A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:
What: Livemocha, Bellevue
Who: Shirish Nadkarni, 47, CEO
Mission: Teach languages in an online, interactive social format.
Popularity contest:Nadkarni said the company, which lists 13 languages available for instruction, has attracted 800,000 users from 200 countries
Most Read Business Stories
The most in-demand languages are Spanish and French. The countries with the most Livemocha clients are China and Brazil.
One word at a time: The course work consists of self-paced online exercises. Initially, the students go through specific sections with a recommended completion time of one week. After the first three months they are set loose on the network, where they interact with other members who are native speakers. In turn, those people are looking to learn English. People can teach each other their respective native languages on a one-on-one basis, or they can interact with a variety of different people.
Equal time: “These are real-world exercises like what you did on your vacation,” Nadkarni said. “Verb conjugation and vocabulary are not the best ways to learn a language.”
Financials: The privately funded corporation recently received $6 million in venture funding. It has no source of income, as the service is free.
While it is exploring the idea of advertising support and a charge for premium services, the most promising revenue stream is the development of language-competency tests to be used in the screening of new employees.
Majority rules: While some seek language skills for personal enrichment or to better communicate on a vacation, others have a more urgent motivation. Nadkarni points out people in some countries can double their income by gaining proficiency in English.
“When you go out of your way to understand another culture or language it goes a long way to build successful relationships,” he said.
— Charles Bermant