Member Article

Angels help to deliver language learning that sticks

A Birmingham business’s innovative approach to learning a language is set to stick after it landed a deal with a national retailer.

Veejay Lingiah and Richard Allen of Learning Labs Ltd have developed a patent pending range of custom printed post-it notes with the most frequently used foreign language vocabulary.

Each pack of FlashSticks contains 200 unique words to learn, along with their translation, an icon and the phonetic.

Notes are colour coded for gender recognition – blue for masculine, pink for feminine – and a free smartphone app allows users to hover their device over any note to see a quick pronunciation video.

The idea was first conceived 18 months ago, when Richard covered his Spanish hotel room in scribbled post-it notes in order to help him rapidly learn the language.

After securing investment led by the Minerva Business Angels – based at the University of Warwick Science Park and syndicated with Midven’s Early Advantage Fund and Finance Birmingham – French, Spanish, German and Italian FlashSticks are now available in all 500 WHSmith high street stores across the country.

In addition to demand from other large retail chains, the company has also been approached by a number of schools seeking to adopt the new learning technique for their classrooms.

Veejay said the combined business acumen of the Minerva Business Angels as well as its initial investment has contributed to helping move the FlashSticks concept from a hotel room to the high street.

He said: “The Minerva Business Angels have a strong network of high net worth investors, which is helping us to scale the business as we move into a high growth phase.”

Dave Fry one of the Minerva investors formerly headed up worldwide operations for Oxford University Press and has joined Learning Labs as a non-executive director.

After forming a close strategic relationship with global manufacturer 3M, Learning Labs has now produced over 50,000 packs of FlashSticks to date, more than 10 million printed post-it notes.

Veejay added: “We are fortunate to be working with some great organisations, such as 3M, WHSmith and a number of leading education institutions.”

In a recent major survey, conducted by the European Commission, England finished bottom of a league table for modern foreign language learning – a result which has prompted the Department of Education to push for compulsory foreign language teaching in all Primary Schools.

“This curriculum change will be a significant challenge for a number of Primary Schools and we’re hoping that FlashSticks can provide a fun, engaging and effective way to help bridge this gap,” said Veejay.

Tim Powell leads the Minerva Business Angels network, which has made 27 similar investments across its six investor groups over the past three years.

He said: “Veejay and Richard presented a compelling proposal that was instantly understood and we were impressed that in such a short space of time they had converted an idea into a product and sales.

“Bringing expertise and funding to an opportunity as young as Learning Labs is exactly what Minerva Business Angels do best.

“Having identified the gaps in their ‘know how’ all we had to do was find investors with the right experience to help FlashSticks become the success we all think it will be.

“Access to Finance is still a major barrier to growth but with new investors joining us every month, we are delighted we can support such an exciting business at this crucial stage in its development. “

For more information visit www.flash-sticks.com.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Joe Hewison .

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