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Category Archives: Startups Transforms The Web Into A Language-Learning Opportunity Transforms The Web Into A Language-Learning Opportunity

Learning a language with the help of texts that were specifically written for learners is one thing, but over time, that tends to get boring and once you venture out to read “real” texts, you quickly realize how artificial the texts for learners are. With, a smart language-learning startup out of Israel that is officially launching today, the entire web becomes a platform for language learning.

Thanks to a patent-pending natural language processing technique, indexes texts on the web in Spanish, English, French, Hebrew and Arabic. After you’ve taken a few vocabulary quizzes and used the service for a little while, will be able to recommend real texts for you based on the vocabulary you already know and the difficulty of the text. is a Chrome plug-in, so it’ll automatically prompt you to take new quizzes, personalized for you, as you browse the web. You can also use the plug-in to get recommendations for texts that are appropriate for your reading levels and mark up texts or browse’s dictionary as you visit any site on the web. will remember the words you looked up and will start including those in your quizzes and base its reading recommendations on your knowledge. That’s definitely the strength of the service: it integrates with your daily web browsing habits and lets you learn new words as you go along.


The company’s founders Orly Fuhrman, a Stanford Ph.D. and Jan Ihmels, a Weizmann Institute of Science Ph.D., told me last week that they realized that the web presents a new opportunity for language learning that most language-learning startups have ignored so far. If everything on the web is personalized, Fuhrman said, why is most language-learning software still based on pre-written lessons? Language learning with artificial texts, she argued, will allow you to get the basics down, but it also makes language learning boring., then, finds the online content that’s right for your learning needs and even takes your personal interest into account (say you want to read about sports, business, travel, politics or celebrity gossip). With this service, even your Facebook feed could become a language-learning opportunity.


The focus here is squarely on vocabulary, but as the founders told me, as you read new texts, you will automatically pick up some grammar, as well. It’s worth noting, though, that is probably best used as a complement to existing language learning programs, and maybe even a traditional classroom setting.

The founders say they may expand to more languages, grammar and launch some paid features, as well. For now, is already well worth a try if you are learning a new language.

Teams, This Baltimore Startup Has The Answer To Sharing Passwords

When you’re collaborating remotely or even if you’re working in the same office, sometimes it’s necessary for teams to share passwords. Here at Nibletz our core team needs to share site passwords, social passwords, analytics passwords, and more.

There isn’t really an easy way to share passwords amongst your team.  If you’re a team with employees rather than just co-founders, there may be a risk in sharing a spreadsheet filled with all of your important passwords. If there is a great element of trust on your team it can just be cumbersome and inconvenient.

Well a Baltimore startup called, TeamPassword (see how easy that is to remember) has come up with a way to share passwords across your teammates and keep them safe and secure.

We got a chance to talk with Alex Zaremba about TeamPassword. Check out our interview below.

In Berlin, Are Startups Really Solving Problems?

Some problems are deeply meaningful and urgent: malaria, access to clean water, AIDS.

Others, like which smartphone app to occupy one’s short attention span on the subway ride home, are considerably less so. And, for all the hype surrounding Berlin’s emerging startup scene, it has produced far more trivial solutions, such as games and socially connective apps, than solutions for humanity’s most pressing challenges.

This isn’t just endemic to Germany’s capital but rather international startup culture as a whole. It’s often more about building sandcastles in the sky and quickly selling off hot air to the highest bidder than creating a better world.

The Founders Fund, a San Francisco venture capital group that might be best-known for its early investment in Facebook, addresses this lack in a manifesto subtitled, “We wanted flying cars. Instead we got 140 characters.”

Technological innovation has the potential to transform the quality of life for billions, and yet creativity and passion are thrown-away on the creation of yet another social-media platform.

Startup scenes run the risk of being too obsessed with themselves, collectively reinforcing trivial motivations rather than meaningful movements. Berlin’s relative newbie status on the global market might very well work to its advantage, however; still in its infancy, the city’s startup culture could mature in innumerable ways.

The Berlin tech scene is definitely attracting a lot of hype, but it needs to grow. Part of its maturation process is the development of community platforms for substantive engagement about what Silicon Allee currently represents and, more importantly, what it has the potential to become.

Apex Power sessions, a series of symposiums founded by Ari Stein and Jordan Michaeli, are spearheading a Berlin start-up culture in a better direction.

“If you input a Google search for ‘Socially Aware Startup Berlin,’ the first result that comes up are the Power Sessions,” Stein says.

