This week, Associate Director, Richa Arora sat down with CRO & US CEO of Babbel, Julie Hansen discussing all things global. From scaling Babbel to international waters, managing a global presence and the global workforce's effect on growth.
What does a typical day look like for you as Chief Revenue Officer and US CEO of Babbel?
Mornings are for Berlin colleagues and projects; afternoons are for the US. The late morning is the critical overlap time when meetings need to involve teams from both locations. I am very grateful for my highly skilled EA, Jordan, who manages to squeeze everything in!
The revenue teams span more mature business units and geographies, such as our B2C business in Europe, and emergent high-growth business units, like B2B in the US. I love the variety of challenges that this diversity brings.
Babbel connects users across the world by their love of language and has successfully expanded its consumer base internationally as the people’s choice for digital language learning.
What can you tell us about Babbel’s global presence and the competitive market of language learning?
Founded in 2007, Babbel was the first language learning app and is by now the world’s leading platform for online language learning.
I believe our success is rooted in superior product quality as well as a deep interest in how people can improve their language learning journey; the latter being highly individual.
While the use case of our product and the motivations of our consumers do have common threads, these are ultimately quite different across geographies. This makes defining the brand and customizing the marketing extra challenging and interesting. In Germany we need to appeal to a user learning their third or fourth (or more) language, who comes with a sophisticated notion of success, while in English-speaking countries we need to create the demand, while competing against freemium players. It's not one size fits all!
How does Babbel’s global workforce contribute to your growth as a business?
It's critical! Babbel employees hail from 70+ countries and many walks of life. They bring cultural diversity, unique ways of working, and empathy for our users that we could not replicate with a more homogeneous employee pool.
Having sales and marketing teams that are culturally close to their customers has been a huge unlock. And in terms of motivation, many Babbelonians find the team and the company purpose among the most compelling features of working at Babbel.
Babbel established itself as a global leader with offices in Berlin and New York. What do you think businesses can learn from going global?
Our example is telling: we had great success in Europe from Berlin but struggled in the US until we built a team in the US. We believe the same will be true when we expand to other regions, such as Asia. Deeply understanding your customers can be hard to do from just one location.
Let’s talk workforce. What things have you learnt from overseeing an international workforce?
My biggest learning is that workplace norms vary extremely by location, but fundamentally most employees want to succeed and grow.
What should businesses know about taking the step to global?
Getting set up for success, with the right level of local autonomy but a strong connection to the global whole, is critical.