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Entrepreneur Of The Month: Luis von Ahn

Luis von Ahn, Entrepeneur, Duolingo, Captcha, ReCaptcha

From Guatemala To The World, The Creator of Duolingo, Captcha and ReCaptcha.

Born in Guatemala City and with German ancestors (I know his last name attracts attention), Luis Von Ahn was always a lover of mathematics. As a child, he asked his mother for a Nintendo and received a computer instead. With no other choices, he had to learn how to use it and create his own games. Since he could not study Mathematics at grade level in Guatemala, he applied for scholarships at several US universities. At age 17,he  entered Duke University located in North Carolina. Yes, at 17

He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Duke University and later a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Today at age 38, he holds a number of awards and recognitions.  In this collection of awards are a PECASE, the Highest U.S. Honor for Young Research Scientists given by former President Barak Obama, in 2012.

Captcha and ReCaptcha

Captcha are those words that are distorted and appear on the internet before we register somewhere or buy something. It was an original idea that started for Ticketmaster but today it is used on thousands of web pages.

Luis von Ahn, Entrepeneur, Duolingo, Captcha, ReCaptcha

The function of Captcha and ReCaptcha today is not only to avoid spam and cybercrime, but also to help with the digitization of millions of books. How? At the time of scanning books there are many words that the computer cannot distinguish or interpret. These words are selected and added to the ReCaptcha. This is where we must fill in the blank with words or letters that the computer recognizes as valid. Therefore, it not only contributes to security but also to the digitization of books for everyone on the internet.

Von Ahn was 29 years old when he became a millionaire by selling Recaptcha to Google. He admitted that he decided to retire but that only lasted for a week.

Duolingo, passion for education

After just two years working for Google and helping to integrate Recaptcha, Duolingo came along.  A social project aimed at free learning of languages like French, Italian or German among others. Duolingo today functions as a website and mobile app and also gives the opportunity for a certification in the English language.

Luis von Ahn, Entrepeneur, Duolingo, Captcha, ReCaptcha

The idea of Duolingo comes from an experience in his native Guatemala: “I believe that education must create equality. However, in my country the education is very divided. He who has money has the opportunity to receive a very good education and continue to have a lot of money. While those who do not have much money cannot get educated so and their situation can only get worse. Because education is very general, I thought of something that many people would like to learn, and that is to learn another language. ”

Today Duolingo has more than 150 million users. “There are more people learning languages with Duolingo than in the US Public School System,” said von Ahn in an interview with Lifehacker.

The next project he has in mind is a similar app that allows people with no resources to learn to read and write, also for free. Amazing!

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Entrepreneur Of The Month: Luis von Ahn


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