“Is our city’s startup ecosystem really so soft on social awareness? Jordan and I both came from the startup scene, and we noticed a glaring gap in the market for constructive discussion about where we’re heading and how we can move forward, based on questions that are affecting us everyday.”

The Apex Power Sessions are a lecture series developed over the past six months, with the aim of putting Berlin’s young visionaries in contact with established, international greats. Previous guests have included Red Bull Music Academy Co-Founder Many Ameri, Bread & Butter VP Sebastian Hennecke, Former Team Europe Co-Founder Pawel Chudzinski, Absolut Vodka Global Marketing Manager Franz Drack, and Google’s Director of Marketing for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland Barbara Freyduni, among others.

At 50 Euro a pop, approximately 50 paying guests have the opportunity to participate in a three hour, town hall meeting style format, in which some of the world’s biggest players openly field questions from small-time Berliners who want to put themselves on the map as well.

What makes these sessions so unique is that they’re held in an intimate environment where attendees can hang out and mingle with successful enterprise leaders. A natural, early partner for the Apex Power Sessions was the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, a unique (and still relatively unknown institution) helping groom creative leaders of tomorrow.

Google was so impressed by the Power Sessions format that Stein and Michaeli have been invited to host this month’s event, Are Startups Really Solving Problems, at the Google HQ on Wednesday, April 17th.


That Moment When You NEED To Start Your Own Business

“Dude, the margarita mix is only half full!”


“You didn’t fill the margarita mix!  What the hell have you been doing all day??”

These wonderful words were provided to me from a young punk who clearly didn’t read Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders.  This illuminating conversation was at the end of a long shift when I was working as a barback at a bar/restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

You see, I thought this job was going to be great.  Right on the Fort Lauderdale beach, I heard stories of barbacks making over $50 per hour in season, sometimes almost a thousand dollars in one day.  What I came to realize is that reality doesn’t always equal expectations.

After this brief conversation occurred, Basketball Training Club was on my mind almost 24/7.

I had an idea for what I wanted to do, but, at the time, I was still in the mentality of “getting a job and working your way up”, which, in today’s world, is extremely flawed.  I searched for good opportunities wherever I could, but they were few and far between.

So what did I do?  I did whatever any visionary entrepreneur would do; I started by own business.

I started to put hours and hours of my free time into creating Basketball Training Club.  I made a vow that I would never have to get a crap job like a barback again, doing things like mopping up vomit, cleaning toilets, and doing trash duty, all while being treated like another worthless employee.  Anybody could do that, and I wondered how I was going to separate myself.

For a lot of people, they get sucked into the older generation’s mentality of life: go to school, get a job, work hard, and retire.  That mentality worked 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.  But lots of people are still stuck in the mindset of working for someone else, since that is what they have been conditioned from birth to do.  In school, you’re supposed to follow all the rules, and get the right answers so the teacher can give you a good grade.  At a job, you’re supposed to be a good employee, do your job, and not cause problems.

But now, people are being fired by the thousands without even a thank you.  I worked at a bar for 8 months, putting in thousands of hours.  I was fired by a text saying, “You’re not on the schedule anymore.” My friend worked at a restaurant for about 2 years, and was one of the hardest workers I’ve seen.  That restaurant fired him for one little mistake.  In my mind, starting a business is one of the most rational things you can do for yourself these days.  Great employees are being let go all the time, and the job stability of the past has vanished.

This will encourage more people to create their own businesses, and monetize what they know.  However, where are the schools on entrepreneurship? Where is the information to help people be an expert at what they know?

From the beginning of time, entrepreneurs were the lifeblood of society, with Thomas Jefferson wanting to create a new America, to John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence.  No boss would have told them, “Oh yea, John, next week we’re going to create a new country independent from the British.  We’ll need you to work overtime.”

America came from the ideals and passion of the entrepreneurs who realized that being ruled and having a boss was not working.  They realized that if they didn’t create a new nation to make life better for themselves, nobody would.  Most importantly, they knew they could do it, and would strive their hardest to make their vision a reality.

Now, I’m encouraging you to realize that you have the skills to succeed.  You have the knowledge and you have the passion, yet only you know what that is.  A question for you to ask yourself is, “What can I do better than anybody else?”  And how can you help people, and make the world a better place, with your knowledge and skills?

We are living in an age where there is almost unlimited opportunity, if you know where to look.  Figure out what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and how you can make money doing it.  The rest will fall in line.

So now, what are you going to do?

