Did you know Guatemala’s literacy rate is the lowest in South America? That’s quite crazy. This fact sparked something in the Guatemalan-American, Luis von Ahn.
After watching a video of Guatemala by ALUX, I’ve learned so much, not only about the popular sites, the culture, but also about this particularly interesting human.
He was born and raised in a middle-class family in Guatemala. They provided him with one of the most essential and rare gifts for a Guatemalan, an education.. an English education at that.
His love for computers, education, and English capacity allowed him the privilege of attending University in the United States at eighteen to complete a BS in Mathematics. He quickly gained traction in the technological field.
He invented reCAPTCHA which he sold to Google and later a thesis on GWAP (Games With a Purpose), of which one was also later licensed to Google.
At the age of 30, he and his graduate student Severin Hacker founded Duolingo, a free language learning app. The reason behind Duolingo was to create free education, and language is a great stepping stone to reaching that goal. But also the fact that – knowing multiple languages can create greater opportunities for anyone. For example, knowing the English language in Guatemala doubles their salary.
So… let’s sit on that thought for a sec. Duolingo potentially plays a part in the literacy rate rising and an increase in salaries of countries around the world. This language app can revolutionize the lives of many generations!
Luis von Ahn stands out to me for a few reasons:
1. I am of Honduran descent, so his story felt very relevant to me.
2. Because I appreciate an innovative idea that’s been able to affect the lives of so many people. He is creating a life of opportunities where some might not have even considered education to be remotely possible.
As of May 2020, Duolingo was valued at 1.5 billion.
Between 2006 – 2018 he received numerous awards such as
MacArthur Fellowship in 2006
Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship in 2007
David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in 2009
Sloan Fellowship in 2009
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2012
Named one of 50 Best Brains in Science by Discover
Popular Science’s Brilliant 10
Silicon.com’s 50 Most Influential People in Technology