Adult Literacy Startup GogyUp Aims to Help Those Lost in Translation

In the United States, around 36 million adults are reading below a third grade level, and less than a quarter have the resources to boost their literacy skills. A team of educators and techies hope to tackle that issue through GogyUp, an adult literacy platform that helps users learn English while reading everyday documents.

GogyUp is not a translating service – it functions as training wheels for people learning to read English. The free app helps users build phonetic awareness by providing examples of the 40 plus sounds made by the English alphabet’s 26 letters.

“There are certain skills we learn in school that we rarely use,” said co-founder Ned Zimmerman-Bence. “You don’t always need things like algebra, but everyone needs to know how to communicate effectively.”

GogyUp aims to help fix what Zimmerman-Bence describes as a “talent crisis” faced by manufacturing businesses. As these workplaces become increasingly diverse, multiple languages are often spoken on the factory floor.

Zimmerman-Bence said that GogyUp worked with one company where eight languages are spoken by employees. In these environments, instructions can be misinterpreted or lost in translation, leading to productivity issues. By providing free and accessible English lessons for employees, GogyUp hopes to improve communication in the workplace.

Zimmerman-Bence is an experienced educator and first-time founder. Before he started working on GogyUp in 2015, Zimmerman-Bence served as the executive director of Minnesota Online High School. Prior to that, he worked in elementary schools for a decade.