SHANGHAI, June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- italki, a marketplace for online language teachers, announced a 3 million USD Series A funding from Hujiang, China's leading online education company.
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 3,000 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 110 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 3,000 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.
As the world's leading online education company, Hujiang is dedicated to providing convenient, high quality and comprehensive online education products and services. Since its establishment, Hujiang has built 4 business units, which include website that providing online learning information, online studying community, mobile applications for study and online course platform, covering contents such as multi-language studies, K12 curriculum, study-abroad examinations, vocational skills and various arts.
In 2001, Arnold Fu founded Hujiang when he was still a junior in college. After five years of non-profit operation, Hujiang.com turned into a company with a founding team of 8 members and start-up capital of 80,000 RMB. Today, Hujiang has become an unicorn company with over $1 billion company valuation, and serves more than 110 million users, including 83 million mobile subscribers.