How Brainscape Was Born

Modified on by Andrew Cohen



Thought bulb, the brainscape story

Brainscape wasn’t always a multi-user web and mobile learning application.  It actually began as a simple Excel macro for learning French words and verb conjugations, which I developed to teach myself French while living in Martinique several years ago.  Only by recruiting a strong team, testing a series of prototypes, and acquiring a solid body of supporting research have we been able to grow Brainscape into the game-changing best flashcards app company you see today.

The Evolution of Brainscape

In my past life, I was a former economist and statistical modeler for the World Bank and UN. While in Martinique, I developed a software algorithm in Microsoft Excel, to help me and my colleagues learn French faster than anyone thought possible.

After learning French to near-fluency in just 3 months, I later used the program to improve my Spanish during an anti-corruption project with the Panamanian government. My adaptive “quiz-like” Excel-based “app” was so helpful that masters students at the University of Panama began using it to study for subjects like Biology and Political Science.

Before I knew it, the Excel file had gone viral over email. People were repurposing by simply inputting their own study content, in a simple two-column Question/Answer format.

This successful prototype led me to get a Masters in Education Technology at Columbia University, where I could refine the cognitive science principles behind the new learning method, and develop it into a web application.

The first early lab experiment resulted in the Brainscape experimental group performing more than twice as well on a post-test as a control group who used paper flashcards, after 30 minutes of studying.

Even better, these learning benefits tend to accrue at an increasingly greater magnitude, the more content you have to study, over a longer period of time.

I realized that this learning method, which I called “Confidence-Based Repetition”, could help so many people learn more while studying less. And I became obsessed with making it available for every subject on the planet.

So I raised some venture capital from friends, family, and fools, and he began to build a world-class team.

Brainscape’s first few years had many bumps in the road, as the right talent was hard to find, and as the fast-evolving world of mobile learning created unforeseen challenges.

But after learning thousands of small lessons about learners’ and educators’ needs, we have developed the right team and business model to sustain our growth long into the future.

Brainscape is now a profitable company and maintains a dual purpose of educating the world efficiently, while providing significant returns for our investors.



Brainscape is a web & mobile education platform that helps you learn anything faster, using cognitive science. Join the millions of students, teachers, language learners, test-takers, and corporate trainees who are doubling their learning results. Visit brainscape.com or find us on the App Store .

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