Education might well to be the most important activity we do as a company – and it is also perhaps the most difficult space to create a start-up. Selling to school districts and universities is notoriously difficult, but attracting consumers is even more difficult. Learning takes focus, patience, tenacity, and resourcefulness, and most consumers prefer watching lip-syncing videos on TikTok rather than watching math equations (remember, this entertainment is free). Engagement and education feel aggressively at odds, which limits how startups can scale and be successful.
Yet the revulsion that VCs traditionally had for space has slowly dissipated over the past 10 years. Consumer and business edtech startups are attracting more and more funding, and there are a growing number of edtech-focused investors betting big on the future here. What has changed is not the market or its potential, but rather the perception that ambitious and sustainable businesses can really be built in education.
One of the companies that has led the charge in transforming these perceptions is based in Pittsburgh. Duolingo. It’s a language learning app that caught fire. From humble beginnings ten years ago as a translation platform for news agencies, it is now used by 500 million people around the world to learn Spanish, English, French and more, everything driving bookings of $ 190 million in 2020. It’s a smash hit, but a hard-earned success after years of product experimentation and revenue to find its current niche.
TechCrunch Writer and Analyst for this EC-1 is Natasha Mascarenhas. Mascarenhas has been covering edtech from day one when she joined TechCrunch as a venture capital and startup writer, and she has built a reputation as an intrepid columnist of this increasingly vital ecosystem. The main editor of this package was Danny crichton, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto, and the illustrations were created by Nigel sussman.
Duolingo did not have a say in the content of this analysis and did not have access to it in advance. Mascarenhas has no financial connection with Duolingo or other conflicts of interest to disclose.
The Duolingo EC-1 consists of four main articles of 12,200 words and a reading time of 48 minutes. Here is what awaits you:
And finally, note that Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn is coming to Disrupt, so be sure to grab your tickets as the conversation will continue there.
We always repeat the EC-1 format. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, please email Danny Crichton, Editor-in-Chief of TechCrunch at email@example.com.