For travellers in adventuring out of their comfort zones to major international events, such as the ongoing Olympic Summer Games happening right now in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, language barriers can be enormous.
Whether it's asking for the WiFi password from the concierge in Portuguese, or inviting that cute group of French tourists out to join you for drinks after the medal ceremonies for the evening end; having another language at your disposal can be crucial and advantageous for even the most casual globetrotters.
In the age of smart phones, many of these language gaps are being overcome with online translator apps like Apple Inc.'s [NASDAQ: AAPL] iTranslate, or Alphabet Inc.'s [NASDAQ: GOOGL] Google Translate, and World Lens (acquired in 2014 when Google bought Quest Visual to integrate the software into Google Translate). Even social media giant Facebook[NASDAQ: FB] with its in-platform translating, and internet icon Yahoo [NASDAQ: YHOO] with its BabelFish function have opened up communication between different cultures and language speakers.
However, in terms of actually communicating with another native speaker of a language, these apps and platforms don't seem to utilize or generate real-time usability to really encourage a person to truly learn a language.
Enter Hello Pal, the social messaging app, designed around language learning. In the app, users are connected with speakers of many languages around the world, and to learn new languages by actually talking.
The Upper Echelon
Wong's successes with education software go back to 2008, with the development of BrillKids (short for Brilliant Kids), which teaches babies as young as one-year-old how to read, play music, and solve mathematic equations. Backed by the same development team as BrillKids, Wong has put together Hello Pal in the hopes of repeating the critical acclaim, and eclipsing the financial success.
Achieving the backing of Xu, is a major benefit for the Hello Pal team. Xu's New Margin Venture group is one of China's largest venture capital firms, managing over USD $3 billion in funds, both in and outside China. As a major shareholder of Hello Pal, Xu is committed to seeing Hello Pal succeed and grow, much like most of his portfolio. And yes, New Margin is also invested in the project.
Xu's and New Margin's influence will likely be the main difference maker for Hello Pal, as their collective portfolio is filled with highly successful technology, mobile and internet based investments.
The combination of Wong's innovative genius with BrillKids, and Xu's New Margin successes makes for a very interesting prospect ahead. These are dedicated builders, devoted to seeing Hello Pal truly take off.
Compared to famous language platforms such as US-based Rosetta Stone or the Rocket Language based out of New Zealand, Hello Pal has a social advantage in their interpersonal user experience. No longer is reciting lines about black cats sitting on tables, users are picking up new language skills in real-time conversations, with real people.
As well, given its Chinese origins, Hello Pal is already taking off in Asian markets, who tend to be market drivers in software engagement. People of all age groups, nationalities, and language goals have signed on to learn their language of choice with other native speakers.
Hello Pal users derive their learning from actually speaking the words and phrases, as opposed to repetition learning. It's a messaging app, complete with filters to help the user select their other-language counterparts.
Without really any promotion so far to speak of, the popularity of Hello Pal has already significantly grown in an organic way.
As of as recently as June, the company had 620,000 users (566,000 Android/53,500 iOS), and has been adding at a clip of 3,500-4,000 new daily users.
Now the project seems to be gearing up for the next wave, as it announced the release of Hello Pal version 3.0, which now comes complete with video and audio calling capability.
"Voice and video calling is a key feature for us, as it allows conversations between users to be more personal," said KL Wong in a recent news release.
"We hope this takes us one step further towards helping to break down language and cultural barriers between people, in line with our corporate mission."
Road to Revenue
The user growth of the platform and many other social messaging apps like it, tends to be exponential. As social influencers become heavy users, they have the ability to convert many others to using the platform over other similar apps.
Now that the app is starting to achieve respectable market penetration numbers, the future revenue models of the company will start to become more and more applicable.
The company plans to usher in paid VIP memberships on monthly, quarterly or yearly plans. The VIP experience would include full phrasebooks, no translation limits, and an overall more premium experience for the user. Other fee based add-ons such as stickers and premium phrasebooks will be available for subscribers and non-subscribers.
As well, the company has many advertising/sponsorship possibilities they can choose to activate. So far Hello Pal has refrained from in-app advertising as it continues to grow out its user base.
Most likely, however, will the app be used by language instructors, who will have the option of offering their services and charging fees, which Hello Pal will be entitled to also capitalize on for facilitating the transaction.
Either way, as the app which so far has held a respectable 4-star rating averaged over close to 8,000 reviews in the Play Store, and the user base continues to grow, so does the user experience. With more users to chat with, the platform gains strength.
With little promotion so far, and without yet having been a featured app on either the Android or iOS app stores, Hello Pal's trajectory has yet to truly take off towards its potential.
As the Rio Olympics continue on, it can be certain that there will be several phrases learned in new languages before the games close. With practice through a platform like Hello Pal, closing that language gap just got a little faster.
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