Born and raised in Colombia, Lily Hagen said she struggled trying to raise her kids in a bilingual household in the United States.
“I thought it was going to be a breeze to teach my kids Spanish, but it was not. It was super, super hard,” she told Hypepotamus. “But it was a matter of identity to our family…it was a non negotiable.”
It turns out she wasn’t alone. Hagen and her family were living in Los Angeles at the time and saw other families struggle to raise truly bilingual kids.
She set out to build an EdTech solution to make teaching Spanish more fun and accessible for kids. Along with her husband and co-founder Daniel Hagen, she launched Lingo Plaza as a platform that provides immersive Spanish language classes from anywhere. ‘
Prior to jumping into the entrepreneurial world, Hagen worked in education, business, and culinary arts.
While the platform was started while the couple lived in LA, it is now headquartered in Hagen’s new hometown of Atlanta.
Learning Inside Lingo Plaza
Unlike Duolingo or other language learning platforms, Lingo Plaza is an immersion experience for kids. Inspired by kids drawings, cartoon characters help kids learn Spanish through a fun and gamified experience. They are given culturally-focused material to help kids better connect with Latin American culture.
Most importantly, kids are paired with native speakers in Latin America for live 1:1 lessons.
“When starting the business, it came down to figuring out how I could make this not a task and more fun from the perspective of the kid,” Hagen added. “Learning a language is pretty intimidating.”
Right now the tutors are from Cuba, Mexico and Colombia. Hagen says providing working mothers in other countries a flexible employment option is also important to her.
Lingo Plaza has been built mainly through word of mouth, with a specific focus on teaching kids aged five to twelve.
Translating EdTech Success
EdTech took off in our post-pandemic world, as teachers and parents alike searched for digital learning opportunities.
VC funding in the space reached upwards of $20 billion in 2021 and $14.6 billion in 2020, according to available Crunchbase data.
Boston and New York are central cities for such funding. While the Southeast hasn’t yet become a hub for EdTech startups, some startups in the region include Raleigh-based MemberHub, Raleigh-based TRAKID, Atlanta-based TARA, and Nashville-based Possip.
For Hagen and the Lingo Plaza team, Atlanta has been a place where she has found a supportive community.
“I feel like I came [to Atlanta] right on time,” she told Hypepotamus. “I have found beautiful founders that I can call close friends…and with the MVP [of Lingo Plaza], I feel like Atlanta was just the right place to build.”