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From Classmates to Business Partners

By  Sarah Halls

Fri Apr 9 2010

If you look down the employment destination list of any MBA graduation class, you’ll inevitably see the names of famous finance institutions, but nestled between Goldman Sachs and HSBC are a few renegades who shun the corporate rat-race to become masters of their own empire. Bernhard Neisner and Adrian Hilti of IE are a classic case.

The duo met while studying for the International MBA (IMBA) in 2007. Like many MBAs before them they had to create a business plan, and after “personally suffer[ing] from the traditional way to learn a new language”, which they found “expensive and boring,” the pair came up with an innovative concept.

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“At that time for me especially, the need was learning languages and we thought how can we combine the language learning with community features and that was where the moment of the idea of Busuu was created,” recalls Hilti, a native of Lichtenstein.

Joining forces with his Austrian classmate, Neisner, they founded the award-winning Busuu.com, an “online language learning community for learning languages.”

According to the founders, the exotic name of the website originates from Cameroon where only eight people speak the language.

Current users come from Tunisia, America, Argentina, Britain, Spain and Germany and are able to interact with other members who wish to improve their English, Spanish, German, French and Italian. “People can log on for free and have access to audio-visual content in currently 5 different languages,” explains Neisner.

“Additionally for their individual studies they can connect themselves directly with other native speakers in the community and practice their language skills within an integrated video-chat application.”

In order to fine tune their product, their classmates at IE became their focus group, which helped ease the hiccups they had en route from concept to implementation.

The business partners have no regrets over choosing the IMBA at IE as it focuses on entrepreneurship says Neisner. “I met Adrian and we started the whole idea of Busuu.com together, we had the time to develop the business plan and we finally did it,” enthuses the entrepreneur.

Neisner is also enjoying the highs of being self-employed: “I’m absolutely convinced that without IE that I would be sitting in an office working very late for somebody else and not for myself.”

Click here to view an interview with Hilti and Neisner