Headquarters: New York City
Founded: Feb. 2010
Language textbooks are boring. The best teacher is everyday experience, and the best teaching methods reflect that, Voxy founder Paul Gollash believes.
"These are your next textbooks," he announced, flashing up a slide of news and celebrity magazines. "These are your new classrooms" -- city streets, and the signs that fill them.
Voxy uses smartphones and the Web as its platform for serving up games and news stories linked to translation tools. The idea is to make learning fun and contextual.
Voxy isn't a Rosetta Stone: It works best for people who already have some fluency with the language they're learning . "To get someone from zero to fluent -- I don't think we're going to get someone from zero," Gollash says. "I think it's going to supplement."
But the market for students looking for supplemental tools is huge. Voxy is focusing its first efforts on Spanish speakers trying to learn English, because that's where Gollash sees the most urgency.
Gollash was born in Milwaukee but spent time in South America and Spain, picking up Spanish and Portuguese along the way. He also picked up a connection most entrepreneurs would kill for: He worked in the venture capital wing of Richard Branson's Virgin empire. "We saw literally hundreds of business plans," he says. "It's fun to be on the other side of the table."