Interview with Ryan Meinzer, Founder & CEO 0

Ryan, I’m a big Honda fan which made me want to learn Japanese at some point, but I never seem to have enough time. I’ve heard you have created software that can actually help me learn Japanese no matter how busy my schedule is. Tell us about it.

Ryan: I’d be happy to tell you about PlaySay. Briefly, PlaySay empowers busy people to unlock value from an idle minute with the most practical language learning on the go. Anytime. Anywhere. On any mobile device. We turn cell phones into walking, talking, foreign language teachers.

How did you come up with the idea?

Ryan: I needed to learn Japanese fast and easy for the Japanese marketing firm I worked for in Tokyo, Japan. I only had minutes at a time to learn, mainly on my commute to and from work. I figured if I could learn 20 new words every day in these idle minutes, I’d gain a substantial competency in Japanese in no time. I wouldn’t say I liked paper flashcards, so I decided to make my own digital flashcards to use on my cell phone. It worked.

What would be the typical time needed to learn a new language? Let’s say French because I know Japanese takes a long time?

Ryan:If you’re in France and you force yourself to not speak in English, you should be conversational in a matter of three months. If you had used PlaySay every day in the many spare idle minutes of your day, you would have been conversational in less than two months.

Did you always want to become an entrepreneur, or did it sort of happening?

Ryan: I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I blame my Dad for that (successful business owner). I’ve earned money ‘freelancing’ in some fashion since I was five years old. I never had to ask Mommy or Daddy for money for the coolest pair of shoes, skates, or hockey gloves.

Who is the typical user of your application? Students?

Ryan: Yes, students learning foreign languages through textbooks in the USA.

Does it work on any device, or you need something special?

Ryan: PlaySay is unique in that our downloadable files work on any mobile device – iPod, cell phone, PDA, etc. We do not have to create a native application for each device (e.g., iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.). That’s one of our competitive advantages.

What about language coverage? How many languages does it support?

Ryan: PlaySay currently offers products to learn Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. We’re now geared to launch a new language each month, with French right around the corner for you.

I’m very curious about the process of getting things spelled out for the audio. How is this done? Do you hire natives that read words?

Ryan: Another of our competitive advantages is the high quality of our content and audio. We use nothing but the most trusted content sources, the best professional translators, and professional native voice actors for our product production.

You got funded from Japan. What is most important when pitching for money?

Ryan: Traction, social proof, team, passion, and vision…and keep things simple.

Do you need to be a technical person to start a software company, or you just need to find the right persons to work for you?

Ryan: You do not need to be technical as long as you have the right technical person to work for you. Focusing on what you particularly do best and letting others do the same is what makes a good leader and a healthy team.

How do you test an idea like yours? I mean, most people are afraid that their idea won’t sell.

Ryan: Ideas are a dime a dozen. Just do it.
So did it actually help you to learn Japanese?
Ryan: Most definitely. I successfully handled business nearly entirely in Japanese throughout my two-year tenure at the Japanese marketing company I worked for in Tokyo.
Can you use it to learn English as well? Or even in between 2 non-English languages?

Although many Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish users use PlaySay to learn English, it is not the best way to learn English. This is because our lexicographical content is made for English speakers learning either Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish (instead of the other way around). It is counter-intuitive, but it is not fully accurate to simply swap headwords and counterparts of a lexicon. We do not do this, although many competing language learning solutions do. This is unfair to the users, and they’ll find out sooner than later, at which point they’ll egg our competitor’s offices and likely begin using PlaySay if they haven’t already.

Several US Universities adopted it. What is it that makes it successful when compared with other language learning solutions?

Ryan: Many language learning solutions require you to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time. PlaySay empowers busy people to unlock value from an idle minute with the most practical language learning on the go.
plays are focused on being the fastest and easiest way for students to learn and retain the vocabulary of their foreign language textbooks, and just that. Focus is a competitive advantage.

Any further developments?

Ryan: Lots of developments are currently in stealth mode. Our ultimate vision is to advance cultural awareness and international fellowship through language by being in every language learning student’s pocket.

Interesting? If you want to stay in touch with Ryan and find out how things are working out for him, you can fan PlaySay on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

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