I bought back my acquihired startup

mokkol | 336 points

Warms my heart to see a big company make this deal with the author rather than just shut it down. Bravo Duolingo.

ewalk153 | 3 months ago

Hi! Steve here. Happy to hang around here for a while if anyone wants to ask anything! :-)

steveridout | 3 months ago

Small suggestion: You may want to fix your DNS configuration which currently only resolves readlang.com and not www.readlang.com. This might confuse some visitors (it confused me when I typed readlang and pressed Ctrl+Enter):

    ~ $ dig a www.readlang.com
    ; <<>> DiG 9.10.6 <<>> a www.readlang.com
    ;; global options: +cmd
    ;; Got answer:
    ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 65131
    ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1
    ; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 1280
    ;www.readlang.com.  IN A
    ;; Query time: 62 msec
    ;; SERVER: 2406:3400:41e:5a80::1#53(2406:3400:41e:5a80::1)
    ;; WHEN: Fri Mar 24 10:06:36 AEST 2023
    ;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 45
selcuka | 3 months ago

I cannot wait to use your website tomorrow. I've been dying for a resource to learn Serbian outside of the only book that exists ( pretty much ) and my own efforts in getting flash cards, childrens' books, etc. together. You're seriously a life saver, I cannot wait to try this out. I wish I had heard of it a year ago. _Thank you_. You have produce a connection to my heritage and ancestry that nobody else has, and I really appreciate it.

mydriasis | 3 months ago

Hey, that's great! I was a Readlang subscriber for a few months last year and often had the thought "why isn't this better?". It even has a place on my (long, cluttered) list of potential ideas to work on. So I'm happy it will be revived and improved!

Also, here's the note from my list on what I wished Readlang would do: "check out how News in Slow Spanish (newsinslowspanish.com/) turns each word into a hyperlink. Hovering over it gives you an instant popup. This is a way better experience than Readlang, which requires you to click each word to get its translation."

telchior | 3 months ago

Great post! (However, I just read the entire post and I still have no idea what readlang is.)

williamstein | 3 months ago

I had not heard of Readlang before, but I had heard of similar tool Toucan. I assumed they pioneered this type of tool, but evidently not.

schnebbau | 3 months ago

> It turned out that people were using Readlang for card testing fraud. After I helped them to fix the problem

How does one fix the card testing fraud problem? Certainly you can refund people after the fact, but it seems to me any point where small-dollar service/product can be purchased by card is vulnerable and you'd have to kinda guess whether the usage makes sense?

wwweston | 3 months ago

Nice story, with a good ending. Never heard of Readlang before, but for sure I’m going to give it a try. Bravo Steve and well done on getting back your “creation”.

NKosmatos | 3 months ago

No direct comment about buying the startup back. But I had never heard of this site before today and I am trying to learn Spanish.

Also, the creator seems like it’s a simple sustainable business model - I give them money and I get a useful service without any advertising or dark patterns.

He will be getting my money.

scarface74 | 3 months ago

Cannot unsee the fact that this guy's name is basically stdout with some extra letters in it.

twodave | 3 months ago

This is great, I love to see these work out. This type of re-acquisition can be difficult to see through to completion. The acquiring company has moved on and doesn't want to spend resources on dealing with it. I had tried to do this too at one point but then then newish CEO of the company we were trying to buy it back from was gone and we sorta gave up.

mountaineer | 3 months ago

Congrats. Anytime I see someone work on something they truly love, it feels good. It is my dream too.

Is it okay to ask, do you pay for the dictionaries you use? The homepage says "translate words and phrases" - do you use some kind of translation API, like Google?

akudha | 3 months ago
| 3 months ago

There seems to be no Firefox extension, are you ever planning on creating one? The most I could find was a thread with a link to a corrupt extension https://readlang.uservoice.com/forums/192149-general/suggest... I'd love to try it out but I can't seem to use it (also if making a extension I'd feel a lot more comfortable getting it off the Firefox Addons from addons.mozilla.org)

Voklen | 3 months ago

I am so glad to hear about this. Readlang has always been one of my favourite language tools and I am sure you can grow it up to to be a pretty decent sized service, with decent MRR.

Let me know if you are ever in Berlin and we can meet up again!

Major_Grooves | 3 months ago

@steveridout Interesting post and journey, thanks for posting.

Readlang - what would you say is the user persona you're going for? I need to learn (tourist) French. I'm not going to read sites about "where is the bathroom?", for example.

czbond | 3 months ago

Are you able to disclose the price Duolingo paid for a 4k MRR bootstrapped app?

domlebo70 | 3 months ago

Why do you think Readlang stagnated when it was under Duolingo’s ownership? What were the main factors that prevented it from reaching its full potential?

cogitovirus | 3 months ago
| 3 months ago

What a nice story, I wonder if they negotiated much on offers or if it was really a simple low ball for duolingo to get rid of. Generous if the latter!

To be that attached to your idea after all this time is also very impressive. Most people would have just abandoned it and moved on, even if it was making decent money.

waboremo | 3 months ago

Working in a larger company it's sad to see all the perfectly viable projects canned because they aren't billion dollar businesses. I wonder if there is a marketplace play here where companies can easily resell and offboard these kinds of companies rather than kill them off.

siliconc0w | 3 months ago

Congratulations on what sounds like an ultimately positive experience.

Cool to see Norwegian on the site, but the very first Library thing I went in to had an error in the Norwegian. I don't really understand how the site works, but that put me off a bit.

emsixteen | 3 months ago

OMG, I love this product is exactly what I've been looking for. This is awesome!

wiercin | 3 months ago

Dude made Duolingo Stories! One of my favourite features of Duo.

nicky0 | 3 months ago
| 3 months ago

What a wonderful full circle moment! More power to you!

jatinarora26 | 3 months ago