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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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