Tyson Hartnett has played professional basketball in Sweden, Argentina, and Chile, and has recently started his first business,  He created Basketball Training Club to try to help players from all over the world not only better their basketball games, but to try to help better their lives as well. 

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Facebook Veteran Ari Steinberg’s New Startup Vamo Taps Big Data To Book You Cheap And Easy Travel

Travel planning is a nightmare. So many moving parts cause decision paralysis and fear you’re getting gouged. That’s why 7-year Facebooker Ari Steinberg just raised $1.6 million for his new startup Vamo. It’s building what Ari calls “the holy grail for travel…a site where you can book a full vacation” or business trip. Priceline, Expedia, and TripAdvisor may have something to worry about.

Now, Steinberg’s quick to say his forthcoming product Vamo isn’t a direct competitor to those travel booking and review sites. He was very cagey about the details of how Vamo will improve the travel planning experience. But what he envisions could encompass them all.

Steinberg came out of Stanford and worked as an engineer at Facebook in the early days before becoming a manager. He and two other employees founded the Facebook Seattle office together, which grew from the three of them to 150 staffers before Steinberg left the company last October. He’s a worldly guy with a penchant for wanderlust, and over his visits to Brazil, India, Japan, China, and Italy he realized how arduous travel booking was.

Steinberg tells me, “It’s a full weekend-long operation just to pull all the pieces together to plan a trip. How long? Where am i going? How long am I staying there? How do I get from place to place? The whole process is really difficult.” Isolated, each piece is easy to plan. But since all the parts are tied together, making the best decision on all of them simultaneously is a huge challenge for our brains. Which dates do you prefer? When is the hotel you want available? When are the flights the cheapest?

“There’s something called a ‘constraint satisfaction problem’. It’s a really geeky way of assembling all these different variables and trying to optimize them” says Steinberg. The solution requires serious engineering work on big data, machine learnings, algorithms, scalability, and distributed systems.

Ari Vamo

That’s why Steinberg came out of stealth now and raised the $1.6 million. He needs to recruit a bigger team of top-notch programmers. The funding comes from a coalition of early-stage firms and angels across entrepreneurship and travel.

Investors include Adam D’Angelo (Quora), Aditya Agarwal and Ruchi Sanghvim (Dropbox), Adrian Aoun, Akhil Wable, Ben Ling, Bono (U2), Box Group, Charlie Songhurst, Crunchfund, Dave Morin (Path), Fritz Lanman, Hadi and Ali Partovi, Hank Vigil, Jed Stremel, Keith Rabois, Kevin Colleran, Marc Bodnick (Quora), Max Levchin (PayPal), Sam Shank, Scott Banister, Spencer Rascoff, and SV Angel. The money will help Steinberg grow the team from its current four-person headcount, and tackle the engineering challenges involved in optimizing travel.

“With Vamo we’re helping people have richer travel experiences. They have a limited amount of time off and want to make the most of it. We want to give you all the joys you can get from travel.”

You can sign up now for access when Vamo goes live.


Ari Steinberg is Founder & CEO at Vamo and previously a software engineer at Facebook.

Dopios Secures Seed Cash From Openfund To For Its Getyourguide-Meets-Tripadvisor

Tour guides or sites like Getyourguide (out of Germany), or Peek, the San Francisco-based travel site that gives users a curated list of options in individual cities, tend to come down on the experience side. Other travel sites likeTripadvisor veer towards the advice side. But few startups have attempted both sides.

Dopios, a new travel community, allows travellers to search for local guides by destination, and then filter the results by their own preferences to find a trip that suits them. For example, people who like going out may like to find a guide who can take them to all the speakeasies in San Francisco. At the same time the community can also give personalized and tailored advice to travellers. In other words: advice, experiences and local people as guides all under one roof.

The company was originally started by Greeks living in San Francisco, but has now moved back to Athens. Founder Alexandros Trimis says right now Greece offers “talent, cheaper operational expenses, and a strong desire from the public to see something positive happening.” He’s also secured the startup’s first institutional investment from the Openfund, which put in a seed round of 120,000 euros.

After testing in Greece, San Francisco and Istanbul, today Dopios opens up guides and communities in London, Berlin, Barcelona and Buenos Aires.


Launch Date:2012

dopios, or ‘local’ in Greek, is a community marketplace where travelers can discover authentic experiences created by locals. Users can get travel tips before they go, plan adventures for their next vacation, and meet new friends. dopios is taking travelers beyond the guidebook and plugging them into the true experiences of their destinations.