Speak, an educational technology platform specializing in AI-powered language tutoring has announced that it has raised a $16 million Series B-2 funding round led by Lachy Groom, with participation from all existing major investors, including the OpenAI Startup Fund and new strategic investors such as the founders of Dropbox, Drew Houston, and Arash Ferdowsi. The new funding will accelerate the development of its AI Tutor, expand into international markets, and hire new personnel to support its availability in emerging markets.
Co-founded by Connor Zwick and Andrew Hsu in 2016, Speak allows users to practice conversing in English through interactive speaking experiences. The app features an “AI tutor” that guides open-ended conversations on various topics and provides feedback on pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. The company aims to fill a significant educational gap by creating a virtual, AI-driven tutor capable of mimicking the benefits of one-on-one human tutoring. The platform, which uses advances in natural language processing and speech technologies, enables a two-way discussion with students, signalling a development in digital education. It has expanded to over 20 countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and Brazil, and plans to enter the US market with multi-language options by the end of the year.
Despite competition from other AI-powered language learning applications such as Duolingo, Speak has become one of the most popular education apps in South Korea, where it first debuted, with over 100,000 subscribers. It claims to have helped nearly 6% of Korea’s population, or about 3 million people, learn English.
Excited about growing the company’s presence in major markets worldwide by the end of the year. Co-founder of Speak, Connor Zwick, stated that the learning experience developed by Speak has proven to resonate with minimal modifications needed in markets and cultures across the globe.
The collaboration with OpenAI has been instrumental in Speak’s success. The investment from OpenAI provided financing and early access to its systems and Azure resources from Microsoft. This allowed Speak to tap into OpenAI’s AI technology for new capabilities and features. In March, the firm upgraded its AI Tutor with OpenAI’s GPT-4 text-generating model, which enabled highly personalized and contextual feedback for learners. GPT-4 resulted in increased user engagement and better learning outcomes. In addition, the firm adopted OpenAI’s Whisper API for multilingual speech recognition and collaborated on new plugins for ChatGPT, OpenAI’s AI chatbot. This marked its first foray into teaching beyond English.
Investor Lachy Groom added:
Education will continue to be a sector profoundly transformed by AI, as personalized one-on-one human tutoring is scarce and expensive. Speak’s mission to create a human-level AI tutor makes conversational practice accessible for all learners worldwide.
With the additional funding and support from OpenAI, Speak is poised for further growth and expansion. The platform’s innovative use of AI technology and commitment to affordable language education make it a standout in the competitive language learning market. As the company gears up to enter new markets, including the US, it’s clear that it has positioned itself as a significant player in the dynamic intersection of AI and education.
Last year in November, Speak raised $27 million in a Series B funding round led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, with participation from Lachy Groom, Josh Buckley, Justin Mateen, Gokul Rajaram, and Founders Fund. The company’s latest funding brings its total raised to $63 million.