Language learning startup
remains on a winning streak with the announcement of millions in venture funding and another big award.
The Pittsburgh company landed its largest investment to date, $20 million, and received a 2013 “Crunchie” as the best education app in the world from TechCrunch. Founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn, generally a low kind of guy, expressed his elation.
“It’s pretty rare to see (Crunchie) winners that are not based in Silicon Valley,” says von Ahn. “We’re proud of the fact we won and we’re not that.”
TechCrunch touted Duolingo for its ability to teach real language skills through mobile tech in a “gamified” and fun way. The app currently is 20 million users strong and growing.
“There are more people learning a language on Duolingo than in the whole U.S. school system,” says von Ahn, who estimates that number at eight million.
The funding round was lead by Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Duolingo has previously raised $3.3 million lead by Union Square in 2011 and a $15 million round lead by NEA. Ashton Kutcher and author Tim Ferriss are also investors.
Big hiring will take place this year, von Ahn adds. Duolingo will add 16 to its staff of 34 people. It will also begin developing a language certification app that will allow users to take a standardized language test on their smartphone for only $20. Language certification standardized tests usually cost hundreds of dollar, he says.
Last December Duolingo was named iPhone App of the Year by Apple. The app owes its design and original concept to von Ahn and his CMU student, Severin Hacker.
Duolingo works by leading users through lessons and programs using fun games and exercises. As users translate web phrases, both by reading and listening to the language spoken by native speakers, they assist with the translation of web content, a concept known as crowdsourcing.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luis von Ahn, Duolingo