Larry Upton originally from Mississippi lived all over the world as his father was a serial entrepreneur and came to Austin about five years ago in which he started work at MessageOne to develop their Latin America infrastructure. He left and about a year ago he launched Edioma which provides language translation education over the mobile phone. Idioma in Spanish means “language”. They transposed the “I” to an “E” and had their company name. They currently offer Spanish but plan to expand into Mandarin and Hindi languages in the future.
A linguist by education he got involved in IT development. He noticed that students today learn by digital media not traditional means. A few years ago he contracted some help to do some stonework at his house. In the process, he noticed that some of the workers didn’t speak English well, and that everyone had a cell phone. Over seventy percent of the workers don’t have access to the internet. From that experience came the concept of providing education over the mobile phone. Follow on market research indicates that over 90% of the respondents in a survey were interested in learning better English, and nearly half were willing to pay (up to $21 per month) in order to do so. They have about 30,000 downloads (in about 5 weeks) from their first partner, called Movida which is a Sprint company selling prepaid phone cards through Walmart.
The language education focuses on practical phrases categorized by various situations: banking, traveling, shopping, etc. It’s a J2ME application which lets the user select a text phrase, and then by clicking on it, it gives the translation in words and also a voice speaking over the phone. If the user can’t pronounce it, they just show the phrase on the phone to who they are talking to.
Over the next six months Larry and his team are proving out the business model. There are 40 million people in America that rely on Spanish as their primary language and 400 million in Latin America so the market is large and growing. He plans to roll out games to provide education as well.