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ELSA Speak secures Series A funding

Released at: 09:36, 05/03/2019

ELSA Speak secures Series A funding

Photo: ELSA Speak

English pronunciation app raises $7 million from a number of venture funds.

by Khanh Chi

ELSA Speak, a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition technology to help language learners improve their English pronunciation, recently announced Series A funding of $7 million led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, with previous investors Monk’s Hill Ventures and SOSV also participating. The startup picked up $3.2-million in pre-Series A funding early last year, led by Monk’s Hill Ventures.

The company experienced exponential growth in 2018 of 3.5-fold in paid subscriptions from language learners compared to 2017. It will engage additional AI scientists and engineers to expand its AI and speech recognition capabilities, which help people improve their English-speaking skills. Due to ELSA’s rising popularity in Asia, the company will also hire a local team to establish its business and operations in Tokyo.

ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant) helps 1.5 billion English language learners across the globe with an easy way to improve their English-speaking abilities. The company has built its own proprietary speech technology using deep learning and AI to detect people’s pronunciation mistakes with 95 per cent plus accuracy. The app listens to the way language learners pronounce words, sentences, or conversations to pinpoint errors and provide real-time, accurate feedback on their pronunciation mistakes with specific suggestions on how to improve.

“This round helps us accelerate our growth and potential in new markets, such as Japan, Indonesia, and India,” said Ms. Vu Van, co-founder and CEO of ELSA. “The support and resources from Gradient Ventures is aligned with our company’s focus on AI. We look forward to working with their team of experts as we scale our global team and advanced AI capabilities to meet the international demand for English speaking skills.”

Later this year, ELSA will also introduce new social features to foster community-based learning and build more advanced AI capabilities to evaluate other speech elements like rhythm and intonation for a more complete evaluation of learner’s speech. Vietnam has been its fastest growing market.

ELSA grew its business four-fold in Vietnam in 2018 alone and expects to grow at a faster pace in 2019. After a successful pilot program of its educational platform in Vietnam, it will open a teacher platform offering to the global market. This platform allows English teachers and schools to integrate ELSA into their curriculum and help students with their speaking skills.

“ELSA provides language learning in a fun, accessible way to a quickly expanding population of users that get to see the difference in their personal and business lives,” said Mr. Zachary Bratun-Glennon, Partner at Gradient Ventures, who is also joining Elsa’s board. “Communication and engagement across borders and cultures is only increasing, and we are excited to see how far this technology and team can go, particularly after their speedy development thus far.”

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