5 + 7 = ? – UnlockYourBrain and its unique approach to mobile learning

UYB-Logo300dpi copy 2
UYB-Logo300dpi copy 2


Imagine how many times a day you unlock your phone. You may swipe, since you received a text message, or needed an app for map directions. Chances are you unlock your phone every now and again simply because you have that unavoidable itch to. A report found that on average people check their phones 150 times a day.

What may be an eye-opening statistic for you is encouraging news for the Berlin-based startup UnlockYourBrain. UnlockYourBrain is a free micro learning app that has you answer multiple choice questions on subjects such as mathematics, vocabulary and foreign languages on your lock screen. Choose right, and your phone will unlock.

The app, founded by Felix Nienstaedt and Simon Smend, has been downloaded over 400,000 times and is reported to be used over two million times per day. The startup recently received seed funding from a number of angel investors including Christophe Maire.

UnlockYourBrain claims to have twice the retention rate of other learning apps due to its clever placement format. The startup also claims that it can “double your math skills in 14 days.” What this actually means is that users can double their “problem solving efficiency” in two weeks. In other words, people who use the app over a two-week time frame will double the difficulty of math equations that they can solve in a given time.

To learn more about the one-year-old startup, I visited its offices in Mitte close to where it was previously located when it took part in the Microsoft Ventures accelerator. Now the startup has grown to 14 people. “We are all quite passionate about making things more efficient. We love hacking life. We love shortcuts,” says UnlockYourBrain cofounder Simon Smend on the startup team.


Data and Algorithms 

Smend expressed that the concept of learning especially in young people is a driver behind his idea. Data is a secondary motivation. “We are all about data. It is our key to learning success; it is data that gets us up in the morning. We are very proud of the algorithm behind [UnlockYourBrain].”

The startup’s algorithm is how it brings value to its customer. “The algorithm is always perfectly tailored to the user. We closely track your learning path,” says Smend. Each question has a specific level of difficulty based on how a user performed on previously answered questions. The questions get harder as the user progresses.

A Learning Marketplace

Smend explains that users leave when they have answered all questions, and there nothing left to learn that is available through the app. To curb this, UnlockYourBrain has introduced a marketplace, where users can create and upload their own lessons. According to the startup, 20 new lessons are created on the marketplace everyday. Smend says, “it gives them the opportunity to learn what they want to, and they will share with their friends.”

UnlockYourBrain has not determined a set business model as of yet and is currently in the phase of reaching more people with its product. The team sees a lot of potential in what the product can achieve: “We found that micro learning, in some instances, can be an appropriate substitute for sitting down and learning.” From college students to professionals, UnlockYourBrain claims that “anyone who has some appetite for learning can get something out of [the app].”

Image Credit: UnlockYourBrain