Ultralingua has been developing language-translation software and mobile apps since ’97, but they still consider themselves a startup at heart. Maybe it has something to do with their wanderlust for the future, close ties to young entrepreneurs in academia, and desire to make a difference in the world.
Founder and Carleton College professor Jeff Ondich launched the company after developing a small electronic French-English dictionary and saw the larger language gap as a challenge he could tackle. As technology has evolved since and mobile devices become globally accessible for the first time, this Minneapolis company is doing it’s part to have a positive impact on the less fortunate.
In January, when the 2010 Haiti earthquake killed 220,000 people and injured another 300,000, Ultralingua responded by providing a free Haitian Medical Reference Guide to help the cause. The app included a Haitian Creole-English medical dictionary, audio phrasebook, and anthropological reference guide enabling doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to communicate with Haitian-Creole speaking patients. Accessed by via iPod touch by relief workers who were on the ground, the app had life-saving value.
This unique experience, fused with years of personalized nonprofit software donations, led to the genesis of Apps for Aid, a new initiative Ultralingua announced at the beginning of December.
The Apps for Aid program was designed to make communication between international humanitarian organizations and the communities they serve easier. As Ultralingua’s marketing coordinator, Ashleigh Lincoln, puts it, “We provide product donations to partner organizations in a variety of areas, including disaster relief, education, medical care, engineering, immigration and more, to make communication across languages easier. ”
So far, hundreds of software licenses have been donated for Mac, iOS and Windows. In May, the International Medical Relief will be taking Ultralingua’s free Spanish/ English apps to the field in Peru and Panama.