Meet Daheim: The Berlin startup on a mission to help refugees to learn German

DaheimDaheimThe Daheim team.

You’ve fled your war-torn country as a refugee and found yourself in one of the many refugee shelters in Berlin. You don’t know anyone, you have no money, and, to top it all off, you don’t speak German.

One thing you do have, however, is a cheap Android smartphone that allows you to get online.

Cue: Daheim.

Founded in January 2016, Daheim is a social startup that’s aiming to help refugees across Germany to learn German.

The startup’s platform allows refugees from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan to have a Skype-like video call with a German-speaking person that’s happy to try and help refugees to learn the language.

There’s no shortage of refugees in Germany, with over 1 million having relocated their since September 2015 — more than any other country in Europe.

Madita Best, cofounder of Daheim, told Business Insider on Tuesday: “When the refugees came to Germany I thought it would make sense to have this kind of platform in Germany.

Refugees walking into TempelhofBusiness Insider/Sam SheadPeople walking into a refugee shelter at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport.

“We go to a lot of refugee cafes, events, and shelters,” said Best. “Also we have a long list of people who are responsible for different [refugee] associations.”

It’s still early days for Daheim, which is operating with a team of nine volunteers. Even so, up to 500 people are visiting the platform each day, largely as a result of people clicking on sponsored links that appear high in Google Search results. Google is giving Daheim $US10,000 (£8,000) a month in credit that allows it to promote itself in search results.

Madita daheimdaheimMadita Best, cofounder of Daheim.

The company has also received support from German publishing giant Axel Springer, which invited Daheim to be a part of its Plug & Play accelerator in Berlin.

One of the biggest issues that Daheim faces is its application cannot be used on the iPhone. “It’s a web-RTC application so it doesn’t open on iPhone,” said Best, who works in business development for fast-growing language startup Babbel alongside his work on Daheim. “So for the refugees it’s no problem because they never have iPhones, normally. But that’s the biggest problem for the German speakers because most of them, especially when they are at work, they have an iPhone.”

Despite this, Daheim has still managed to convince tech giant Capgemini to run a trial that will see a number of Capgemini staff talking to refugees in German over the app at quiet points in their working day.

“The idea is to first start a very mini trial with 10 people,” said Best. “Then with Berlin. And then if it really works, maybe they’d roll it out [more widely].”

The company does not currently have a business model so it’s been relying on donations in order to hire freelance app developers. So far it’s received between €60,000 (£49,000) and €70,000 (£58,000), while Google has given it around $US60,000 in credit.

Full Disclosure: Business Insider is owned by Axel Springer.

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