Speaking and understanding a new language can be difficult and frustrating. Time2Talk helps tackle that problem by connecting users with native speakers in their home countries. The app, which was launched with Spanish coaches, allows people to practice the language at any time and pay a per-minute fee.
“When you are in the process of learning a language, you go through the steps of basic grammar and structure, sentences, then work on listening skills and writing skills,” said Marina Jackman, who founded the company with her husband, Chris Jackman. “You come to a point in which you have to talk to keep advancing. You have to speak to people and communicate.”
The app, which became available in July 2020, was created to solve a problem faced by the couple.
They met in Barcelona in 2015. Chris Jackman, who grew up in the U.S., was working for Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and Marina Jackman, who is from Argentina, was studying for a master’s degree.
“He helped me with English, and I helped him with Spanish,” she said.
They both started studying French when he was told his company was transferring him to France.
“We both went to Paris and took a five-week intensive course,” she said.
The classes included going out and practicing the language with residents.
“It was a great dynamic and it is the best way to learn and retain information,” she said.
Before they had time to settle in France, the couple moved to Cleveland in the spring of 2017, when Chris Jackman took a job as a sports agent with Team8 Sports & Entertainment in Pepper Pike. His new firm wanted him to continue to learn French, but it was difficult with them both working, she said.
“Nothing was convenient for us,” she said of tutors and online tools. “One day my husband called me and said he was driving and it would be awesome if he could call his French tutor right now and speak.”
That led Marina Jackman to begin researching the idea of creating an app to allow that to happen. She spoke to people in software development and potential users. In fall 2019, she quit her job at a digital marketing company to work full-time on Time2Talk. Her husband is not actively involved with the company.
The app allows people to sign in at any time and connect with a coach living in Latin America who is online as well. The user pays a $1.50 connection fee then 22 cents a minute. The total cost for an hour of conversation is $14.70.
The user can choose the topic for their conversation, such as food, business or travel.
Coaches receive $8.58 of the $14.70 hourly fee.
The business has been funded by family and friends, she said. She did not want to say how much has been invested. She is seeking investors and is working with mentors from JumpStart Inc., a nonprofit venture development organization. She became involved with JumpStart after she attended an event for Latina entrepreneurs just before the pandemic. Time2Talk has great potential, said Ron Stubblefield, an entrepreneur-in-residence at JumpStart who is coaching and advising the business.
He said Jackman signed up more users in a shorter period of time than expected and is attracting them from around the country.
Stubblefield is the first shared entrepreneur-in-resident for the Economic Community Development Institute, the Hispanic Business Center, the President’s Council and the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. Cuyahoga County and the state of Ohio provided funding for the initiative.
“My role is to assist entrepreneurs such as Marina and work through challenges their businesses face,” he said. “The larger initiative is diversity among tech entrepreneurship.”
He is confident that Jackman can grow the company once the pandemic eases, and he is working with her to put together a plan to present to investors.
He said when he discussed her app in JumpStart team meetings there was a “true consensus that here’s a company that’s going to be successful.”
This article originally appeared in Crain’s Cleveland Business on January 30, 2021