Interview with Ed Cooke, Author and CEO & Founder at Memrise

Memrise is a language learning app that is the opposite of textbook learning – it’s enjoyable and effective. Founded in 2010, Memrise has quickly grown and now more than 50 million people in 189 countries learn real-life languages with us to better themselves, connect with others and understand the world around them.

Memrise’s unique selling point is to use award-winning memory techniques to train learners to be “street smart not book smart”. You learn the language you need in order to navigate specific situations in the language. To achieve this, you learn from short, colloquial videos of native speakers in real-life situations.



How did you come up with the idea for the company?


The idea came from my experiences in memory championships, where I saw how simple techniques of imagination can help almost anyone achieve extraordinarily speedy and effective learning, crucially by having more fun with their minds.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?


I have three main pieces of advice for entrepreneurs. Firstly, entrepreneurship, like learning, begins with caring, with being in love with the outcome you seek in the world so be sure to choose a project that enchants your imagination: such enthusiasm will both guide and sustain you. This is especially important because companies take, in general, 10 years to begin to fulfil their potential.

Secondly, nothing is ever as bad or as good as it may seem. A collection of surprisingly small micro-improvements can turn a hopeless-looking situation into a wonderful one. Thirdly, hire people you’d like to work for if the tables were turned. More vibrant for everyone involved!


What can we hope to see from Memrise in the future?


We are creating a limitless array of native speaker video content that gives learners the precise experiences and tests they need in order to gain skills in their target language. This will mean that learning a language on your phone will become as effective as actually living in the country that speaks the language.

This in turn will mean that a huge proportion of the $60B annual offline spend on language learning can be moved online. Our goal is to make this shift a reality, by bringing that product to life.