Memrise, a learning platform focused on memorization techniques, has raised a Series A round of funding worth $5.1 million, according to an SEC filing. The London-based TechStars Boston grad previously raised two seed rounds to the tune of $1.18 million from Audrey Capital, Avalon Ventures, Balderton Capital, and Lerer Ventures. Mark Evans of Balderton Capital and Rich Levandov of Avalon Capital are listed as directors on Memrise’s board in the filing.
CEO and Grandmaster of Memory Ed Cooke said he was utterly surprised by the news as he has been “mainly been preoccupied with making learning fun” and suggested the possibility that the SEC had made a mistake. Sure.
Memrise aims to make learning into a recreational activity, using flashcards, mnemonic devices, and repetition to turn short-term memory into long-term knowledge. It’s exercise for your brain. From the site:
We visualize each word you learn as a seed, growing into a plant; we represent your mind as a colourful garden, and your knowledge is then something you’ll want to tend and cultivate, to lovingly keep alive, not let wither as soon as you’ve passed an exa.
Content, called “Mems,” is added by users and curated by contributors, Wikipedia-style. Memrise started with languages and has expanded into a wide range of topics from math and science to entertainment and trivia.
From my limited experience with the site, it seems to work. Thanks to a presentation by Cooke at Lerer Ventures’ CEO Summit earlier this year, I’ll never forgot the names Cooke taught us with his strangely memorable brand of repetition and associations. Sailthru’s Neil Capel (something to do with a chapel) or AxialMarket’s Peter Lehrman (something to do with shearling?) have managed to stick with me, eight months later.
The site uses similar techniques. To teach me the location of Spain and Portugal, I’m told that Port means left, and Portugal is Europe’s farthest left country. I’m then told Spain is like the skull of Portugal. All of these connections and ideas are crowd-sourced, and weirdly, they seem to work. Cooke emphasizes that his ability to memorize a 1,000-digit number in one hour isn’t a genetic gift from the memory gods — it’s a skill he’s built through strategic practice. Well that, and silly associations.
I have no idea if all those Mems can add up to a money-making business. If nothing else, they’re great practice for a trivia night or a Sporcle binge.