GES 2014: casually teaches you a new language

GES 2014: casually teaches you a new language

GES 2014: casually teaches you a new language

Toward the final event in our Global Education Startups competition, to be held on September 15th, the next few posts will highlight the 4 winners of the Israeli “chapter”, announced in mid-July. We are starting with, which was crowned the winner. is the outcome of a meeting between two unlikely collaborators: Dr. Jan Ihmels, with a Ph.D. in Computational Biology, and a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Physics; and Dr. Orly Fuhrman,  with a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and undergraduate and masters degrees in Psychology and French Language and Literature.

How do computational Biology and Physics go together with Cognitive Psychology and French Language? Well, if you think about how actually does what it does, it all makes sense. helps you learn another language, but instead of forcing you to go through a dedicated course and ready-made content, it sort of dresses itself on top of the content you access with your browser, via an extension. You continue to surf and read, and whenever you come across an unfamiliar word in the language you chose, offers to translate it for you.

 Dr. Jan Ihmels, co-founder

Then, but not immediately, tests you to see if that word’s translation has sunk in. The process is based on the “Spaced Repetition System” (SRS), a concept which is based on the service showing you the information you need to remember in intervals which are timed so you will not forget it, but would also not feel it is turning into a burden.

It does so by popping up a quiz, but here’s where all that computational Biology and Language merger comes into place: behind the scenes always analyzes your interactions with the foreign-language words. If it sees that you have not checked that word’s translation again, even though it appeared in several items you read afterwards, it assumes you have integrated the meaning of that word into your updated vocabulary. An accompanying Android and brand new iOS app continue the learning process – for both the user and –  on the go.

“Whenever you come across a new word you don’t understand, we create a flash card which from then onwards documents your interaction with that word”, explains Ihmels. “The fact that we base your learning process of existing content from the web not only saves us the time and effort in creating it, but enables us to get to know you better and serve you with content we think would interest you – mostly from news outlets. By this we create a better chance you will understand that content, using our help, and improve the whole learning process”.


 Dr. Orly Fuhrman, co-founder

A platform for partnerships

With 10 employees, currently supports 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew. Ihmels admits that works best with users who have some basic vocabulary in the language they want to learn more of. In fact, when asked about’s competitive environment, Imhels says that most notable names – some of which have been around for many years (like Rosetta Stone) and some are more recent entrants (like Doulingo) – are meant to take the user/customer from “nothing” to a fairly good understanding of the language, and therefore can actually be a great partner for them. “We offer a platform that uses existing content, and our strength is in the analysis of the user’s progress, so combining their content and our platform can produce a better process”., it seems from Imhels description, is the language-learning equivalent of casual gaming. It is meant to enhance your understanding of a new language in a process which takes place in short bursts and unplanned time intervals. “It is relevant for people who are planning a trip to a foreign country and want to both read about that country in its own language, and familiarize themselves with relevant words they will probably need during their time there”, he says. “We do not teach grammar, but we help you understand what is going on – in another language”. Furthermore, since developed a platform, it can be used in other markets and content environments, and Imhels hints that the company might pursue this path in the future.

Where will the revenues come from? Apart from partnering with other companies, plans to offer paid premium services to its users sometime this fall. So far, the company has raised about $800k from private investors, and is currently working towards completing another round of financing, including a grant from the Israeli chief scientist’s office.