SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ELSA, the premier company leveraging machine learning and speech recognition technology to teach English, has raised a $23 million Series C funding alongside its launch of ELSA AI Tutor.
ELSA AI Tutor is the only application that is supported by years of speech recognition experience and data, and is the first teaching application to reproduce natural conversation through Generative (Voice) AI, offering a fully immersive English learning experience. ELSA AI replaces the need for an in-person tutor and makes English language accuracy and fluency more accessible than ever before.
ELSA’s round was led by UOB Venture Management, joined by UniPresident, and Asia Growth Investment Fund, which is a joint business of Aozora Bank and Development Bank of Japan (DBJ). Previous investors Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund; Monk’s Hill Ventures; Globant Ventures; and Vietnam Investments Group (VIG) also participated. The financing will help fuel the launch and expansion of ELSA AI into international markets like Taiwan and Korea as well as the Middle East, and accelerate partnerships with corporations and schools in countries like Japan where English learners are looking to improve their language skill to access global job opportunities.
“We believe artificial intelligence will pave a new way forward for the education industry,” said Clarissa Loh, Executive Director, UOB Venture Management. “ELSA's affordable and personalized AI-enabled English speaking solution will allow users to improve their skills, thereby opening up more job opportunities, especially in developing countries. We are excited to support ELSA’s growth into more markets, especially in Southeast Asia.”
“I have discovered through my own journey that my purpose is to help others become more effective and confident communicators in English,” said co-founder and CEO Vu Van. “ELSA AI Tutor is the most sophisticated and comprehensive app that offers a clear alternative to expensive, and often inaccessible, high quality human tutors. We believe we have the right team, technology and incredible international investors to propel ELSA AI Tutor to become the global standard for learning to speak English.”
ELSA has already been at the forefront of the AI revolution with its platform for English learning and is the leading platform in phonetic fluency and pronunciation. Since 2016, millions of users have improved their skills using the app, and now the company’s conversational voice-based tutor will speed up the progress and make learning even more accessible, affordable and personal. The platform not only offers roleplay scenarios for learners to listen and reply, but due to the platform’s speech recognition technology, ELSA is able to provide in-depth and accurate English fluency analysis and feedback to ensure progress. Using voice, not just text-based learning, ELSA AI helps learners master English language fluency, building their confidence to speak in actual work, school and social settings.
“Speaking English is rated the most valued skill on the job market,” said Dr. Xavier Anguera, co-founder of ELSA and respected speech technologist. “Listening and speaking out loud is essential to fluency and pronunciation; with ELSA AI Tutor, ELSA becomes the most powerful and accessible language learning tool and companion to help people teach and practice natural conversational English, available right at their fingertips through a mobile device.”
Previously, the only way to truly learn through live conversations was speaking with a human tutor. Unfortunately human tutors are expensive, not widely available and inconsistent across the globe. ELSA AI Tutor features an advanced role-play capability to practice real scenarios, from simple interactions like asking for directions, to nuanced and significant conversations like negotiating a raise at work, preparing for interviews, leading meetings and presentations, and more. In addition, ELSA pupils can customize their own role-playing scenarios to further tailor their lesson plan to their personal needs and sooner become global citizens.
Following each role-play conversation, users receive tailored feedback on their English speaking proficiency, notes on the student's pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, intonation, rhythm and more. Plus, feedback is stored in the ELSA user’s profile, so the AI tutor can reference past mistakes and tailor future lessons. Beginning today, ELSA is offering a free option where users can try a limited number of scenarios, or they can upgrade to the Premium plan for unlimited scenarios and feedback.
The ELSA AI Tutor is powered by a long history of AI-powered, proprietary speech recognition technology and English audio data from 34 million learners around the world. With over 50 million downloads, ELSA is the only language learning platform with 200 million hours of anonymous English audio data collected over the course of seven years. This global data has enabled ELSA to more efficiently scale the platform and develop hyper-personalized lesson plans best catered to each learner’s profile.
The new ELSA AI Tutor feature is officially available in the ELSA Speak App and will automatically update for all current users. To learn more, visit https://elsaspeak.com/en/ai or download the App for free on Google Play or the App Store.
Founded in 2015 by Vu Van, language and education expert, with MA/MBA from Stanford, and Dr. Xavier Anguera, a veteran in speech recognition and AI, ELSA is a mobile app for language learners that helps improve pronunciation and reduce accents, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep machine learning technology. The inspiration for ELSA, the 2016 SXSWEdu winner, came when Vu realized that pronunciation and accent often pose a hindrance for non-native employees in business. Based in San Francisco, ELSA is backed by leading VCs in Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia and Japan. The company has offices in Portugal and Vietnam. For more information, visit: https://elsaspeak.com/en/ai.
About UOB Venture Management
UOB Venture Management Private Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB), a leading bank in Asia with a global network of around 500 branches and offices. UOB is rated among the world’s top banks: Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA- by both S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings. Since 1992, UOBVM has been providing financing to privately-held companies in Southeast Asia and Greater China through direct equity investment. UOBVM advocates responsible investing through impact investments and integrating ESG Considerations into its investment process. UOBVM is a signatory of the Operating Principles for Impact Management and the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. UOBVM has assets under management in excess of US$1.5 billion.
About Monk’s Hill Ventures
Founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs Peng T. Ong and Kuo-Yi Lim, MHV is a venture capital firm investing in early-stage tech companies, primarily Pre Series-A and Series A, in Southeast Asia. Backed by institutional investors and family offices worldwide, MHV works with great entrepreneurs to use technology to improve the lives of millions of people in the region.
About Gradient Ventures
Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, helps founders build transformational companies. The fund focuses on helping founders navigate the challenges in developing new technology products, using the latest best practices in recruiting, marketing, design, and engineering so that great ideas can come to life. Gradient was founded in 2017 and is based in Palo Alto, California. For more information, visit www.gradient.com.