Lingo Media Corporation COO Gali Bar-Ziv on Beating Rosetta Stone Inc. in Language Learning
Lingo Media Corporation (CVE:LM)(OTCMKTS:LMDCF) COO Gali Bar-Ziv discusses how is company’s proprietary and modular approach to building Electronic Language Learning modules will outperform Rosetta Stone Inc. (NYSE:RST) offerings in their Colombian deal with SENA.
[four_fifth_last padding=”0 0 0 20px”]Listen to the interview with Gali Bar-Ziv:
James West: Gali, thank you for joining us today.
Gali Bar-Ziv: Thank you for having me.
James West: Gali, can you give me an overview of what it is that Lingo Media does?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Our company is a ed-tech company. What that means is that we develop state of the art technologies that will allow teachers, administrators, and most importantly, learners, to interact with pedagogical-based lessons and content and exercises and inter-activity, all the way from preschool age group all the way to young adult, professionals, and even students that seek to pursue PhD studies in western countries. All-around language learning.
James West: Right. So primarily, learning English?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Primarily learning English.
James West: Okay. So essentially you’re in competition with, the biggest of the big, I guess, would be Rosetta Stone?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Yes.
James West: Yeah, sure. So I saw that you released news last week regarding a deal with the Colombian government Ministry of Labour, SENA? And it suggested it was a multi-million dollar deal. So what exactly does that entail, and how is that important to Lingo Media?
Gali Bar-Ziv: It’s important in a number of different facets. Number One, SENA is the leader in all of Latin America, a bellwether for learning initiative, and when they adopt some sort of a solution, usually other countries follow suit. There are sister organizations to Senna all over Latin America, whereby the government essentially funds the training of their population in the vocational occupations. For instance, they own their own hotel, and the people who work in the hotel are de facto trainees that would, thereafter, go to work in the hospitality industry in the country.
Number two, as part of this agreement, we are developing the largest library of digital objects and lessons, whereby a teacher would have the ability to select what lessons they want based on skill level, topic, key words, etcetera. What the contract really is enabling us to do is to look into the future and say how can we empower the teacher? How can we give the teacher the tools to deliver to the classroom a solution that will be somewhat unique to each student? So, students that require enrichment will have lessons that would focus on that enrichment. When you have students that may have some difficulty, the teacher would be able to assign some lessons that would work on their deficiencies, say, pronunciation or grammar, etcetera.
James West: Okay. So then, if say, for example, I’m in the business of, let’s say, insurance, then I can receive customized training for the language pertaining to the insurance industry?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Not necessarily. You have two types of English solutions: so one type is what we call English proficiency. What that means is that your English skills are going to improve by virtue of undertaking the studies of the platform and content that we deliver. The second is, if you seek to undertake a specialized type of English, which would relate specifically to your occupation. I think a good example would be lawyers, because they would have certain legality words that may not be used in general English, like Constitution or sovereignty. So if you would pursue a specialized English, you would have to take maybe a different course. Our courses are geared towards what are called the general proficiencies English.
James West: So you have offerings for from kindergarten right up to PhD level academia?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Yes.
James West: Great. So how many people actually use this platform right now in the world?
Gali Bar-Ziv: I can tell you that our platform was used by over 10 million users worldwide, and with this agreement, it will be close to double that amount.
James West: So is there – can you extrapolate a general revenue per user over time, from that number?
Gali Bar-Ziv: I think it would be probably unfair for this type of conversation to have that, but we are very confident that because we are at the forefront of both the technology and the type of content that is being developed, that the adoption worldwide is going to be quite significant. Every country has a different pricing model based on the particular currency or buying power of the particular institutions, but we see a great growth potential in many countries now that are very hungry for English.
James West: What are the numbers roughly worldwide, for people learning English right now?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Some estimates put it at 1.8 billion or 2 billion people that are learning English.
James West: Okay. So with your platform, you basically build these modules and you deliver them on a customized basis, for example, to Senna. Do you have to build new modules and software and platform every time you get a new customer?
Gali Bar-Ziv: No. So we are in a great margin business, because most customers do not require a specialized product. What they do require is to provide a solution in different ways. So let’s call it to slice and dice it. That is where the technology comes into play; that’s where the flexibility of our platform comes into play. That where the modularity and the configuration of our software can be best utilized. So we can provide an institution the ability to offer only one level, over a certain period of time of access. Some sort of a rolling access. Just many different types of possibilities.
Some clients do require customization, and we have developed and earlier this year we released one, a very sophisticated offering tool that we use and we intend to make additional improvements to that tool, and make it also a commercial tool that we can sell to other organizations.
James West: So then is the benefit of this education technology platform over conventional language education, is it a situation where, so let’s say you have a class of 30 students, and say 5 percent of those students are advancing very quickly and 60 percent are advancing at a moderate level and a further 45 percent are advancing slowly, is it so customizable that people can more or less advance at the maximum rate at which they can absorb the lessons?
