Let me introduce you to a cool start-up you might not have heard about before. Say hi, moi, ciao, hej and sveiki to Bliu Bliu. They’re a small team from Lithuania that look set to make a big impact on the language learning scene with a fresh new approach. Using a learners own input and their algorithms Bliu Bliu work out how many words in a foreign language the learner understands, then their tool looks to match text from many sources to the person’s ability to both give them something to read that will increase their confidence in what they know and gradually introduce them to new words in a natural way.
I spoke with Claudio Santori, CEO of Bliu Bliu, to find out more about where they have come from and how they want to reach out and grow in the future.
Bliu Bliu’s approach to language learning is to build upon what you already know of a language. From the first time you use the site you are given text and told to highlight the words you do not understand. Very quickly its smart algorithm begins to look for pieces of text that mostly contains words you know with only a small percentage you don’t. This allows you to, hopefully, understand what you are reading and learn a small, manageable amount as well by guessing a word’s meaning from the context of the text. Bliu Bliu pulls in blogs and news articles from rss feeds; free first chapters from books available on Amazon; and content provided and recommended by other users to find you the best material to read. They are also developing a system to categorise topics so that they will be able to tell what your interests are and provide you with stuff that you would actually enjoy reading, helping to make the learning process more enjoyable.
Born out of Startup Weekend Lithuania in March of this year the website has seen 80% growth per month to reach 31,000 current users engaged in learning one of the 94 languages available. Growth so far has been targeted through bloggers and professionals who specialise in language learning and Santori says he’s really happy with the level of engagement he’s seen from users, not only in the amount of time they have spent learning, but also in the feedback they have provided to the team to help improve the service.
Now is the time to try out the service for yourself as it’s currently free with only a suggested 10€ a month voluntary donation to help support the growth and development of the site. Bliu Bliu say that they will keep a small ‘daily dose’ level of functionality available to all for free but they are looking at charging a monthly fee for those intensive users that want to use the site a lot, or who would like to learn a lot of languages at once. There are also additional ideas to raise money by providing recommendations to users for movies, shows and books they could purchase based on their current level of ability.
Bliu Bliu have big plans going forward as well, right now they are only a five person team but they are actively seeking investors and look to raise 500,000€ in new capital to fund their growth. They are looking to grow their team up to sixteen people, improve the front end and user experience of the website and develop a mobile application to compliment the website and enable subscribers to learn on the go and not just at a computer. They also recognise that while their service is excellent for reinforcing and developing your ability in a language it is not yet fully beginner friendly, so they want to be able to dedicate resources and time to improving that as well.
The team seem to be high on confidence right now, coming off the back of wins at IdeaLab 13 in Germany where they won the Startup Battle of the Cities, and in Riga at Tech Chill Baltics 2013, they will soon be back in Germany for the Startup Activation Berlin competition where they are one of nine finalists in line to win a 30,000€ grand prize. Even Google have taken notice of this small team and recently invited them to their offices in Dublin and offered to help Bliu Bliu optimize their marketing strategy once they are ready to publicize themselves widely.
Bliu Bliu will be at Slush next week so why not stop by and check them out. This is a startup with a fantastic idea that will help a lot of people and it’s being implemented really well. As a Brit living in Finland I’m always looking out for anything that will make learning Finnish easier and more enjoyable, and Bliu Bliu seems to do just that. What language are you learning?