Today, Speak, an AI-powered English language learning platform, announced a Series B funding round of $27 million led by the Founders Fund, the OpenAI Startup Fund, and Lachy Groom, Josh Buckley, Justin Mateen, Gokul Rajaram are among the contributors. OpenAI, the closely aligned AI lab with Microsoft, has publicly invested in Speak for the third time through its fund — the others are Descript and Mem.
In addition to capital, OpenAI Startup Fund participants receive early access to new OpenAI systems and Azure resources from Microsoft.
OpenAI is excited to announce that they’re partnering with Speak, a company that will bring quality language learning to the masses. “Companies like Speak have the potential to revolutionise not just language learning, but education broadly,” says Brad Lightcap CEO and the manager of the OpenAI Startup Fund. As per openAI 27m wiggerstechcrunch
It was founded in 2016 by Connor Zwick and Andrew Hsu, both of whom were passionate about artificial intelligence and health. Hsu completed a PhD in neuroscience at Stanford before joining Zwick and co-founding Speak with him. As an edtech veteran, Zwick sold his first startup, Flashcards+, to Chegg in 2013 after dropping out of Harvard.
As part of The Thiel Fellowship, Zwick was in the first cohort, while Hsu was in the second. The Founders Fund, which Thiel co-founded, contributed cash to Speak’s Series B. Before starting Speak, the two spent a year studying machine learning and developing accent detection algorithms using YouTube videos.
In an email interview with TechCrunch, Zwick told TechCrunch, “Most language learning software can help with the beginning stages of learning basic vocabulary and grammar, but achieving fluency requires speaking out loud in an interactive environment. The only way to get such practice is through human tutors, which can also be difficult, expensive, and intimidating.
Learners can practise conversing in English with Speak’s solution, a collection of interactive speaking experiences. As a result of the platform, users can converse openly on a wide range of topics with an “AI tutor” while getting feedback on their pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
There are a number of AI-powered language learning apps out there, including Duolingo, Yanadoo, ELSA, and Loora. But Zwick insists Speak’s AI is superior to most.
To deliver the best performance across speech recognition, speech generation, and conversation generation, we combine OpenAI technology with in-house models. With [our] models, we can provide feedback on pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax that are more natural. With the help of a substantial data set of second-language labeled speaking examples, we are able to offer state-of-the-art speech models specifically tailored for foreign accented speakers.”
Speak didn’t provide any empirical data that showed its platform outperformed its rivals. However, Speak does possess early momentum that is demonstrably strong. Over 15 million lessons are started every year, 100,000 active subscribers, and “double-digit million” annual recurring revenue make it one of Korea’s top education apps on the iOS App Store.
Future Plans of speak
In addition to AI-guided practice sessions, Speak offers auto-renewable monthly and annual subscriptions that provide access to courses, electives, and review content.
With Speak’s next act, the company plans to expand to new languages and markets, including Japan, and integrate text-generating models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.
There is an increased need for workers who speak the same language around the world as a result of the pandemic, which hastened remote work and the growth of global, distributed teams. Additionally, it has increased demand for fresh approaches that emphasise programmatic or remote learning rather than face-to-face training. added Zwick.
Speak has managed to stay relatively lean and has a long runway, allowing it to determine its own course of action regardless of the state of the fundraising market in the coming years.Speak now employs 40 people in its offices in San Francisco (where it is based), Seoul, and Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The additional money, which puts Speak’s total funding garnered to “just over” $47 million, will be used to grow the organisation’s engineering, machine learning, product, marketing, content, and operations divisions, according to Zwick.
Today’s announcement marks an exciting milestone both for Speak and its investors. With this new funding, the AI-powered English language learning platform will be able to expand their team and operations which can be expected to bring innovative new solutions that provide more people with the opportunity to become fluent in English. This Series B round of $27 million led by the Founders Fund, the OpenAI Startup Fund, and Lachy Groom, Josh Buckley, Justin Mateen, Gokul Rajaram funding also highlights some of today’s top venture capitalists who recognize Spaak’s potential, not only as a great business but as a tool that has the capacity to revolutionize how people learn English around the world.