President Barack Obama hosted more than 30 startups at the first-ever White House Demo Day, including a language-learning mobile app, a smart teddy bear named Jerry and a baby monitor that measures vital signs.
In a typical Demo Day for new companies, teams pitch to prospective investors. But this was not typical. At the White House recently, budding startups had a different opportunity—pitching to the President of the United States.
As part of the Startup America initiative to promote entrepreneurial endeavors, President Barack Obama hosted more than 30 startups at the first-ever White House Demo Day, including a language-learning mobile app, a smart teddy bear named Jerry, and a baby monitor that measures vital signs.
“If you are going to present to the president, you want it to be perfect,” said Gina Gotthilf of Duolingo, a free language-learning mobile app that was voted Apple’s iPhone App of the Year in 2013.
Luis von Ahn, inventor of reCAPTCHAand co-founder of Duolingo, told the president that there are about 1.2 billion people in the world learning foreign languages in order to get a better job or to escape poverty. But traditional methods can be expensive.
“I decided to make an app that would teach languages entirely free,” Ahn said. “And today it’s the most popular way to learn languages in the entire world.”
The app, which is designed to look like a game, capitalizes on the addictive quality of mobile gaming applications to teach users vocabulary, reading, writing and speaking.
Obama joked that if he wanted to “spruce up on his Spanish” he would download the app, but he’s “not allowed” to have a smart phone right now.
“It was inspiring to see the president interested in improving language education in the United States,” Gotthilf said. Read more: click on image or title.
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