Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/tnel1

Duolingo on Business Insider (today)

tnel1
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Imgur

"On Wednesday, Duolingo announced it has raised $45 million led by Google Capital, Google's growth-phase investment branch. The new funding values Duolingo at $470 million.

"Duolingo’s original goal was to offer free language education for the world," Luis von Ahn, Duolingo’s co-founder and CEO told Business Insider.

"Now, we’re focused on offering the best possible education to the maximum number of people in the world. In order to accomplish this, we are working to optimize the rate at which people acquire information, making the experience as entertaining as possible to help students persist, and we’re using machine learning to offer personalized learning experiences to each of our users. This was impossible with traditional education and has been mostly unexplored by other educational technologies."

Read more: http://uk.businessinsider.com/duolingo-raises-45-million-from-google-capital-2015-6?r=US#ixzz3cfYoeoN4

Thoughts? :)

3 years ago

68 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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At the moment Duolingo is pretty amazing. In my opinion the best engaging language learning tool online. With an influx of Google capital, I'm sure the site will incrementally grow and improve. This is good news.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SoyHenry
SoyHenry
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I agree

Duo

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Misakachi
Misakachi
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How do you post images and .gif ??

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DetErMinNavn
DetErMinNavn
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![](URL of uploaded image

For example, ![](http://i.imgur.com/HMBgUFX.png) becomes

gifs work the same way.

Hope this helps.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Misakachi
Misakachi
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Thank you SO MUCH!!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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de acuerdo!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

It's amazing to me that a company can be valued at $470 million dollars while making little to no money. We will see where Duolingo and other similar programs end up in 5 to 10 years. I'm not entirely sure how long I will find Duolingo's personalized experience entertaining.

Most of the time I do like Duo, and I have been learning a lot. My comprehension has improved for both reading and listening. As I started learning Spanish and French so long ago, it's also been helping me to identify my weaknesses. However, the vocabulary or sentences can sometimes be VERY repetitive. If I answered correctly the first time, why repeat the same word 3 or more times in the next few minutes? My impression is that the Spanish course may have more sentence/word variety in the strengthening exercises as compared to the French course, but I may be wrong. When a certain skill gets boring, timed practice or just doing one or more of the lessons over can help.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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It's amazing to me that a company can be valued at $470 million dollars while making little to no money.

Just what I was thinking when reading the article. Hopefully someone with more knowledge on the subject can explain how market valuation for a company is done.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WanderingMonk
WanderingMonk
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They are valued at 470 million lingots, not dollars, I will be glad to donate some of my lingots if it helps Duo remain free.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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As per Luis's comment in this discussion, the question of Duolingo being free should be put to rest (at least as long as Duolingo remains an independent company).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Medard
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It's a start-up. Instagram isn't making any serious money as well but is worth billions because it has a huge potential. (again, it's a start up) Imagine that in the future, with more languages on board Duolingo will be used by hundreds of millions people... they could easy monetize it then. They could charge for language tests, make money from translations... you can make a lot of things with millions of users... without ads or subscription.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/parapluie41

eh... let's be real, it's probably gonna be ads. But as long as they don't pop up in the middle of lessons I don't care.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rumnraisin
rumnraisin
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Ads in the language you're learning ... sneaking in as phrases to translate. ;-p

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/parapluie41

"J'adore Taco Bell!"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TenDeuChen
TenDeuChen
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Well, if they are native ads that you might actually see in the country, I'd be all for that. That's real world language practice. I don't like ads in English (my native language. Edit: I just noticed I have an Am. flag icon. That's because I used the Eng. for Dutch speakers to see how high I could test with what I've learned in Dutch. ), but I love looking at ads in languages I'm learning so that I can see how much I understand.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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So basically the market is betting on monetisation potential of the website based on its customer reach. Even in the case of Instagram I was surprised when Facebook doled out a billion dollars for the acquisition.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/writchie4
writchie4
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Valuations for tech companies have been through the roof recently. An even better example than Instagram is Snapchat, which was valued at $3B just 18 months or so ago with absolutely zero revenue (a valuation which has since increased to $15-19B after they introduced their "Discovery" service to start monetizing the site).

For companies like this, it's all about the number and composition of users and their usage patterns. Duolingo's user base is likely a little older (less valuable) than those of the other two companies, but their usage patterns are likely very similar. People come to Duolingo, and they stick around for months. That kind of "captive" audience is very, very lucrative, even without resorting to putting ads on the site.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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Duolingo's user base is likely a little older (less valuable) than those of the other two companies

Ah, I guess that's where Duolingo for Schools will make a difference. Catch them young :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mike3927

How much money the company makes is usually important to company value. Duolingo is an unusual case in that it's a company which operates it's main service for free, so it's revenues are going to be very low relative to what it does.

Now, what's probably being actually valued for this is a combination of the proprietary software and the public image of the company. A good comparison for this is Youtube, which can be summarized as being a free video uploading/watching service that doesn't charge directly for any of it's videos, but which was still something Google bought for over a billion dollars- Despite not having it's primary service monetized directly.

