Dublin’s skyrocketing rents have forced Trinity neuroscience graduate Evan Mcgloughlin and his childhood friends to decamp to Barcelona to launch their language-learning app, Weeve.
“We can’t pay for Dublin rent, we can’t pay for Dublin groceries. Barcelona has sun, beaches and also a big tech centre. It’s going to be hard to take me out of this city, to be honest.
“If the offer is: You have to move back to Ireland, the weather is going to be worse, you are going to have to pay more and you’ll probably have a smaller place, it’s not the most appealing. It’s just too expensive and I think our quality of life would decrease.”
Weeve, which teaches languages by weaving foreign words into bite-sized books in your native tongue, was the brainchild of Mr Mcgloughlin’s childhood friend and fellow Trinity graduate Cian McNally, and was born out of being “too bored” during the first Covid lockdown.
“When we did it, at the time, by no means did we think that this was going to be full-time,” Mr Mcgloughlin said. “Honestly, our mindset was, ‘Let’s just build something; it will probably fail and then we’ll learn some stuff and then we will probably build another thing.’”
Last year, Mr McNally and Mr Mcgloughlin featured in the Sunday Independent’s 30 entrepreneurs under 30 to watch, and are now just weeks away from closing a €250,000 pre-seed round, with €75,000 already raised, largely from family, friends and Trinity contacts.
The four co-founders – all childhood or college friends – made the move to Barcelona a month ago to chase the Spanish-to-English learning market.
Depending on which language app you believe, Spanish is either the second (Babbel) or the fourth (Busuu) most-spoken language in the world.
“If someone in Ireland wants to learn Spanish then, yeah, it’s kind of cool if they learn Spanish. They will be kind of motivated,” Mr Mcgloughlin says. “But a Spanish speaker trying to learn English is essential for their job.”
The recently launched app works by peppering summarised non-fiction books with words in your chosen language. So you can read a 20-minute Spanish-English hybrid version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers or Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.
A slider at the bottom of the screen allowing you choose the proportion of foreign words you want to weave in – from zero to 100pc – depending on your level. Spanish is the only language on the app so far, but other languages will soon follow – French is next.
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“It lets you use the language that you know – so, English – as a scaffold for the other language,” Mr Mcgloughlin explains. “So it lets you understand the meaning of the word in context.”
Not a natural language learner – “I got actually the worst possible grade that you can get in school in Irish,” Mr Mcgloughlin said – he now speaks passable Spanish, thanks to Weeve.
Weeve’s website offers public domain novels including Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby in several languages, for beginner, intermediate and advanced speakers.
A €1m seed round is in the offing, once Mr Mcgloughlin and his co-founders tweak the technology. But they are not planning a hiring spree and won’t accept discounts on Weeve’s valuation in exchange for equity stakes.
“We don’t want to give up that ownership that early.
“We want to grow and scale the company as much as possible, of course, but we absolutely do not want to be taking on people and bloating ourselves unnecessarily.”
This content was originally published here.