At The Brain Gym


Today over 14 million people in 180 countries either subscribe to Lumosity’s website or have downloaded one of its iPhone apps. And revenues have grown 25% every quarter since its launch.

Never heard of it? Never worked out in one of their Brain Gyms? Here’s the story and it tells us a good deal about the future of learning since that grey matter in tour head that’s deciphering these words right now – actually a few nanoseconds before you get the message – will grow old.

Back up to 2007 …

Lumosity was a scrappy startup looking for seed money. Today, the San Francisco-based company that creates games to make your brain work better is announcing it’s landed over $32 million in new funding. 1,2,3,4 years and counting from $0 to $32M.

Quite the ride. But why you ask …

Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners recently told Fast Company the investment story. “When we first invested, we were concerned this was just a niche area for people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems. But Lumosity has proved there’s universal demand for this among all demographics.”

A universal demand. That means you, me and a lot of other brains. Sharp Brains, a market research firm tracking the brain fitness space, estimates that the size of the market for digital products was just under $300 million in 2009.

And they estimate that it will grow to at least $2 billion by 2015. That US$2B.

When you sigh up at Lumosity’s website,  it starts a process in which go through a series of questions to figure out whether you want to improve your ability to remember names, get better at problem solving, or perhaps develop better concentration. Luminosity then designs a series of “courses” tailored to your particular interests.

The “courses” consist of 40 games designed to sharpen a wide range of cognitive skills.

For example, one game is about numbers. Arithmetic problems appear in bubbles, and you need to solve them before the bubble bursts. In a word game, you and several other players are given a three-letter prefix like “pre”.  You must come up with as many words as possible while a clock counts down. The clock is counting how many can you come up with?

(Hint: prescient, preface, presence, prefix, pre-test, preview, pre, you get the idea.

Lumosity CEO Kunal Sarkar believes that brain fitness is the latest wave in the trend of healthy living. For the last 25 years people have been running to the gym, running at the gym, trying to bend over backwards for a yoga class, filling up the parking lots at Whole Foods and organic Farmer’s Markets. So think of it as a gym membership for brain. A subscription costs $14.95 a month or $80.00 a year.

Okay, 10 seconds starts now, how much does a yearly subscription save you, do the math …

This is not really out there anymore. The neuroscience research coming out of universities in the past 20 years has proven that cognitive abilities – your ability to think, reason, concentrate and more – are not fixed. Just as you can pump up by pumping iron , the games that Lumosity lets you play really can make your brain stronger, faster, better and smarter.

Let’s face it. More and more who work in this new Digital Economy rely on how well the grey matter between our ears between our ears functions. Smarter at work is better at work. Lumosity users include traders in Chicago who use the tools as a brain warm up before charging onto the fast-paced trading floor, actors in Los Angeles who need to memorize a script before an audition, even pilots who want to improve their spatial abilities, their reaction times and quick thinking skills before wheels up.

And here’s the kicker that started this whole post. Again from Lumosity CEO Kunal Sarkar. “We don’t necessarily teach you anything but we make it easier for you to learn new things, which is more and more important.” Holy Brain Gym Batperson! Imagine a company that not only provides a gym gym for your body but adds in a Brain Gym for you brain…

Like I said, in this new global hyper-competitive digital economy, only the companies with the highest Corporate IQ will win. A Brain Gym might just be the new espresso maker of the next decade.

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