Google's Gradient Ventures, the search giant's dedicated AI fund, is turning its attention to Asia after running a $ 7 million Series A round for Elsa, a startup that's an app for English learners operates.
The deal is the first of Gradient in Asia and includes the participation of existing investors Monk's Hill Ventures and SOSV. Elsa has now raised $ 12 million.
Elsa was founded in 2015 to help non-English speakers improve their accent and general speech skills. Vu Van, CEO and one half of the founding team, is a Vietnamese citizen who, despite fluent English, had difficulty understanding after moving to the US to study and then work. Together with the speech recognition researcher Dr. Xavier Anguera ̵
"I was very good at grammar, reading and writing, but I realized people had a hard time understanding me because I had a very strong accent and my pronunciation was not right," Van said in San Francisco lives, but is traveling a lot, opposite TechCrunch in an interview. "This affects confidence when you apply for a job or just meet friends."
"There are so many English language learning solutions, but they focus mainly on vocabulary or grammar extension, few are concerned with pronunciation," she added. 19659002] Elsa uses Speech Recognition and AI to evaluate a user's language skills against standard American English (19459006), and I thought Britons were the global standard … . In the end, they gave them a score. This helps to track their progress, with a focus on pronunciation and a detailed overview of the way a user speaks.
The service uses a freemium model that gives users full access to 1,000 courses for $ 3- $ 6 per month, depending on their length, of the package they choose. That ranges from one month access to up to 12 months. Van added that new content will be added every week.
With this money in her pocket, Elsa is on a growth trajectory in some of the most promising markets.
The service has more than 100 users countries, but Vietnam is the top market with two million paying users. Elsa defended herself against Vietnam partly because of Vans' home market with a local sales team and local payments, such as bank transfers and local wallets.
This is the blueprint for expansion in the next three target countries. Japan, Indonesia and India. Esla has already opened an office in Tokyo and plans to introduce more localized content for Japanese users. Similar efforts are taking place in Indonesia and India, where Van said the app sees strong engagement and downloads without paid marketing efforts.
Elsa is also working on expanding the content of English to other languages. Spanish is currently on the horizon and the company is already preparing backend technology to make this possible.
"We need to build speech recognition technology to accurately recognize these languages. We have the infrastructure, but now all we have to do is collect voice data to train the model, "Van said.