Thank you, readers and followers.
Today we are very proud to announce some big news. italki is announcing its Series A funding, with China’s leader in online education, Hujiang, having invested $3 Million USD on June 21, 2016. We are very excited about developing new features, expanding our reach to mobile customers, and helping many more people become fluent in any language. Thank you all for your continued support.
Please find the press release below:
italki, a marketplace for online language teachers, announced a $3 million USD Series A funding from Hujiang, China’s largest e-learning platform.
The funding will be used to expand italki’s marketplace, which connects learners with online language teachers for 1-on-1 language lessons. The company states it has over 3000 active language teachers, and thousands of paid online lessons take place daily.
Hujiang has been expanding internationally, and has made partnerships with the world’s largest education companies, including McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and HarperCollins. Hujiang’s latest funding was for $157 million USD, and its investor list includes China Minsheng Investment, and Chinese tech giant Baidu.
The investment by Hujiang highlights the growth potential in education technology, which is estimated as over $20 billion USD in China alone. It also shows Hujiang’s interest in expanding into markets outside of China; notably, italki’s largest markets are the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Brazil. Both companies plan to expand their services in China, where Hujiang already has over 100 million users.
Drawing on his own personal experiences learning French and Chinese, Kevin Chen, co-founded italki with Yongyue Jiang in order to help people learn a foreign language by connecting them to native speakers.
“When I studied Chinese in Shanghai, my progress was a lot faster than when I learned French in high school. It wasn’t because the textbooks or teachers were better. The difference was that I had many opportunities to meet native speakers and to use the language for real communication. We’re trying to give learners everywhere that same opportunity by connecting them to native teachers online,” said Kevin Chen.
Finding online language teachers and language partners is becoming a popular way to learn a language. Many “polyglots” or “language hackers” like Tim Ferriss, Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, and Olly Richards, believe that communication with native speakers is the key to language acquisition.
Teachers on italki set their own prices, and italki generates a 15% commission from the lessons transacted on the platform. The average price for an hour of personal lessons on italki is $10-15 per hour, which can be significantly more affordable than traditional language schools and tutoring.
italki started in 2007 as a social network for language exchange, and in 2009, it launched its teacher marketplace. italki has grown to over 3000 active teachers giving language lessons in over 70 languages. The most popular language to learn is English, which accounts for roughly 50% of the lessons transacted on the site, followed by Spanish, French, Chinese, and Japanese. The site even offers endangered languages such as Native American Blackfoot, and South African Xhosa.
Hujiang is China’s largest e-learning platform, aiming to provide users with convenient, high quality and comprehensive online learning products and services. Since its establishment, Hujiang has built four business units: learning news, learning community, learning tools and learning platforms, covering various content including higher-education entrance examinations, examinations for studying abroad, languages, careers and hobbies.
In recent years, Hujiang has strongly supported start-ups in online education and actively built an online education ecosystem to achieve a win-win situation. In the meantime, Hujiang has collaborated with traditional schools to narrow the educational gap and promote the educational equity, bringing high quality educational resources to every corner in the world through Internet. Now, as the leader in online education, Hujiang has over 100 million users and has influenced 200 million learners.