This is a story about a successful entrepreneur who simply wanted to get rid of his own sore point. Yi-Wei Zhan was a regular office worker who always dreamt about having his own business. After changing several jobs and finally saving up enough money, he started an online purchasing broker service, but ended up shutting it down due to lack of interest. Returning to the labor market, Zhan joined an international company only to find out that the English ability he used to be proud of was in fact useless when actually communicating with foreigners. The frustration instead became an inspiration, driving him to found VoiceTube.
In 2012, together with his wife Fu-Rong Lai, Zhen built the website “VoiceTube: Learn English by watching TED talks, movies, and music videos.” The website collects many YouTube videos that are suitable for English learning and creates learning materials with them.
There are subtitles for all videos for users to refer to while watching them, and functions such as collecting vocabularies and beautiful sentences, as well as repeating a single sentence are also available.
The website offers various types of videos and users could select the ones that are most suitable for their own level for practice based on categories of accents, content and test types. In 2013, VoiceTube expanded its service so it’s available on PC, Android and iOS, and now users can learn English whenever they feel like, however fragmented their time is.
Four years after the married couple built the prototype, VoiceTube now has grown into a website with 1.8 Million members, with 35,000 theme videos available online. Its users are from various places including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam, and nearly 2 Million users are learning English on it each month. Last May, the website introduced “VoiceTube Hero,” a service with an additional charge that allows users to practice English listening, speaking, reading and writing via diverse methods.
The service now accounts for 70% of VoiceTube’s revenue. In 2016, VoiceTube won “App of the Year Grand Prize,” the highest award of “FbStart,” an award that Facebook created to honor distinguished Apps. In the future, Zhan plans to expand the oversea market of VoiceTube and applies this learning mechanism to other languages.
Although Taiwanese students start learning English already in elementary school, as a part of the compulsory education, many people still have trouble speaking. Zhan’s sore point is in fact shared by many others.
Nearby countries in South East Asia are also a potential market in terms of English learning; Zhan’s first target is Japan. At the moment, VoiceTube already translated more than 2000 videos into Japanese. VoiceTube is ready to replicate the successful experience of Taiwan in other countries, making English learning channels easily accessible via the internet.