Google just invested $45 million in Duolingo, a language-learning startup that tech execs love

Luis von Ahn DuolingoCourtesy of DuolingoLuis von Ahn, Duolingo’s co-founder and CEO.


Duolingo is a language-learning startup that teaches you how to speak a bunch of languages — Spanish, French, English, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish and Swedish — through game-like lessons.

Top Silicon Valley executives like Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann love Duolingo’s app.

On Wednesday, Duolingo announced it has raised $US45 million led by Google Capital, Google’s growth-phase investment branch. The new funding values Duolingo at $US470 million.

“Duolingo’s original goal was to offer free language education for the world,” Luis von Ahn, Duolingo’s co-founder and CEO told Business Insider.

“Now, we’re 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 optimise the rate at which people acquire information, making the experience as entertaining as possible to help students persist, and we’re using machine learning to offer personalised learning experiences to each of our users. This was impossible with traditional education and has been mostly unexplored by other educational technologies.”

Human tutors are expensive, so Duolingo’s goal is to offer a cheaper version of a foreign language tutor, personalised for each of its users, of which it has more than 100 million.

Duolingo is the most downloaded app in the Education category on both Google Play and iTunes, and the company says its Duolingo for Schools platform — which lets traditional educators use Duolingo in their own classrooms — has registered more than 100,000 teachers.

Previously, Duolingo raised a $US3.3 million Series A round led by Union Square Ventures, a $US15 million Series B led by NEA, and a $US20 million Series C led by Kleiner Perkins. Ashton Kutcher has also invested in Duolingo.

“Duolingo’s mobile­-first, adaptive, and gamified platform is changing the way people are learning languages across the globe,” Laela Sturdy, a partner at Google Capital said in the company’s announcement Wednesday morning. “We were blown away by Duolingo’s growth and engagement numbers, and we’re thrilled to partner with them as they shape the Educational technology has largely focused on video­based platforms.”

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