These are interesting times for language learning startups. In the past few months, several companies in the space have been acquired or raised funding. Now, New York-based Voxy says it has raised an $8.5 million Series B round to step up its own efforts to help people around the world learn English.
The round was led by education giant Pearson and education investment fund Rethink Education. As part of the investment, Pearson said it plans to incorporate Voxy’s tools into its own portfolio of services to distribute the startup’s technology to more people around the world.
Voxy founder and CEO Paul Gollash said that in a market where competitor language learning companies, like Rosetta Stone and others, spend huge amounts of resources on marketing, they wanted to reach potential customers with a different approach.
“We saw the strategic benefit of taking money from Pearson as something that could be transformative in accelerating our go-to-market strategy,” he said.
Over the past couple of years, Pearson has acquired English language companies Wall Street English and Global English. But Bhavneet Singh, Pearson’s president and CEO of Global English and Informal Learning, said Voxy’s system, which spans mobile and web platforms and offers personalized instruction, would serve as an on-the-go, interactive complement to its in-person and other digital instructional services.
Launched in 2010, Voxy says it provides language instruction tailored to a learner’s level of English, interests and specific goals. Instead of just relying on textbook content, the company claims to turn day-to-day experiences into personalized lessons that reflect each student’s needs. Using semantic analysis and natural language processing, Voxy can breakdown all kinds of text-based content, from articles to song lyrics, and then serve them to students as multiple-choice questions and instructional tasks. The service also enables students to get 1-on-1 tutoring from a native English speaker on any topic, at any time.
While Voxy is exclusively focused on teaching English, it’s hardly the only company interested in bringing new language skills to people worldwide. Berlin-based Babbel, which recently acquired PlaySay, Duolingo, the startup created by the founder of reCaptcha, and Rosetta Stone, which snapped up Livemocha a few months ago, are among the other companies making headway in this space.
To date, Voxy has raised about $16.5 million from a range of investors, including ff Venture Capital, Contour Venture Partners and Seavest Capital Partners, and it says it has reached about 2.5 million users. The company has already gained traction among Spanish-speaking markets and said it’s now focusing on companies like Brazil, Russia, India and China.