Ganesh Rasagam, Practice Manager of the World Bank's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Unit, speaks at a panel during the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo: Toni Eliasz)
We spoke with Rawle Rollocks, a marketing and business development specialist at Reperio, a company based in Trinidad and Tobago that creates opportunities for Caribbean students to learn languages and study in other islands in the region. (Read interviews with Slush participants from Jamaica.)
1. Could you share an elevator pitch for your company?
Our motto is “Breaking the language barrier, one student at a time.” We aim to develop confident and globally connected bilingual students and to reach one million students by 2020.
For students, we offer entertaining language learning, relatable and relevant local content, and a world-class game experience. For parents, we offer improved individual performance and overall child development. For teachers, we support the secondary school curriculum while adding variety to teaching methods, which makes the teacher’s job easier. Finally, for advertisers, we offer access to a student market, as well as flexible and competitive packages.
2. What is the big problem you plan to resolve?
The current teaching methodologies for foreign language education within the region are inadequate. Language proficiency demands immersion in authentic situations for optimal learning. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has proven to be the single most important factor apart from travel to help students become proficient in a foreign language. The apps and digital tools on the market help, but they fall far short of creating the immersion that students need. Gamification has not been capitalized upon as a methodology to create immersion for the learner. Overall, in the Caribbean we see poor conversational proficiency, inadequate knowledge of culture and history, inadequate integration of ICTs, and poor performance in various assessments.
These challenges are compounded by:
- Insufficient opportunity to create immersive learning opportunities
- A paucity of local indigenous games in the Caribbean
- Unattractive or ineffective educational approaches, especially among language games
- Insufficient opportunity to become proficient in a foreign language through engaging games
- Insufficient collaboration opportunities for language students in the region
- A low percentage of bilingual people (less than 5% in most Caribbean territories)
3. What solution does Reperio offer?
Caribbean Treasures (CT) is a fun-filled multi-language mobile adventure game targeting children from 11 to 15 years of age, promoting language learning and cultural awareness. Children pursue a treasure hunt through significant locations in each island, where they learn about the country while studying French, Spanish, and English.
It is designed around the region’s foreign language syllabi for secondary schools. The game allows for immersion in real life situations that are not easy to duplicate in a classroom setting. It also allows learning to take place in a fun and interactive environment apart from the sterile and often ineffective classroom environment
4. Who is your target market?
Our total market comprises approximately 5 million students and over 3,500 schools in the region. Our immediate addressable target market is approximately 350 schools. They are primarily secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana with whom we currently have relationships.
5. How competitive is your market?
There are hundreds of mobile apps for language learning. Our competitors are all global in scope.
Our biggest competitors are free and freemium online apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, Busuu, and Memrise. The most popular and comprehensive ones, however, do not particularly cater to the teenage market in content and level of interaction. Additionally, those offering the most immersion and interaction with native speakers do not guarantee child protection. Those that claim to be actual video games like ours are lacking in content and largely static; these are not popular at all. No online language learning tool has our particular combination of elements.
Our game is unique for the following reasons:
- It is a real adventure game, not just puzzle or trivia based.
- It is linked to the foreign language syllabus.
- It teaches the English language in the context of local history and civilization.
- There is a multiplayer option that supports the online community.
We see Caribbean Treasures as the next generation of language learning apps. Taking advantage of what gaming apps offer, Caribbean Treasures allows for maximum learning to occur in an organic manner. Online games run the full spectrum from simple and easy to use to complex and requiring a high level of ability to play and master.
Overall, CT’s game design compares favourably with popular games for children within our target age group. In terms of educational and language learning games, CT’s game concept, design, and play is beyond what the online market currently offers. CT stands alone as no similar online indigenous games are presently available. In terms of price and ease of use, CT is on par with current online game offerings.
6. How did you feel about going to Slush and representing the Caribbean?
Slush was a truly awesome experience. It was great putting the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago (no one knew where we were!) on the map. The Caribbean would do well to develop its presence at the event.
7. What was the experience like? Were there any special highlights?
Seeing Finland’s start-up ecosystem at work; the execution of Slush by its 2,500 volunteers; the pivotal role played by the government, universities, and private sector; the emphasis on impact investment; and the opportunity to learn and benchmark against start-ups across the globe and the ways they address their own pressing issues through their businesses.
8. How did you first get involved with PitchIT Caribbean and how has it aided you?
PitchIT has opened up a world of opportunity for which my cofounder and I are truly grateful. It has helped particularly in the areas of preparation for and execution of pitches, business modeling, and the opportunity to benchmark against other Caribbean start-ups. PitchIT can benefit from tapping into its current alumni base, who are rich with resources and ideas, to expand its reach and impact.
9. Do you have any other advice to other mobile entrepreneurs?
Spend time to select the right business model, obsess about the problem and better ways to address it rather than getting blinded by the current solution, seek out global partners, and keep refining your story.
More About Slush
The Slush conference attracted over 17,500 attendees, including 2,300 startups, 1,100 venture capitalists, and 600 journalists from over 120 countries, and more than one million people viewed a live stream of the event. The World Bank and infoDev organized a knowledge-sharing event for incubator and accelerator hub managers from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, as well as counterpart government policymakers. The event was a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (TEKES), and the Finnish Innovation Fund (SITRA).