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How Poligo got started

Nath & I in Harajuku, Feb. 2005

Poligo was a good idea, but I had no idea how to do. But I knew someone who did!

In the last post, I wrote about why we made Poligo. It was an idea that I had been thinking about for a while. I was sure it would make things easier for me, and I knew it would make life and learning better for my students.

The first problem was I just did not know how to even begin making a website. Fortunately for me, living in Tokyo at the time was my old school friend, Nathan. He was a web designer and made websites in those days. I asked to meet him for coffee.

We caught up in Shinjuku or Shibuya. I can't remember where. It was mid- to late-2006.

We talked for a long time about what I wanted to do. Nathan was really keen and could see the potential of the idea (when he first got to Japan, he taught English too). We decided to strike up a partnership. He would take care of the technological side and I would be in charge of the business and design of the service.

While Nathan researched ways we could make the site, I sat down and planned out the details. And I mean details. When I look back at what I wrote then, it's easy to see how inexperienced I was. I let myself dream. My mind wandered, and I thought about all the great possibilities, and how we could do all sorts of marvelous things.

The plan got more and more complicated.

Meanwhile, Nathan figured out how we could actually build the basic service. We enlisted the help of a programmer and over the course of about six months, we built a beta version of the site. I told as many students about it as I could to prepare for the launch.

In 2007, I needed to register the company. But for that, we needed a name.

I've lost whatever lists I had of the names we bounced around. In the end, my wife and I came up with the name together sitting in our kitchen in Ichikawa. She speaks Portuguese, and suggested the name "Poliglota", which means "polyglot" (someone who knows a lot of languages) in Portuguese. Unfortunately, we could not get the dot com for "Poliglota", or the dot org, or the dot anything. 

After kicking around some variations, Nathan and I decided on "Poligo". We liked it, because it has a nice ring (sound), and it has some good associations. "Poly-" means "many", and "-go" (語) means "language" in Japanese. We also thought that "Go!" is a nice, positive punch in the name. We were able to get the dot com, and I registered the company in New Zealand in 2007.

Another thing we worked on at the time was the logo. I say "we", when really I mean "Nathan". We threw around a lot of ideas, and Nathan respectfully considered my suggestions. I looked at the ideas I had just now as I write this. They were terrible.

Thank god Nathan ignored them! He came up with a really brilliant logo. It cleverly uses punctuation—a question mark and an exclamation point—to spell out the name. What I especially like about it is how it starts with a question mark and follows with the exclamation.  It suggests to me that people will come to Poligo with questions and after we help them, they will be left with realisations (Eureka!). It reminds me of that favourite moment you have as a teacher when you explain something to your student and they say, "Of course!"

By early 2007, we were ready for launch. I shall write more about that next time.

  • Matthew's picture
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).


shoh's picture
Submitted by shoh on

This is my favorite blog article because it visualizes me vividly how an ambitious young fellow struggled to realize his dream and finally succeeded in overseas. Hope I will also take the same path in my life as Matthew achieved! 

Matthew's picture
Submitted by Matthew on

Hi Shoh!
Thanks so much for your comment. I am sorry I did not see it at the time. It means a lot to me to know that people enjoy reading this.
All the best,

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