Skip to content

Luis Van Ahn 1/26/16

Luis Van Ahn 1/26/16
Sold 2 companies to Google in 20’s.
Co-founder of DuoLingo
  • Same exact breakfast for the last few years.
  • At a young age he started teaching himself how to pirate games
  • His mother would raise him praising his hard work, not his intelligence.
  • From Ludlow (a father of cryptography) he learned – that if you truly understand something deeply, you can explain it simply. The better your understanding, the simpler your explanation.
  • After creating the captcha, he created the re-captcha – where books/newspapers are being digitized while creating captchas.
  • When giving talks – talk about your hardest problems and see the solutions pour in. The audience will treat it as a program.
  • Books – 0 to 1, the hard thing about hard things
  • Podcast – startup,
  • Being in Pittsburgh makes their employees higher to poach off to other people.
  • TF – tech blog –
  • DuoLingo – wanted to develop a 100% free way to learn languages, especially so impoverished people can learn English.
  • Independent study shows that 34 hours of DuoLingo is equal to a semester of college learning.
  • DuoLingo is a step towards overall learning. Not just language. There will be other subjects.
  • Binging when you start to learn anything is not a good strategy. To learn on DuoLingo, do 20-30 mins a day, at least five days a week.
  • Listen to podcasts and watch movies in the language that you are learning.
  • Best language learners are not the smartest, but the people who don’t have inhibitions about sounding stupid. They just speak. More is more when it comes to practice.
  • The quiet person learning a language by the book and not speaking isn’t getting the same level of practice.
  • TF – start a language by learning a few expressions that locals find funny. Once you get them laughing, you feel less inhibited.
  • First successful person that comes to mind – Larry Paige for the approach that Google takes.
  • Books – Zero to one. Borges books/stories.
  • Morning workout – full speed run for 16 minutes. Trying to maximize workout while saving time.
  • Movie – the matrix.
  • Documentary – Jiro dreams of Sushi.
  • Best 100 dollar purchase – Tumi (sp?) backpack.
  • Day starts with email/laptop. DuoLingo metrics. Thinks it’s unhealthy. Then workout for 16 mins, then yogurt.
  • Evening routines – wears orange glasses that block out blue light for last hour of the day (blocks blue light).
  • Flux for laptops to block out blue light for better sleep.
  • Green mascot to play a joke on co-founder who hates green.
  • Easy to find flaws in a company. Exceptionally hard to build a good organization.
  • Advice to have myself ten years ago – work less. More effective when not always working.
  • Instead of always working, focus on learning something that is interesting to you.
  • TF – podcast: hardcore history. Book: Genkis Kahn, the making of the modern world.
  • TF – good hobby  – some type of drumming. Fun, relieve stress, and sound decent without being great.
  • Advice to twenty year old self – learn more about how to run a business while in college. Especially how to be a manager. Giving negative feedback.
  • 25 year old self – start working out.