While most teenagers are scrambling to get ready for school in the morning, Hillary Yip begins the day by developing and refining her own tech business.
At 7am sharp, almost every day, the 14-year-old CEO dedicates two hours of her morning to her language learning app, MinorMynas, before heading to a full day of school.
“We began by creating MinorMynas as a global kid community in which kids can exchange languages and use languages in a way that’s useful, so between classes you wouldn’t just suddenly forget everything and learn everything at a slower pace,” said Yip.
MinorMynas allows kids to learn new languages through chatting by live video calls with their peers. The app has almost 50,000 downloads on the Apple Store.
APCAC: Hillary Yip is appearing at the Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers summit, which is taking place from March 4-5 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong. Follow this link for more information.
Yip started the app four years ago after she struggled to learn Mandarin.
After a month-long trip in Taiwan, Yip realized that the best way to learn a new language is to throw yourself into the deep end. She realized that interactions with native speakers made all the difference in the speed of her learning as she was forced, through necessity, to speak in Mandarin.
“Since I had no choice but to learn the language, I immediately improved drastically.”
The young entrepreneur began to ask herself – “How can I help other kids trying to learning a new language?”
She realized that the answer lies in bringing the social interactivity aspect of language learning to an online platform.
“I wanted to bring this experience online. I wanted kids to be able to learn a new language fast without having to fly to another country,” said Yip.
Being a young software developer doesn’t mean she’s exempt from online criticism.
“When we do interviews, when we go to do other videos, we always hear some really negative comments. And I know that this can cripple other start-ups who may obsessively read through them.”
But Yip believes that focus, perseverance and listening to constructive feedback in a positive way is the key to overcoming these naysayers.
“You need to be strong about what your vision is,” said Yip.
Four years into MinorMynas’ journey, Yip is already looking to expand. She noticed that users of MinorMynas were using it as a platform to teach other skills such as how to code and how to record YouTube videos.
“Languages will always be a bit part of MinorMynas. But we would like to shift into being able to provide 21st century skills you can use in real life,” said Yip.
Yip is now exploring the idea of getting vendors to teach courses such as coding and math.
Whether you’re 14 or 44, Yip has some words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“My advice is to just do it,” she said.
“Talking to people is the biggest first step you can take. Going to different conferences, signing up for different events – that’s the way I got started and that’s proven to be extremely helpful.”