Last night we had dinner with Nina, my wife, Alexis Bonte and his wife, Jimena. Alexis is the French entrepreneur settled in Madrid who is creating the successful game, which I highly recommend by the way, called eRepublik. After dinner we went to the Busuu party. Busuu is another Madrilian start up created by the Austrian Bernhard Niesner and the Swiss/Liechtensteinian Adrian Hilti. I am an investor in Busuu. Busuu is a social net to learn new languages, which I use to learn German. I also recommend it to learn English, German, French and other languages. During the party, which took place in the Puerta de America hotel, several awards were given (all of them as a joke) and there were several entrepreneurs. Here is the video.

After getting back, and preparing a lecture I will be giving at the Red Innova, the Latin-American start up conference in Madrid, I wanted to find out how many “latin” start ups exist, considering a start up any company that has funding, an online product or which is in the market until it makes it to the stock exchange. To give an example from one of the companies I started, I would say Jazztel is no longer a start up but Fon still is (even though it is reaching longevity, size and profit value enough to graduate into a company). So I logged into Twitter and asked about start ups in Madrid, then in Spain, and then, thinking about the Red Innova, in all of Latin-America. The first comment came from @technalia who said that there were so many they would not all fit into a tweet. Made sense. So around 2am I made a simple Google Doc and I asked voluntaries on Twitter to fill it up. You can see how it happened on my Twitter stream. The request was retweeted first across Spain and then across Latin-America.

The result is here. It’s a work in progress and it is still being edited, so if you know of any start up from Latin-America which does not appear on the list, access the form – Wikipedia style – and add it. Or if you have the details on any of the start ups that are already on the list, you may add them as well. The goal is to achieve a sort of Latin-American Crunchbase which serves all of us and where data can be updated and improved by anyone. I also got this map of Start Ups.

Now, what was impressive is that this database was created a Saturday night. And that’s how it is: we entrepreneurs never stop. 2am, 3am and we all work to add data. Now @marcosbl has offered to help improve the Google Doc and use a program to better fit the task at hand. We are waiting for the result. I thank all of you who helped out to make the Google Doc of the Latin-American dreams; the dream to transform an idea into a start up, and a start up into an established and leading company.

Image representing busuu as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’m happy to announce that I invested in Busuu, the most active language learning community worldwide. Busuu already has over 2 million users and is growing rapidly, adding more than 10,000 new users each day. Busuu also overtook its two older and more heavily funded main competitors, as this chart shows.

How does Busuu work? In addition to providing the resources to enable individual language learning, users can interact with each other and engage in what Busuu calls “community learning”. Take me for example. Despite having a German wife, I still use Busuu to learn German. With the community feature, I can submit text exercises I wrote to be corrected by other users who are German native speakers. Sometimes I also use the instant video chat to practice speaking German (although I admit that I still have a far way to go :)). Being a native Spanish speaker, I could now help other users who are learning Spanish by correcting their exercises or talking to them directly.

The language learning market is huge – about $90 billion worldwide with around 1 billion people alone learning English. Busuu’s monthly revenue is a 6-digit figure and the company is already reporting positive cash flows. In addition to the 7 languages currently offered, Busuu is planning to add at least 4 more this year, including Mandarin and Japanese. They also launched several pilot projects with schools, universities and companies to enter the institutional market. And of course I should also mention the very popular Busuu iPhone app.

The CEO, Bernhard Niesner is a former student of mine at IE. He is Austrian, the company is based in Madrid. It’s amazing what this great team has been able to accomplish so far on their relatively small initial investment. Keeping up this capital efficiency and growth I see Busuu keeping its leadership in the enormous global language learning market. Busuu is the kind of investment I like because it fits my three key criteria for angel investing: a product I love, an entrepreneur I admire and a company I can help grow.

Here are some pictures of Johann, Adrian, Bernhard and me that Nina took at the signing:

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