Gali Bar-Ziv: In principle, absolutely, and this is where we have a big advantage. The challenge of today’s classroom is that it is very difficult for the teacher to gauge the true progress of the students. Some of them may be shy, but they may have good English skills, and you would usually find it when you keep providing them with quizzes and tests. The advantage of an online solution that tracks everything is that you can see the patterns of learning, the speed of interaction, and obviously, the progress. Everything is logged, where the biggest weakness of a physical classroom, if it is only taught in a physical classroom, is that you never really know the true level of a student.
James West: Right. So then, if it’s that customizable – I actually used Rosetta Stone to use Spanish. Before I had a better grasp of it, it was the first program I used. But I found Rosetta Stone was kind of clunky in that it was so standardized and uniform in its optionality. I actually found that it didn’t move fast enough for me, and the biggest problem I had with using it was that it couldn’t engage me, because I couldn’t accelerate the flow of the information. So I was constantly getting distracted and my mind was wandering because the program moved so slow. So is yours something that differs from that in that you can actually speed up the rate of learning?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Throughout our programs, a learner is asked to take different, what we call progress or achievement tests. That is in order to gauge whether they truly accomplished and acquired the skills and the level that was provided to them in a previous level, in order for them to proceed to a more advanced level. We also have different placement tests that the learner will take in order to trace the student – not everybody starts from zero, every person starts from a different level.
So we have different tools throughout our offering to both make sure that the student is challenged enough – it’s a very fine line between not challenged enough, so somebody’s bored, and learning a language is all about motivation – or, if somebody’s, if the challenge or the level of English is too high, and then the learner will be frustrated, and again, motivation will go down, and so is the learning.
So we have different tools throughout our offering to ensure that the student is always placed in the right spot, if you will, of their true level.
James West: I see. So the system would detect the rate at which I was absorbing my lessons and adjust accordingly?
Gali Bar-Ziv: It would not adjust accordingly all the time; it would actually go against the principles upon which we designed our courses, which is the common European framework of reference. By the way, Rosetta Stone does not, as far as I know, does not design their course according to the common European framework of reference, which is a set of principles of teaching and pedagogical principles of how to build content and lessons and educational program.
Again, what the program would do is that it would keep testing you. It would keep checking that you actually completing and achieving the challenges and the skill level that was provided to you before. If you can demonstrate in those tests your level, the system will allow you to progress faster. If obviously you’re going to show that you did not – you know, sometimes people say ‘this is really easy for me’ but then when you ask them the questions, they can’t answer the questions. So it would gauge exactly where you’re at, and based on that, it would determine whether you need some more enrichment, or it’s okay, you can move to the next level. To some extent, if your English is at a high level, you would progress very quickly. Rapidly.
James West: Okay. So you mentioned that you were in a high margin business. What are your margins generally?
Gali Bar-Ziv: The margins are anywhere from between let’s say 70 and 90 percent.
James West: Oh, okay. Wow. So that’s great. So you build this system, you create all these modules, and then you can re-sell them?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Correct, yes.
James West: I see. So it’s sort of like a build it once and sell it multiple times, model.
Gali Bar-Ziv: Yeah. The difficulty is in the building. It’s to build big enough library. It’s almost, if you think, if you write one book, if you author one book and you try to put it in a library, it would somewhat get lost, but if you author a series of books, let’s call it an encyclopedia that would have many different volumes, it would be a little easier. So we’re not offering only ten hours of learning, we are offering hundreds of hours of learning. So whether you are a beginner or whether you are at an intermediate level or whether you are in an advanced level, you’ll be able to still engage with the program, and you will still have the depth and breadth of content and activities to challenge you and to ensure that you are truly learning, because that’s the most important objective that we have.
James West: You bet. So then, what kind of expertise does Lingo Media have in-house to develop this, essentially, software?
Gali Bar-Ziv: We have – the definition of our company is ed-tech. what it means is that we have two wings, two arms, that function as one. On the one hand, you have the pedagogical team; we have experts that come from the field. They may have been teachers, they may have been people that have designed courses in the past. And on the other side, you have a technological team. You have programmers, designers, instructional designers, and those people aim to create and develop the mechanisms upon which we can deliver the content in an engaging and fun way.
James West: Okay. So you’ve got programmers, teachers, lesson designers, all in-house at Lingo Media? You do all this yourself, you don’t outsource it?
Gali Bar-Ziv: Yes.
James West: Okay. Great. So that makes it highly proprietary, I would think. Okay, well, Gali, that’s a great, interesting interview. We’re going to leave it there for now. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Gali Bar-Ziv: My absolute pleasure, and thank you for having me.
James West: Bye-bye.
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