How Toucan Co-Founder and CTO Shaun Merritt Hacked the Art of Language-Learning


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Today’s guest is Shawn Merritt the co-founder and CTO of Toucan, a Chrome extension that allows you to learn a new language while you browse the internet. Shaun, together with his other co-founders, found a way to level up the existing habits that people already have by creating a chrome extension that allows users the opportunity to passively learn a language without taking any time out of their day. Tune in to find out how Toucan works, and how it is different from other language-learning platforms. Shaun gives us some insight into how the company was established and how it has grown and achieved a vast amount of success in just two years. Hear about their journey thus far, how they are monetizing this product, marketing it, and how they use advertising as a deeper form of learning through their ingenious “Own The Word” concept.


  • [00:41] Shaun explains how he and his co-founders came up with the idea for Toucan.
  • [01:29] How Toucan works to teach people new languages passively without taking time out of their day.
  • [01:58] How Toucan is different from other language-learning platforms.
  • [02:54] How it launched, people’s reactions to it, and how they grew and monetized it.
  • [04:12] A case study example of how to use Toucan.
  • [05:05] The most common languages used and requested.
  • [06:08] Insight into the different difficulty settings and how it adapts as you learn.
  • [06:57] How Toucan works as a passive form of engagement to enable people to progress quickly.
  • [07:42] How they make money through premium features.
  • [09:00] How they use advertising as a deeper form of learning through their ‘Own the word’ concept.’
  • [09:33] How partnerships with advertisers work.
  • [10:09] How are they growing through word of mouth, ‘own the word’, and partnerships.
  • [11:35] The grand vision for Toucan: To find ways to teach other things passively too.
  • [12:07] Shaun’s favorite business tool Obsidian, and favorite business book Thinking in Systems.
  • [12:56] Bonus question: Where Shaun gets his information from.

Resources From The Interview:

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