Duolingo, Language Learning Startup, Raises $45 million in Series D Funding


Duolingo, the well-known crowd sourced language learning tech startup, has secured another $45 million in Series D funding led by Google Capital.


The automated tutor app, Duolingo, allows students to learn various languages like Spanish, French, English, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish and Swedish through lessons that are game-like. The app was built by few artificial intelligence specialists from Carnegie Mellon University and Google Inc. The app offers personalized lessons based on the student’s progress and capability. Language lessons for Hebrew, Vietnamese, Hungarian and Klingon are under progress and would be launched shortly.

The four-year-old startup that offers free language lessons to all is valued at $470 million because the investors look at the value in the users who does not have to pay to avail the app’s services. The valuation is quite high for a company that is depending most of its business on $20 English language proficiency certifications. Google Capital and the other investors Union Square Ventures, NEA and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers consisted in valuing the company.


Having sold the previous companies to Google, the startup’s CEO Luis von Ahn is making plans to use the newly raised fund to expand its ‘learning platform’ by making use of the artificial intelligence to power personalized tutor called machine learning. He said, “Because human tutors are scarce and expensive, we are using technology to give everyone access to a personalized education in a scalable way. The fund will enable the Duolingo team to make the platform even more adaptive, personalized and effective, and to expand the platform’s presence in schools across the globe.”

von Ahn also added, “Now, we are focused on offering the best possible education to the maximum number of people in the world. In order to accomplish this, we are working to optimize the rate at which people acquire information, making the experience as entertaining as possible to help students persist, and we are using machine learning to offer personalized learning experiences to each of our users. This was impossible with traditional education and has been mostly unexplored by other educational technologies.”

The main aim of the Duolingo is to offer a cheaper version of  foreign language tutor, personalized for every user who are more than 100 million in number. Under the education category on both Google Play and iTunes, this is the most downloaded app. The app also offers its platform for schools which allows traditional educators use the app in the classroom to teach their students. More than 100,000 teachers have registered for this service.

Before the current funding, Duolingo raised $3.3 million in Series A round led by Union Square Ventures, $15 million in Series B led by NEA and $20 million Series C led by Kleiner Perkins. Before the recent funding, the startup on the whole has raised $38.3 million from the investors that included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and individuals including actor Ashton Kutcher and author Tim Ferris. But until not the pressure to monetize was minimal said the CEO.

Previously, rather than monetizing the startup was more focused in creating a viral app for which Kutcher helped through his Twitter and other social networking sites. Duolingo had teamed up with CNN and others previously to translate its news feed for users which generated income for the company, but recently the board decided to reduce the focus on it as it wasn’t as profitable as expected. “With translation it’s a price war. We do not want to race to the bottom,” said von Ahn. He also added, “When we started researching translation businesses we learned they have a whole sales team devoted just to keeping customers happy.”

Google Capital partner Laela Sturdy said, “Duolingo’s mobilefirst, adaptive and gamified platform is changing the way people are learning languages across the globe. We were blown away by Duolingo’s growth and engagement numbers and we are thrilled to partner with them as they shape the future of education.” This explains the Google’s interest in the startup that is seen as the future of online education.