Peikang Hu spent more than three years in his hometown of Beijing learning English. Soon after arriving in the United States and attending DePaul University, he quickly found something was missing from his English studies.
"There was no context," says Hu, a DePaul graduate student and business owner, "I just learned the words, but not what they meant. This is the biggest problem in China, when people are learning English. I thought there has to be a better way to learn."
Enter LingoStone, a software application that customizes the language-learning process. Hu created the program with his partner, Yanquin Yang, an MBA student at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. The app uses artificial intelligence to help users learn English by culling from the web reading material that matches their interests and level of language ability.
Yang and Hu's LingoStone was one of six new ventures featured at the 2015 Launch DePaul Awards on May 5. Launch DePaul, hosted by DePaul's Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, gives DePaul students and recent alumni the chance to pitch their business proposals to professional investors and established entrepreneurs.
During Launch DePaul, DePaul alumni and members of the business community offer sage advice on everything from accounting to business development and, of course, how to pitch new ventures to investors. The new venture competition offers cash rewards to finalists.
"We all learned a lot, got fantastic insights into business
knowledge, sharpened our entrepreneurial thinking and practiced how to work under stress and competition terms."
—Nicole Suesnburger, graduate winner at Launch DePaul
The contest featured separate divisions for undergraduates and graduate students. Each division had a first, second and third place prize of $4,000, $2,500 and $1,000 respectively.
Nicole Susenburger, founder of HorsePilates, won first place in the graduate division along with her partners Luis Sanchez and Allie Kuopus (pictured, right to left).
Elizabeth Hakimi and Joseph Prosnitz of UpRide bike won the undergraduate division. See a recap of the night and the list of winners here.
"The best win out of all of this was the amazing friendship we three, Allie, Luis and I, built," says Susenburger. "Knowing you can grow together, push through and go beyond and above, that's one of the most amazing experiences I'm taking with me leaving graduate school."
Even though LingoStone came in second in the graduate competition, Hu and Yang said they were winners, thanks to their experience with Launch DePaul.
"It was suggested that we have a demo ready and we created one and put it on iTunes," says Hu. "We got 200 downloads in just 15 days. It helped us to explain our product better to the judges and the public."
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