Sydney edtech startup Language Confidence, which uses artificial intelligence to help people learn to speak English, has raised US$1.5 million (A$2.05m) in a seed round.
The round was led by Southeast Asian VC Wavemaker Partners with support from Sydney early-stage VC Investible.
The funds are earmarked for expand Language Confidence’s product range of AI-powered APIs and automated English tests, as well as building its already global customer base.
Language Confidence offers an API (plugin) that ‘listens’ to students and can assess and correct their spoken English pronunciation with visual feedback. The API can be plugged into any digital platform and enhance spoken products’ engagement, retention and student’s learning.
The automated English test, offered as a white-labeled platform, can be used, including mock high-stakes testing, placement testing, and diagnostic testing for universities, schools, online platforms and governments.
Co-Founder and CEO Nick Jenkins said Language Confidence’s API product is used in a range of ways from test preparation, to B2B and corporate English, direct-to-consumer (as an app) and the learning-assisted (i.e. dyslexia) markets.
“There are 1.4 billion people spending US$60 billion trying to learn English, and there simply aren’t enough teachers to go around,” he said.
“I wanted to automate and scale what I was doing as a real human teacher with a focus on speaking. There is a huge opportunity to unlock universal access to the English language by leveraging artificial intelligence.”
He formed strong relationships with PhD students at MIT’s Speech Lab, who shared his vision and went on to become shareholders and technical advisors to the startup.
Jenkins, who comes from a family of educators, said his startup has helped democratise access to high-quality language education.
“We offer our API on a per-student or per-usage basis, and our test at a per-test fee. We’re very excited about what the future holds, considering the customers we’ve secured and the interest we’re seeing in our technology,” he said.
“I believe in businesses that do something good for the world and build a large, sustainable business at the same time. Language Confidence is exactly that.”
Having hired a chief commercial officer and seen 5x growth enterprise customers and more than 10x uplift in inbound leads in 2021, without outbound sales and marketing, Jenkins is now looking to ramp up growth around the world.
Eric Manlunas, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners Southeast Asia, praised his focus.
“Nick is a three-time founder who experienced first-hand the pain points of teaching English, giving him unique insight into the space,” he said.
“With that insight, Language Confidence has built the best-in-class API-based product that’s loved by stakeholders across the board, from traditional universities to global edtech players.
“Even with a lean team, it has been able to compete against well-funded competitors and sign institutional clients, helping thousands of students learn and speak English as a result. We are incredibly excited to see how the Language Confidence team will revolutionize English learning globally.”