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Out From the Depths of the Innovative Language Learning Lab - Part Two

Peter here! Want to know how and why it all started? Read today’s blog post to find out more about our humble beginnings. Thanks for stopping by to read and leave a comment to say hello!

A Bunch of Big Benchmarks


200 Million Lessons Delivered, 150K YouTube Subscribers, and 50K Facebook Fans

Last month we hit all of these benchmarks.

These are 3 remarkable feats that everyone with a connection to our company and product should take a minute to reflect on and be extremely proud of.

But what does all of this mean?


  • For the PR people, a press release!
  • For the marketing team, a sale.
  • For the tech team, something about server load balance,
  • and for the financial guys, how is growth holding up?

For me, it is a chance to reflect.

The daily grind is grueling and our workload is no lighter because of these milestones, but these occasions give us a chance to climb out of the trenches and see how far we’ve come.

200 Million Now, but…it all started with one lesson

It’s kind of crazy. There were three things that fell into place to make the first lesson happen.

1. Aki Yoshikawa funding the show;

2. The first co-host, Natsuko, agreeing to do the show;

3. An acquaintance introducing me to a rehearsal studio, where we would record the shows.

1. I was a PhD student at a Japanese university working part-time at Aki’s translation company. Translation was her main business, but I noticed that she would sometimes entertain small pet projects. So I relentlessly pitched ideas to her every chance I had.  After about a year of this, one idea I had proposed appeared in a newspaper. That’s when she agreed to the next idea I pitched: Japanese language learning through podcasts.

2. Natsuko worked at the translation company. Her English is awesome, and she is very knowledgable. I knew she would be perfect! But…I had serious concerns about whether or not she would be worried about the exposure she would get by appearing in something so public. Some people really value their privacy! And if she said, “No,” the show was a no go! So, you could imagine I was very nervous before asking her. I had practiced my pitch, and came up with ways to rebut every concern she had. When the time came to ask her, she said, “Sure.” I was shocked! Reflecting back upon it, I think the fact that podcasting was still unknown helped my cause! In fact, I spoke to her recently and she had no idea her voice would go on to be heard by millions of people around the world!

3. Proper sound quality was achieved after an acquaintance at the company introduced us to a recording studio located near the office! We originally tried recording the lessons in an office room, but the quality was awful. He learned what were were trying to do, and he took us to the rehearsal studio where he would practice his shamisen (Japanese instrument) during his lunch hour. The place was close to the office, and the rooms were soundproof. The first lesson was recorded at the studio in the morning. Then it was edited back at a desk in a corner of Aki’s translation company in the afternoon, and sent out to the world by the end of the night!

You can listen to it below. Yes, that’s me and Natsuko!

The First Website

The lesson went out through an RSS feed on our first website, I still remember launching the first website. Flipping through the how-to-build-a-website book, I somehow managed to get it operational. However, was a static website, so there was no way to leave a comment. Which means, there was no way for me to know if people were even listening to the lessons. I had to log into the website as an admin and look at “bandwidth used” statistics to see if lessons were actually being downloaded! The first day, there was one. Or at least I thought I had one, until I figured out it was actually me that downloaded it. But from there, a few lessons in the first week in December 2005 to 200 million this month!

I was quickly, and thankfully, relieved of CTO duties when long-time friend, and fellow Innovative Language Learning Co-Founder, Eran Dekel joined our team 2 weeks later.

Appreciation for Those Who Got Us There

First to our community, we thank you! You’ve supported us in our journey from a Japanese language learning company to a leading digital language learning company. We can only say thank you for your support, patience, and understanding. It wasn’t always a smooth ride, but we have done and will continue to do our best to continue to provide innovative language learning products.

To our current team and all of our alumni, thank you! Please take a moment to reflect on the body of work we have created together. From the breakthroughs to the blowups, we value everything you have and continue to contribute to the community products and company. It has been a remarkable ride and we can only hope you are as proud as we are. We congratulate you, and please take a moment to congratulate one another.

Still A Lot of Work to Do

In early July, we launched 6 new language websites: Bulgarian, Finnish, Filipino, Norwegian, Turkish and Vietnamese. That’s a total of 27 language websites and products in 36 languages. (We also just quietly launched Korean, Cantonese and English Premium Plus products).

Is there more to do?

Of course, but thanks to your hard work and hunger to learn and apply, we’ve grown into a global language company. We started as a Japanese language learning company, and have evolved into a leading digital language learning company.There is a story behind every benchmark. I plan to continue sharing ours with you.

Listen to the very first lesson here.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 at 6:47 pm and is filed under Founder's Blog, General Announcements, ILL Office Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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