Google in particular tends to hand out big fat wads of money to any software/technology development company that catches their eye, because Google likes having it's fingers in as many software development pies as they can physically manage. It's worked out pretty well for them in the past, too, so it's not like it's a bad strategy.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BastouXII
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Well, if you look at Facebook at the time of its IPO, or the price that was paid for Whatsapp, you understand that the current money making capacity of a business is but one aspect taken in consideration in its valuation. In these two cases, and in the case of Duolingo as well, their user base, their data and their potential for growth and future profit far outweigh their capital and current profits in their valuation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bumbleandtumble
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Very interesting, tnel. Yes, I believe that it is quite amazing what a free online language site can do ;) and how much it can impact the world.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/parapluie41

My reaction: Hurray! They can postpone monetizing for a little while longer. But of course when the venture capital stops flowing in they are going to have to figure out a way to make money. :/ Let's hope when that happens, it's in a way that's both effective for Duo and painless for users.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hohenems
Hohenems
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They can postpone monetizing for a little while longer.

Luis might see it a little differently:

"Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and individuals including actor Ashton Kutche and author Tim Ferriss, previously plowed $38.3 million into the company, but the pressure to monetize has been minimal until now, according to Mr. von Ahn."
- WSJ

Emphasis is mine. The "until now" part leads me to believe that Duo is recognizing that they need to get their stuff together. Maybe I'm misinterpreting it though.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HuShifang
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Bingo. That much venture capital can be a strong incentive to start monetizing. And, notice how von Ahn pivots from talking about "free" education to "best possible" education in his quote here. And, note how the part after the quote in the article seems to suggest that Duolingo will provide a "cheaper" tutor (vs. an "expensive" human tutor) to users. I think this all may be related to the new "Fluency" badges (which, as discussed elsewhere on here, mysteriously seem to top off at around 65%). Duo is probably going to offer paid, deluxe tutoring experiences that will push users further towards fluency (both by its measure and objectively).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis
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Guys, let's put away the tin hats :) Duolingo will remain 100% free. (This is me, "von Ahn").

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/fantomitzah
fantomitzah
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Thanks to your comment I learned a new expression in English. :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

I've never heard of tin hats, but I like it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonathan--
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An Internet forum without tinfoil hats? Not possible.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HuShifang
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Thanks for the clarification -- and congrats, etc :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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Actually, monetisation may not always mean advertisements. WhatsApp has been a great advocator for no ads for sometime now.
http://blog.whatsapp.com/245/Why-we-dont-sell-ads

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/landsend
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"Duolingo’s mobile­-first [...] platform"

Oh, really?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Medard
Medard
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I think in poor countries like Indonesia where kids don't have money for iPads or other fancy gadgets most students use cheap Android phones...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
_pinkodoug_
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The overwhelming majority of Duo users are mobile users. With translation / immersion no longer being a priority, it makes sense that mobile platforms get the top priority over the web. This is particularly true given their goal to reach users in developing nations without laptops and broadband at home. Cheap mobile devices provide the accessibility that didn't exist just a few years ago.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/landsend
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I completely agree on the should but I am not so certain about the is.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lisa1240

The emphasis on "education" rather than just "language education" is interesting. Is Duolingo planning to expand into other subjects?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
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Luis stated in an interview last November that they're initially looking to expand their teaching to cover general literacy, and possibly other areas in the future. He goes into slightly more detail about his in the video interview than the brief mention included in the article.

cGlua29kb3Vn

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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Being strongly anti-Google, I'm a bit worried so much money is coming from them in particular.

Now, concerning what Duo is planning to develop, I guess we'll just have to see. Can't really judge before the change is here :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lisa1240

I'm resigned to the fact that Google already know everything about us.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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I don't mean to pry but I'm so curious. I understand why some people are anti-Amazon, anti-Apple, and in the past anti-Windows. Why are you anti-Google? (With 6 upvotes, apparently many other members are also anti-Google.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lazouave
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Mostly for their non-existent privacy policy, the fact that they get information on their users and sell this information to companies so you can get targeted ads.

The results on their research engine are dependent on how much they were paid to show those results, meaning the ones who pay the more money come first, which is not fair.

They also finance research concerning transhumanism, which I refuse to support financially.

I hope that answers your questions :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Yes.

Transhumanism? I never heard of it, it sounds very sci-fi. Time to investigate.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mike3927

Transhumanism is a bit of a mixed bag. Keep in mind that most of the outspoken 'Transhumanists' are just people on the internet, not actually professionals in the science/tech/medical fields, and most of the stuff they claim is 'Transhumanist research' is really just medical research that they are fanboying over and hoping will one day lead to a world where they can stick their brain in an android body and re-enact Metal Gear Revengeance.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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I love the last line. It doesn't sound harmful to me. So if I can figure out how to run a 5-minute mile past the age of 50 or 60, will I be considered a transhuman? Or how about join the NBA and help the New York Knicks win a championship title?!? That will surely make me a demigod!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/writchie4
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The results on their research engine are dependent on how much they were paid to show those results, meaning the ones who pay the more money come first, which is not fair.

