Bad Grammar Goes Up in Smoke
Tania Hershman, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0) -- IDEA NO. 5 Turn your shortcomings into a killer product idea.

English isn't your company's first language, but you want to compete on a level playing field in an English-dominated world. How do you draft contracts and write to investors with the language skills that moneymaking requires?

If you're lawyer Hilla Ovil-Brenner, who emigrated from South Africa to Israel in 1993 and whose English would not thrill the queen, you spend four years building software called WhiteSmoke that analyzes and constantly learns the language. It then fine-tunes users' writing so that "nobody can tell that English isn't their mother tongue," Ovil-Brenner says.

WhiteSmoke was launched last year and already has 40,000 users, netting Ovil-Brenner sales of $100,000 a month. She also just inked a deal with Symbian to develop a version for mobile devices.

The software's secret sauce is its online database, which crawls news and business websites every day and "reads" all the sentences using WhiteSmoke's proprietary algorithms. It uses that knowledge to edit prose based on the category you select: commercial, legal, medical, casual, creative, executive, even dating.

WhiteSmoke has also been picked up by native English-speaking Americans, such as writer Susie Proctor, who uses the $90 software to fix up her stories. Could the editing trade soon go up in smoke?  Top of page

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