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Christoph Fahle
January 30, 2013


What is Tongr for?!

Tongr connects travellers, expats and locals, based on the languages they speak. It is a location-based application that uses languages as the common trait to connect people abroad with complementary needs. People who come to a foreign country do not need to feel alone anymore because they can easily find someone who speaks their language right from their iPhone. These people may help each other with exploring the city, practicing a foreign language or in any emergency.

"I got the idea of Tongr when I arrived from Brazil to freelance in Berlin. I needed to get some documents from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit and there was no easy way to contact anybody in here speaking Portuguese to help me with it" 

explains Denis, the founder of Tongr.

How does it work?

We designed the app as a social tool, with some automatic interactions mechanisms to help users with common needs or interest to connect with each other. In the Activity screen you can see what other users are up to and join them. Tongr also allows you to filter people around you according to your language preferences and to look for a nearby language teacher, for example.

While using the app people earn points for interacting with each other and they can exchange them to unlock extra features such as specific interactions targeting or tandem match, which will make the daily life abroad much easier.



Who is in it?

At the moment we are a two-man company: just the developer and me. We used to work as an intercontinental team, as he was in Brazil and I was here in Germany, but we got the paperwork done and he just arrived in Berlin to deep dive into the work on Tongr. So far we’ve been developing it from our own resources, which keeps us quite free. Simultaneously we see that the time of funding and a bigger team is coming.

What difficulties have you overcome yet?

We face the same problem that most startups have, which is lack of resources, i.e. money and manpower. But the thing that bothered us the most for quite some time was the bureaucracy and the legal paperwork we needed to do to get my coworker to Berlin. We had to spend lots of the funds on this, but we’ve made it.

What are your future goals?

The very close step is to develop the app for Android and Windows Phone, furthermore implement video calls and VoiP. Business wise, we will spread the pool of service providers on the app to help people find what they need, in the language they speak.

We will definitely move towards Asia, since it is the biggest language learning market and also where most of the exchange students come from. The pace of future success depends on the acceptance of the app. The crucial thing is to keep the focus on our main goal: making life of travellers and expats easier, so that they will never be left high and dry when abroad.

Want to become part of the betahaus community? Find out how !

Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them. 

Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.

Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for  betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear. 

Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.

Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different. 

Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally. 

Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.

Photo by Lea GK

Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.

Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte

Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.

Want to get in touch with Obst Digital? Come around betahaus | Neukölln and meet them here or send them an email to contact@obst.digital !


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