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Language Learning Startup BliuBliu Wins The TechChill Baltics Competition

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New startup conference for the ‘Baltic Rim’ TechChill Baltics took place again this year in Riga, Latvia. Following in the footsteps of the online infographics tool Infogr.am (from Latvia), the winner of the event this year is BliuBliu. This Lithuanian startup is working on a better way to learn foreign languages, which is an especially big challenge for minor languages such as Lithuanian. Grab an invitation here.

The startup founder is Claudio Santori, an Italian who moved to Lithuania to be with his girlfriend and faced difficulties learning the local language. According to Santori it is not economically viable to produce a language course for a minor language, and this is where BliuBliu comes in. The startup will assess a user’s level by testing his or her knowledge of the most frequently used words, and offer texts, recordings and videos found on the Internet based on their familiarity with the language. The startup aims to launch minimal viable product in Riga and offer its service in 10 European languages thereafter.

The runners up included Latvian startups Spherico, Fastr, FrendApp and Froont.

Spherico is a mobile app tool for a group of people to create and contribute to a story about an event – so think of it as Path for events. Its co-founder and CEO Jean Mauris told me that the startup, backed by one of its co-founders, was created four months ago and has just released its first version into the App Store. The app can be used for friends or family members to contribute to a particular event – like a holiday trip or a birthday party – by sharing comments, photos and videos recorded with the smart phone. The users can invite others by sharing a passcode for the story they would like them to contribute to. See the app in use as the TechChill Baltics participants cover the event using the app.

Fastr helps improve reading skills and get through text on the iPad more quickly. According to Fastr co-founder Eldar Loginovs, back in July 2012 there were no speed-reading apps for iPad, so Fastr was created to fill this niche.

Unlike some speed-reading methods which teach to skim-read, Fastr uses a principle of showing text in narrow columns, a technique that has been proven to increase one’s reading speed. In addition to copyright-free books, the app works with content from Pocket or Readability. Users can adjust how many words appear on a screen at a time. So far the app, available in the App Store, has been downloaded 36,000 times since the company’s formation. It holds the 4th spot in the US App Store in the section “Educational Apps for iPad” as well as top ten positions in 35 countries.

Frendapp is a mobile app search engine that allows users to find mobile apps or rate and share those they have used and enjoyed. Its co-founder Didzis Rutitis says that the core function of the app is to allow users to share with their friends what apps they use and like. Once they do, Frendapp collects anonymous statistics of apps’ usage and ratings, and will be able to share aggregated data across apps with the general public. Currently, Frendapp is available for Android phones, but eventually the aim is to become a cross-platform app.

Froont, whose team spent a few weeks at Finland-based accelerator Startup Sauna, offers an online tool for prototyping responsive websites with real content using drag-and-drop interface. The resulting prototype works on small screens of smart phones or large display and the process requires no technical skills. The founders of Froont, Sandijs Ruluks and Anna Andersone, previously tested their concept of a simple drag-and-drop interface through their other venture berta.me, which proved popular with creative professionals. They have taken it further with Froont.