MindSnacks raises $6.5 million from Sequoia to expand educational games

MindSnacks, an educational gaming startup, plans to announce Thursday that it’s raised $6.5 million from Sequoia Capital to add additional subjects like geography and math to its already popular repertoire of language and SAT prep iPhone games.

The San Francisco-based startup was launched in 2010 and currently hosts 14 different educational games for iOS. What makes MindSnacks different from other educational apps or games, according to CEO Jesse Pickard, is that it only requires a user to devote short bursts of attention to receive benefits from the game.

“Apps can be consumed for 90 seconds at a time,” he said. “You don’t need to spend an hour reading through a chapter or listening to a lecture — you can make progress on one word for 30 to 45 seconds and then get back to whatever you’re doing.”

The MindSnacks Learn Spanish app currently ranks third among most-downloaded free education iPhone apps, and the Spanish and French apps are both among the Apple(s appl) App Store’s top 10 grossing education iPhone apps.

Pickard said MindSnacks games have seen more than 4 million downloads so far, and while he doesn’t necessarily view his products as direct competitors to more traditional consumer app games like Angry Birds or Draw Something, he said the apps do necessarily fight for user attention. He’s pleased how MindSnacks games have held up so far, and said he thinks they ultimately produce more value for users.

“We’re stealing time away from these somewhat useless games that are great and entertaining, but that don’t have that positive impact at the end of the day for users in terms of leanring and self-improvement,” he said.

The funding from Sequoia will allow MindSnacks to hire additional talent to expand and develop geography and math games to accompany its popular language and SAT prep games, which are free to download but offer in-app upgrades.

Pickard spoke with GigaOM’s Chris Albrecht earlier this year about the importance of developing an empathetic approach to understanding your users: