English learning App Elsa bags $7m from Google’s Gradient Ventures to expand into Indonesia, Japan, and India

Vietnam is the biggest market for Elsa so far

Elsa, an English learning app founded by a Vietnamese entrepreneur, but headquartered in the US, raised a US$7 million series A funding round from Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, according to the company’s official blog, The app has raised US$12 million in venture capital to date. Singaporean Monk’s Hill Ventures and US fund SOSV have participated in earlier rounds.

Learning English for non-native speakers can be challenging, especially if you were not educated in an international school and haven’t lived in English-speaking countries. Understanding grammar is one thing, but speaking clearly without an accent is another. That experience drove Van Dinh Hong Vu from Vietnam to develop Elsa, hoping to help users speak fluently like a native speaker.

The app uses AI and voice recognition to grade a user’s speaking ability based on standard American English. It focuses on pronunciation and the app will tell users how to improve their speaking. Elsa offers a free version and more ambitious students can choose a package for around US$3-6 per month.

The company says it will use the fresh investment to expand its AI and speech capabilities, also to scale their business to new markets in Asia, including Indonesia, India, and Japan, where the demand for English speaking skills is high. Elsa currently has four million users from 101 countries worldwide. Vietnam as the biggest market for the app.

Editor: Nadine Freischlad