Nulu: A Fresh Take on Learning Languages
Sep 21, 2012
When we last covered San Diego startup Nulu, the application was pre-launch, and the team was readying to revolutionize foreign language instruction.
Today, Nulu has been incorporated into the curriculum of well over one hundred universities, closed a seed funding round, got accepted into the EvoNexus incubator, is fresh from winning the Hottest Showcasing Startup title at our Tech Cocktail San Diego mixer, and just launched a new service in Mexico that enables Spanish- and English-speaking users to have discussions with each other.
All in the span of ten months.
How is Nulu different from the Spanish class you remember from high school? Fresh, interactive content, that’s how. Nulu translates current news content into Spanish – sports, entertainment, politics – and it is way more engaging that anything you’ll find in a textbook.
For instance: Yahoo! ¡Hackeado!
Via the context of current events, the human-translated articles expose students to real-world vocabulary (e.g., “hacked”), expanding on what’s taught in the classroom. Readers can self-check their skills by hovering over the sentence to see the English translation of the text. Additionally, users can hear a native speaker read the text, which aids in pronunciation.
Nulu’s application is targeting itself as a supplement to formal language training in universities and high schools. “We started off with the academic market to get validation by some of the toughest critics – instructors and professors,” says cofounder Avi Stieglitz.
Nulu was conceived by Eitan “Ace” Geft, who spent the last ten years teaching English to students of all ages in the US and Asia. Geft and Stieglitz have been friends since childhood, and they found cofounder David Allison through a crafty stunt involving a sandwich board.
Geft and Stieglitz went to a tech networking event in San Diego to find a technical cofounder. Geft employed the very low-tech but apparently very effective method of wearing a sandwich board listing the programming skills they were looking for. “He got a lot of attention,” laughs Stieglitz.
Allison was at the event and was then CTO of BrightScope, a successful financial analytics company. As he learned more about Nulu, he was intrigued. “We’re looking at a global market that has a billion and a half people trying to learn English, spending over $85 billion a year,” explains Stieglitz. After advising the team for a few months, Allison came on full-time, and is now the third partner.
“We’re looking to create a global conversation around the articles we have produced,” says Stieglitz.