The BBC’s weekly The Boss series publishes biographies of business leaders from different countries around the world. This week Luis von Ahn, co-founder and CEO of the language learning app Duolingo, has been talking to. If anyone is skeptical of the positive impact of immigration, he may be called Luis von Ahn, who teaching 300 million people a new language.
The 41-year-old from Guatemala, a Central American country, moved to the United States in 1996 at Duke University in North Carolina at the age of 18 to study mathematics. He then studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Luis von Ahn wanted to be a professor of computer science who specializes in “people-based computing.” Simply put, it refers to how humans and computers can solve complex tasks in the most efficient way.
He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship Program in the United States for his outstanding contribution to the cause. It is also known as “genius or genius grant”, because it must be talented to get it.
Luis von Ahn then became a billionaire at a quota of just 30, selling not one but two businesses to Google. We all still use the technology he sold to the search engine giant, which will be described later.
Currently, Luis von Ahn is the co-founder and head of the Pittsburgh-based company Duolingo. Duolingo is the most popular language learning app in the world, used by 30 million people worldwide.
Sweet-spoken and handsome, Luis von Ahn politely says that the biggest factor behind her success is that she has had the opportunity to learn English from an early age. The Spanish-born user said that his doctor’s mother insisted on learning English from a very young age.
His middle class family had enough money by which he was sent to a private English language school in the capital, Guatemala. Luis von Ahn said it certainly gave him some extra benefits than most Guatemala citizens. As a World Bank, about half of the country’s population lives in poverty, of which 9% is very poor. Many do not get education.
Duolingo has been the inspiration behind the creation of a language-learning app for people in Guatemala or elsewhere in the world, so that they have an economic advantage that is largely dependent on multilingualism.
“I wanted to do something that would give everyone an equal opportunity to learn,” said Luis. “Then I emphasized the language because as I grew up in Guatemala I saw that everyone wanted to learn English.”
“And knowing English in a non-English country means that your income potential will be doubled. I mean, if you know English, you can earn twice as much. So the plan to find a way to learn free language comes from there, and that is Duolingo.”
Luis von Ahn and co-founder Severin Hacker started working on the app in 2009. Lewis was a professor at Carnegie Mellon at the time, and Severin was one of his students. Duolingo was launched in 2012 with the specialty of linguistics and language remembering, primarily for learning English, French and Spanish.
“I was fortunate enough because when we started, I gave a TED talk that saw 2 million people, and it provided enough users for Duolingo at an early stage.” “But from then until 2019, we were spreading only for the positive, because in that time, we didn’t do any advertising or marketing.”
Currently there are over 100 courses in 28 languages in Duolingo. The most popular of these are English, Spanish and French. Although there are opportunities to learn all kinds of languages, from Arabic to Ukrainian. There are also courses on language learning in Duolingo, Wales, Navajo, Gaelic and Hawaiian, with a focus on promoting the language of minorities.
A senior lecturer at the Open University of Scotland. Sylvia Warneca said she was overwhelmed to know that they had worked with top Gaelic speakers last year to launch the Gaelic language course.
“Duolingo has been criticized by many who say that it is not possible to master a language using it … but it is a great way to start learning,” he said.
“For many, learning a language is a lot of exercise and they don’t even have time to attend weekly formal classes. For them, apps like Duolingo serve as a very valuable option.”
Duolingo now has an annual profit of $ 9 million. Of this, $ 150 million comes in for free ads used when the app is shown. And the rest of the $ 750 million profit comes from 2 percent of users who use the ad-free premium version of the app.
“If you are constantly using Duolingo and you are financially viable you should pay us, that’s what my intelligence says,” said Luis.
“But if you’re a citizen of a developing country and you don’t have that much money, you can use the free version. That’s what I think.”
Duolingo, which currently operates with 200 employees, Luis von Ahn is hoping it will return to the stock market by 2021. He says that most of the business is his but it has a small stake so that some outside investors have invested.
Looking back a bit, the two businesses that Lewis mentioned to Google that we sell to are ESP Games and Recaptcha.
ESP, complete with Extra Sensory Perception, is an online video game where two people participate but they cannot interact with anyone, they have to pick a sound to convey a picture. They both get one point when they pick the same word, and then they are given another picture. Since 2006, Google has been using this technology to develop their image search software.
Meanwhile, Recaptcha is now a worldwide system where a Google-related website asks you to type in some curly or jarring words to prove that you are not a “bot” or malware. An estimated 200 million people use it every day that Luis discovered. Recapaca was owned by Luis, which Google bought in 2009 with an eight-figure unpublished money.
The small amount of information that is known in this regard is that the words to be written are not based on logic. Instead, when Google is trying to convert an old book into a digital version, the words that it needs to gain momentum for its software are selected.
So every time you take a security test like this, you work as a Google paid employee. In fact, when 10,000 people agree on the spelling of a certain word, Google takes it right.
When he returned to Duolingo, Luis von Ahn said he was proud to be able to help so many people learn a new language. “We’re delivering language education to everyone for free,” he said.
Source : BBC, Image : Flickr