demographic — a market gap that remains unfilled. From their office in downtown Madrid, Monkimun’s team develops apps for children to learn Chinese, Spanish and English: a category in which they are leaders and have already earned, among other things, a recognition from Google for being one of the best applications of 2014.
We spoke to Cristobal Viedma, founder of Monkimun, about the key elements of the product and its expansion model.
When and how was Monkimun created?
I came back from Singapore, where I was working for Viki on language learning through subtitled movies. I had a dream of setting up a company again: I had previously set up another one [Bluewalks] and wanted to do something in Spain. Eight years later and after having been abroad, it was time to do it.
I came back in late 2013 and talked to my sister, who had been setting up language schools in Madrid for 8 years. She was doing well but the problem was how to expand it — a school with only fifty students. And that’s where the Internet came in! At first we were working on it part time. Then it started to work. In March we tested it again and in June we said: ‘We’re in business!’
You have several apps. How are they organized and what is the business model?
Last year we launched five applications, two of which were testing ones. Each application has four or five lessons on a given topic. As we’re making it for children between 2-6 who get easily distracted and need many different lessons, we are now creating content and setting up a platform to upload it. On that platform we will include the option on progress reports for parents. The applications are a funnel to get users, while the web platform is where we cash in. When it’s a product for little children, making profit is not an issue.
Which markets does it work best in?
We are focused on China (40% users); United States, because that is where people pay; and Spain, because we are based here and it’s good for the team to see people using it. In total, we have 20,000 daily active users.
Who is the target user?
Children aged 2-6. This age group used to have no access to technology: little children couldn’t use a keyboard or a mouse. In 2010, when the iPad came out, a brand new market with no content for it suddenly opened up. Many games started coming out and some companies focused on education, but we didn’t think they offered a complete solution. Among language-based apps, big players like Busuu or Duolingo make games for adults or children over 6. There are twenty thousand children using Monkimun daily, which amounts to about a thousand kindergarten classrooms. We were speaking about this the other day — it’s kind of a responsibility.
What does app developing for children entail? How do you know what works and what doesn’t?
My sister has been organizing classes for children for 8 years. We’ve hired a woman with a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and we test ideas with children once a week, on Fridays. We do this because, while you may think what you want or have a Ph.D., children understand things any way they wish. What we do is try everything with them at the daycare.
Part of our value is the know-how on making products for little children when nobody else is doing it.
Image | Monkimun