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Vietnam’s mobile app wins US education startup competition

A mobile app created by two Vietnamese and one Spanish developers to help English language learners improve their pronunciation has won an education startup competition in the US.


ELSA’s looks on an Android phone. Photo credit: VnExpress

ELSA‘s founders Van Dinh Hong Vu, Ngo Thuy Ngoc Tu, and Xavier Anguera were honored at the Texas-based education event SXSWedu on Thursday, after beating nine other finalists of its Launch startup competition.

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Admit.Me, ELSA, Words Liive Finalists in SXSWedu Launch

NARROW THE FIELD: A diverse group of edtech startups pitched their businesses to a full room of educators, investors and fellow entrepreneurs at SXSWedu Launch on Tuesday. The ten participating companies ran the edtech gamut from a game teaching organic chemistry to a marketplace coaching foreign students on soft skills.

Three companies were selected as finalists in the competition:

Admit.Me: Admit.Me connects college applicants with current students & experts at those colleges. The product’s goal is to provide students with more attention than the typical high school guidance counselor can provide, at a lower price than a private admissions consultant. Founder and CEO Kofi Kankam explained, “We envision that some day universities will be able to search for students the way we search for tickets on Kayak.”

ELSA: ELSA helps English language learners to improve their accent, pitch and intonation when speaking English. The app, which has not yet been released publicly, listens to the way that users pronounce words and provides specific feedback on how to improve pronunciation, for example, “Use a harsher ‘sh’ sound at the end of the word ‘flesh.’” The genesis of the app is rooted in founder Vu Van’s personal experience: “When I arrived for my first day at Stanford Graduate School of Business, I wanted to ask for the ‘information sheet.’ Instead I requested the ‘information s**t.’”

Words Liive: Words Liive helps students understand grammar concepts by comparing classic texts to contemporary song lyrics. For example, explained founder and president Sage Salvo, students are more apt to understand a metaphor by Shakespeare (“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs”) if it is compared to a metaphor in a John Legend song (“Our love’s an asylum / where you go I go.”)

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Press Release – ELSA Announced Winner at SXSWedu 2016 Launch Competition

Austin, TX: Today, ELSA is proud and honored to be selected as the winner of the SXSWedu 2016 Launch Competition. Vu Van, ELSA Co-founder & CEO pitched in two rounds at the competition in Austin in front of esteemed judges who are education experts and leaders in investments, startups, schools and classrooms. ELSA is a mobile app for language learners to improve pronunciation and reduce accent, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. ELSA is recognized for its innovative approach and its vision for solving one pressing skill for 1.5 billion English language learners in the world.

“Winning the competition is a humbling experience for us. We’re honored, grateful, and especially even more reminded that we’re working on solving a real education problem with a technology solution that is scalable all over the world. The experience further motivates our team to keep moving ahead with our development and commercialization plans in Asia and the U.S.” – said Vu Van at the competition.

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ELSA is the winner at SXSWedu Launch

We are the winning team. The first Vietnamese team ever won at the biggest competition for EdTech startups in the world.

Selected from a large number of competing teams all over the world with innovative tech products aiming to help solve problems in education, ELSA was among the top 10 best teams and after a convincing 3-minute pitch – advanced straight to the top 3 finalists of the competition.


ELSA’s CEO & co-founder – Vu Van – is pitching in front of SXSWedu judges.

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It’s an ELSA Day! :)

ELSA Pronunciation app ~ Google Play Store

To me, February has a lot to celebrate. Today is one of those important days. After lots of sleepless nights, ELSA Speak app is finally available on Google Play Store for beta testing.

As we build ELSA, we are working one step closer to our dream of equal opportunities for all. That in this flat and borderless world, English should never be a barrier that stops us reaching the fullest potential. That speaking should be joyful, not fearful. That all accents are accepted, as long as we can fully understand each other. That all biases regarding accents should be reduced / removed, and our real talent should speak for itself at the workplace.

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New year resolutions for speaking better English (or ELSA’s guide to discover yourself and the world)

2015 has come to an end. New Year, as always, is the time for reflection: what you have achieved, and what what you have not yet. However, more importantly, New Year is the time for setting new goals – so that by the end of next year, you can look back and see whether you are getting closer to where you wanna be.

ELSA has had a wonderful year as I got the chance to meet and help so many people practice and be more confident when speaking English. And on this New Year occasion, I want to make my own resolution, too. That is, to help more and more people overcome the language barrier and let their voice be heard and cherished.

How about yours?

In case you want to speak better English in the next year, here are a few suggestions from ELSA.

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