What exactly do you mean by this? Google ads are obviously marked on the SERP and, as far as I know, are totally independent from the organic results. Even the ads, for what it's worth, aren't as simple as "more money = higher position", although your bid is certainly one criteria that determines your final position.

Edit: NicoLaan's link below mentions Google Shopping as the culprit behind this kind of behavior. Have you read somewhere that similar treatment is applied to Google's other services?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
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sell this information to companies so you can get targeted ads.

I am not sure this is correct. It probably uses the information to make smart choices to provide the user with targeted advertisements. But, here the information is not being provided to the advertiser. The only big company I have heard in this context is LinkedIn.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NicoLaan69

Can I simply refer to this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Google How much of the criticism is deserved is up to the individuals opinion. Lets also be realistic, you can not be this big and please them all and I also expect that even a lot of the haters still use google.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Thanks. I've enjoyed their host of tools for quite a while. I know there are some privacy issues but this looks like something I should investigate. Here's some lingots!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NicoLaan69

Oh no, not anymore lingots please! :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonathan--
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Just a matter of time until Duolingo becomes "Google Languages?"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HuShifang
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There's also some discussion of monetization in this report: http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/10/duolingo-raises-45-million-series-d-round-led-by-google-ventures-now-valued-at-470m/.

tldr: They've strategically abandoned translations as a revenue source because it distracted from the mission of education. Their major revenue stream now is Test Center fees, but they'll be adding more in the future.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tnel1
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And here is more speculation by VentureBeat.com:

"Most importantly though, this is a Luis von Ahn creation. That means the app is crowdsourced, and every tap is analyzed to help the student learn more quickly. Indeed, Duolingo says it employs a large team of machine learning PhDs to analyze all the collected data to “craft adaptive courses that deliver tailored education for each student.”

At the end of the day, that’s likely the real reason Google Capital has made its latest investment. reCAPTCHA, von Ahn’s first startup, was sold to Google in 2009".

Will he pull it off a second time? Google Capital clearly hopes so."

Read more here: http://venturebeat.com/2015/06/10/100m-users-strong-duolingo-raises-45m-led-by-google-at-a-470m-valuation-to-grow-language-learning-platform/

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis
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Yes, just speculation. We're not trying to sell.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
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Luis, are you able to give an update on the ratio of mobile users (by platform) to web users? The latest info that I could easily find was from your recode interview last autumn.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis
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It's about the same.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
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Thanks!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheWiseTurtle

I thought mobile users were the majority?

The company currently supports about eight million active users worldwide across all platforms. Twenty percent of traffic comes from its website and eighty percent from its mobile apps.

Source: http://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/duolingo/

Update: @writchie4 I thought he meant that letter. Thanks!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/writchie4
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He's saying that the ratio is the same as it used to be be, not that the mobile vs web users are equal in number to each other.

Edit: You're welcome :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
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In addition to what writchie said, that AWS case study is pretty old. The proportions remain "about the same," but Duo's user numbers have grown radically since then according to more recent user numbers given by Luis in various interviews.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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There is a more recent news article that does have the stats. Currently it seems that web-users (at 14%) are becoming an endangered species although apparently we'll still outlive Windows phone users (1%).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tnel1
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Oh yes, I know how journalists can be. :) Whenever I've been interviewed by a newspaper (even the most well-intentioned) I'm always surprised what comes out in print. :) Thanks for dropping by to clear things up a bit. By the way, nice pic! :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
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Google Capital's investment seems to indicate Duolingo is considered very promising and poised for a growth spurt.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
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DL original goal WAS to offer free education. It was. With so much capital it has to be monetized.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis
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It still is.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Luis, I understand the company needs to make money and I trust that you will find creatives ways. Nothing wrong here. Thanks for DL, it is great.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pratyush.
Pratyush.
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Does this mean are going to have more languages soon? : )

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NicoLaan69

See for yourself. :-)

Select add course, select I speak "All Languages". Now search that page for "%". You will see all courses that are currently in the process of creation. Today I count 20. However I only see 8 languages when you're English.

I'm waiting for Thai for English speakers, this means I will have to wait for English for Thai speakers to finish and after that they will hopefully find the time to create the reverse course. Don't expect a new language to be finished in less than a year and (almost) always "new language" to English is created first after that the reverse. Things of course much depend on the activity of the community.

Also DL is not involved at all in this process of creation, it's entirely up to the users. DL only provides the website so users can create it and they help in making modifications when this is needed for a new language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/eagersnap
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Jitengore publishes an excellent summary of upcoming languages each Sunday. Many interesting ones coming up. See the latest update here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/9628877

3 years ago