Livemocha Wins Startup Award, Wants to Teach You the International Language
“Language lessons,” says the Korean sportscaster in his Howard Cosell voice at the end of Better Off Dead. It’s what allowed Lane Meyer (played by John Cusack) to ski the K-12 on one ski, and 23 years later, it’s still the key to building relationships in global business. So when we heard on Friday that Livemocha, a Bellevue, WA-based online language-learning startup, had won the NWSource People’s Picks 2008 award for “favorite startup,” we were eager to find out more.
Livemocha beat out 10 other fellow finalists including AdaQuest, Evri, and Xconomy (yes, really—we have no idea who voted for us, but thank you). Last year’s winner was Zillow, so Livemocha is in good company. The NWSource writeup cites Livemocha’s “model of diversity, with employees from India, China, Japan, Iran and the Ukraine, to name a few,” and its “very robust Ping-Pong culture.” Evri, for its part, has a Ping-Pong table, but not a Ping-Pong culture, according to one employee. Here at Xconomy, we have none of the above, but we’re working on it.
But seriously, Livemocha has been steadily building its Web 2.0 e-learning service, which lets users around the world chat in their native language online and by video with people who want to learn foreign-language skills. The year-old startup, led by co-founder and CEO Shirish Nadkarni, has garnered lots of media attention and surpassed one million registered members in September. Last January, Nadkarni announced Livemocha had closed a $6 million venture round led by Seattle-based Maveron. (By coincidence, another investor is Sunny Gupta, whose new company Apptio we profiled today.) It all sounds like a perfect application for social networks, as long as the user interface is fun, reliable, and easy to use.
No word yet on whether I can find someone to teach me that Howard Cosell accent, but there are at least 11 major languages on offer…