We talked to Max Korneev, founder and CEO at EWA: Learn English about the unique learning system based on movies and books. Here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing during the time of COVID?
Max Korneev: Thanks for asking! We are doing great. We are making sure to follow all of the rules (like wearing masks) and staying home as much as possible.
Luckily, we had managed to travel 7,000km throughout Europe last summer with the four kids. We went to Ibiza in September and then skied in Switzerland on Christmas. So, we’re being cautious but also making time to get out into nature.
Tell us about your career and how you founded EWA?
Max Korneev: I had a very successful career in B2B IT in Russia for seventeen years until I realized that that path was not for me. I ended up quitting that job and founded two companies. Both spoke more to my passions and what I was interested in (extreme sports and languages). Sensocase was a project for those who are passionate about sports and wanted to share that passion with other people. It consisted of having high-quality pictures on your phone case or power bank to show off your favorite sport. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a product-market fit, and I had to close the company. At the same time, EWA: Learn English exploded in growth, so I pivoted to doing that full time.
How does EWA innovate?
Max Korneev: We take popular culture icons, especially those that people know and love from their childhood, to create interesting and engaging lessons to help people learn the English language. The app uses clips from movie and TV shows, memes, classic literature, and even educational games to spark their interest. EWA: Learn English is all about keeping users motivated to continue learning the language.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Max Korneev: At the height of the global pandemic, we definitely noticed an increase in our user base and worked overtime to accommodate the explosive growth we achieved. It really tested our ability to scale quickly, but our team rose to the challenge and managed to meet every goal put in front of us. In fact, we climbed to the top of Global App Charts to rank #3 in self-education apps, as a measure of both revenue and downloads – we even outranked Rosetta Stone and Busuu.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Max Korneev: Yes, it’s always hard to let go of people you enjoy working with but might not be the best fit for the company in the long run. Unfortunately, this is just something that comes with the territory as you have to quickly scale your company. But, it’s always better to recognize this and take action sooner rather than later (for the sake of both people).
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Max Korneev: I always use sports as a means of relieving stress and anxiety. I’m a huge extreme sports fan, actually. Some of my favorites include kiteboarding, wakeboarding, skiing and snowboarding. It really helps me to “reboot the systems” and relax.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Max Korneev: Our competitors are well known in the language learning space – Duolingo, Babbel, Busuu, Rosetta, Mondly, Memrise, etc. These are all very well-funded and respected companies that have substantial market share already. On average, they’ve been operating for over a decade. However, all of them use the same standard approach to learning a language, which often feels more like learning from a textbook transferred to mobile.
We are completely different in that we employ the use of popular culture and entertainment to make the learning process more exciting and enjoyable. All of the famous actors, films, shows, and other figures people have loved since their childhood are used in our lessons. Because we are framing the lessons around things people already enjoy and love, it makes them more motivated to continue learning.
We never had to raise money and managed to climb to the #3 position in the app store. Can you imagine what we can do after we do raise some money? The sky’s the limit, really. We will be able to enter into new markets, create new language offers, source new traffic… there are just so many amazing things on the horizon for EWA.
Your final thoughts?
Max Korneev: Education is the most valuable thing you have. I always tell that to my four children. Money, the economy, everything else can fall apart, but knowledge stays with you forever. If you have a solid education, then you can always rebuild everything from scratch.