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Venture Capitalist Firms

The Duolingo English Test

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I wrote about our portfolio company Duolingo’s English Proficiency Test back in August of last year. I have always loved the idea that a company that helps people learn a language can also help people prove their fluency in a language. It is two sides of the same coin.

But the road to success with the English Proficiency Test has been hard. The “incumbent provider” of English proficiency tests, Test Of English As A Foreign Language (aka TOEFL), has had all of the companies and universities who accept it locked up for many years. And if you are required to certify with TOEFL, well then you take TOEFL.

The Duolingo English Test is and has always been a way better product than TOEFL. But in some markets, incumbency matters more than better. One of the primary benefits of the Duolingo English Test is you take it at home on your computer versus having to go to a proctored location. It costs less ($49 vs $205). And the test takes one hour vs three hours. And yet, it has been hard to crack into this market.

And then the pandemic hit. No more in-person testing. As the international higher education publication PIE News puts it:

With the suspension of traditional English proficiency tests in countries most affected by the coronavirus, a wave of US institutions are now accepting the results of the Duolingo English Test, either as stand-alone proof or as a supplement to other measures of English-language proficiency.

https://thepienews.com/news/us-more-heis-accepting-the-duolingo-english-test-amid-uncertainty/

Duolingo’s co-founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn, told me this in an email yesterday:

1. The number of tests we administer per day has gone up 10x!

2. 500 new university programs have begun accepting the Duolingo English Test in the last 8 weeks (we had 1,000 before this). 

3. Both TOEFL and IELTS, after spending a lot of time saying that online tests were no good, now have online options.

So now the market is open to competition and the best product can win. I’m betting on Duolingo (and have been since we made our seed investment in the company in 2012).


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Apr 18, 2020
A Plan for Rapidly Ramping COVID19 Testing





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Venture Capitalist Firms

Supporting Grid110 – South LA

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Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, are supporting the Grid110 – South LA program.

Austin Clements was one of the Black VCs I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered with the question, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?” I knew Austin from his time at TenOneTen Ventures (we are an LP) and I reconnected with him when he joined the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 25).

Among other things, he told me about Grid110 and why he was helping create and lead Grid110’s new program in South LA.

Grid110 is a non-profit with a mission is to foster the most thriving, inviting and inclusive community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. They believe that anyone with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur should have the chance to pursue it and receive support along the way. Their work impacts individuals who are often overlooked by traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems, making the the entrepreneurial path more equitable, inclusive and accessible.

I committed to providing funding for the program at the end of the call. Since then, the program has launched with its inaugural class and has been up and running since July.

Over 90% of the selected companies are led by Black and Latinx founders, and the majority of founders are women. The companies are wide ranging — from CPG products to B2B SaaS, from early childhood support all the way to death care services, from for-profit Co-Ops to non-profit boutiques. Some are first time entrepreneurs right out of college, others have long track records of shaping business and culture.

Tonight, I’m doing a virtual AMA with the program. I’m very looking forward to it.

If you are interested in supporting Grid110, you can make a donation here.

The post Supporting Grid110 – South LA appeared first on Feld Thoughts.





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Venture Capitalist Firms

Mark Your Calendars – Important Dates to Know for SaaStr Annual at Home

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We’re just a few weeks away from SaaStr Annual 2020 at Home on September 2-3.

Our incredible line-up includes

  • CEO of Mailchimp
  • CEO of $20b ZoomInfo
  • CEO of Stackoverflow
  • CEO of YCombinator
  • COO of Github
  • CPO of Zendesk
  • CPO of Asana
  • CMO of Twilio
  • CMO of Snowflake
  • VPE of Slack
  • VPE of Twitter

and 100s more!! And a keynote pass is FREE!!

Here’s some important information to help you make the most of the world’s largest online community event.

No alt text provided for this image

Upcoming Dates to Know:

  • August 18 – Session registration goes live (make sure you’re on the first to book sessions! some sessions have a virtual cap)
  • August 25 – Attending networking platform opens to create your profile
  • August 31 – Attendee networking platform goes live
  • September 1 – SaaStr Annual at Home Networking Day – Roundtables, VC Office Hours and 1:1 meetings
  • September 2 – SaaStr Annual at Home Day 1 – Workshops
  • September 3 – SaaStr Annual at Home Day 2 – Keynotes

Be sure to use these links to add all these dates and links directly to your calendar.

Meet A VC Applications Are Open

Meet A VC is one of our most popular networking programs at the conference and helps connect hundreds of SaaS startups with a curated list of elite VCs attending the show for 1:1, virtual meetings.

If you’re a founder who would like to participate, apply here.

If you’re a VC who would like to participate, apply here.

The post Mark Your Calendars – Important Dates to Know for SaaStr Annual at Home appeared first on SaaStr.



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Venture Capitalist Firms

Tomato Tart

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We dug in before proper pictures were taken. There is nothing like a tomato tart when the tomatoes are perfect. It is a decadent treat.

I make my dough but store-bought works too. I also used a 12″ tart pan that I got in Paris. It is huge! So I played around with the recipe to make it work. The recipe below is for a 9″ pan but there is some color commentary on what I did with the bigger pan. The pesto can be store-bought too but I keep a homemade jar in the fridge so that worked.

  • 3 large ripe heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto (enough to cover the bottom of the tart)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (again could be more or less)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream (used a bit more and added another egg because the size of my pan)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough in your tart pan. Cover with parchment paper and then pour in the baking beans. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the dough sets. Take out the beans and put the crust back in the oven for another 5 or until set.

Slice the tomatoes, put in a colander for about 20 minutes to drain excess water.

Spread pesto across the bottom of the crust.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pesto.

Sprinkle the herbs over the top.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper.

Layer the tomatoes on next. They should overlap because they shrink up.

Pour the cream mixture in.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the cream is set.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The post Tomato Tart appeared first on Gotham Gal.



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