Sramana: Let’s talk about your financing strategy. How much did you raise from your friends and family?
Shiv Rajendran: We started with about a million dollars. In our second round we raised about $1.5 million.
Sramana: How did you develop the company after your next round of financing?
Shiv Rajendran: The first round of financing gave us a professional board with connections and experience. It gave us dedicated salesperson and a budget for marketing. We spent a lot of time building relationships with corporations. The second round of financing gave us a much bigger network to reach corporations. It gave us additional resources for marketing, and it gave us funding to develop custom solutions for clients.
Sramana: Do most of your marketing efforts now target large corporations?
Shiv Rajendran: Yes. Most of our marketing dollars are spent on things like conferences where we can speak to large B2B customers. Last week we tested a product for younger school kids. Our two main channels now are corporations and schools.
Sramana: There are all sorts of players on the B2B side. Can you talk about the competitive landscape?
Shiv Rajendran: There is GlobalEnglish, English First, Rosetta Stone, and a few other smaller companies as well. We have been most successful in accounts that have already tried one of the other products. With one of our clients we found that their employees used the predecessor’s technology an average of two minutes a year. The key differentiator for us is contextual learning. For our oil & gas customers, like Chevron, we make sure that their students learn English out on a virtual oil rig if that is where they are going to be working. Nobody else does that.
Sramana: Do you charge for customization?
Shiv Rajendran: To an extent. One oil rig can serve as the learning platform for an entire industry, not just one company. The cost is shared among multiple customers.
Sramana: How many corporate clients are you working with right now?
Shiv Rajendran: We have folks like Chevron, DHL, Emerson, Air France, the British Council, the Brazilian government and others.
Sramana: What is the split between B2C and B2B?
Shiv Rajendran: In student numbers it is about fifty-fifty; however, the bulk of our revenue comes from B2B.
Sramana: It sounds like you have spent a lot of time building content for oil & gas. Are you now focusing on selling into that industry?
Shiv Rajendran: That is exactly what we are doing. These deals take a long time to complete, so we have other deals in the pipeline that we are hoping to convert. We are doing a similar thing with the aviation industry. All air traffic controllers and pilots have to speak English to the ICAO Level 4. Only eight countries in the world meet this standard. There is going to be a legal standard for all of them to meet it in a certain timeframe. The ICAO standards require English in aviation context only. If something goes wrong with your engine, you need to know what to say. We can put the pilots and air traffic controllers in those real situations in a flexible time frame that fits various shifts. That is something our rivals were not able to do.