EDUKWEST #54 with James Mak of VocabGenii

I cannot other but see the omnipresent signs that we’re heading towards a demand driven education. The second eye-catching trend is that learners nowadays bring their skill set as developers to the table which allows them to actually be active and create products they wished they had had when they were learning something or preparing for a test.

VocabGenii is such a case. Being a start-up of the Founder Institute 2010 class in Seattle,both the founders CEO James Mak and his co-founder and president Rebecca Li have a deep understanding for the necessity of learning vocabulary in an efficient way.

Originally from Hong Kong James had to prepare for the standard tests in order to be accepted as a foreign student in the US. Rebecca tutors students for those tests and is the educational brain behind VocabGenii.

What James had at his disposal to train and extend his vocabulary back in the days was more or less flashcards only. Feeling a little frustrated learning this way, he started developing Genii, a system he wished he had had himself. VocabGenii helps you build your vocabulary with friends through a playful approach.

Now, it takes more than one swallow to make a summer and they did some pretty intense market research. What they’ve found out is that one the one hand people clearly need to build vocabulary to learn a language. On the other hand, they like to play. VocabGenii combines these two things. Learners can choose from different difficulty levels to play 1 or 3 rounds of the game getting as many words right as possible in 90 sec. During one round the learners sees definitions both classic as well as the witty ones that help you find the right word. You can also ask for hints or skip and go on to the next word. There are some motivational tools built in such as when getting more that 3 words right you’ll get a boost and your points multiply.

Users can post their scores to Facebook and the Genii team has just started 10K contest where users can compete with each other and see who gets 10000 or more points in 100 hours.

The concept of learning effectively whilst playing games proves itself to be popular on both the founder as well as the developer side and I personally enjoyed the experience learning with VocabGenii. The Genii team are very focused on implementing the important features for the next generation of educational products and have managed to build a competitive service in my opinion. Therefore I hope, they’ll be able to raise some funding for the next steps of the product in just a short time!


Audio only:

1. EDUKWEST #54 with James Mak of VocabGenii     

Additional Links:

Company Homepage:
VocabGenii Twitter: @VocabGenii

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at