Have you ever tried to order food in a foreign restaurant or transfer a flight in an airport overseas? That was probably the first time you realized how hard it is to actually use a language that you barely understand. Many people have learned a second or third language, but few of them are able to freely use it when they actually need it. Accent.ai, an application founded by Michael Ashley, addresses this common problem first-hand.
“Accent.ai is giving the users exactly what they need from a language at the exact time they need it,” explains Ashley, a second year Fisher student double majoring in finance and computer science.
Accent.ai is designed to bridge the gap between a language and the application of a language. Instead of using a conjugation chart to learn a language in a classroom setting, the app enables the user to learn the language in a fun way. The lessons fromAccent.ai work the learner through all the communicative, engaging lessons where one can learn everything he or she needs for a given situation —how the language works, how to move around and even how to interact.
The idea spawned from Ashley’s sophomore year in high school while he was living in Spain for the summer. During this experience, Spanish became a tool he used to engage with the family he lived with, create memories with friends, eat amazing food and visit interesting places. He found it surprising that without so much knowledge of Spanish, he was still able to have the same kind of life with the people there. “What’s more than the language itself,” Ashley says, “are the interactions and connections with people.”
Ashley and other Ohio State students began with just an idea of how to solve a real world problem in language learning and invested a year building the app. Luckily, the team was able to pique investors’ interest early and recruit helpful mentors to guide them through the process of funding the app. This summer, they raised over $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. Over the course of a month, they had received different levels of pledged investments from 168 backers. With different levels of pledged investments, Lingohop’s team offers the backers various benefits. For example, if the investor pledges $5,000 or more, they are referred to as “school superhero.” The investor will be linked with the school of his choice up with Lingohop for life.
When asked about tips he’d share for others starting a business, Ashley provides, “Before you really go out to build the product, think about what you really want to build and why you want to build it. Talk with the people who you are building the product for and get feedback from them.”
After initial fundraising, Accent.ai ran a private testing period serving about 200 people and later on publicly launched Accent.ai at the end of 2016. The team then started to focus on promotion to target more concentrated market.
Ashley sees Accent.ai’s future on a more massive scale like universities—that every user of Accent.ai gets a chance to experience the language learning under a real situation just like Ashley experienced in Spain.
“Anywhere there is a need for a language, there is where we can take it,” says Ashley, “What we are trying to do is to grow the business, study along the way and make it as successful as possible.”