Google’s AI investment vehicle Gradient Ventures in the lead of $7M investment in Elsa, an American English Accent learning app

Google’s AI investment vehicle Gradient Ventures in the lead of $7M investment in Elsa, an English learning app

Gradient Ventures, a dedicated venture fund by Google set out to seek worthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) startups worth investing in, has zeroed in on an Asian app Elsa. Gradient Ventures led in the startup’s $7 million Series A round of funding.

This funding becomes the first investment by Gradient Ventures into the Asian market. This funding round included the participation of investors like the Monk’s Hill Ventures and SOSV. In total, Elsa has raised $12 million in total.

The Elsa app was founded back in 2015 by Vu Van – its current CEO – who after moving to the US from Vietnam to study and later work noticed he was finding it hard to get people to understand him. At the time Van moved to the U.S. he was fluent in English and had a good mastery of its grammar, was good at reading and writing the language.

However, he had a problem getting people to understand him quickly when speaking English. That is because Van had a strong accent. He also pronounced the words ‘improperly’ according to many people in the U.S.

Van then decided to become innovative and teamed up with Dr. Xavier Anguera – the CTO for Elsa and lead for Portugal wing of the startup – to create an app that will help English speakers not native to the language brush up on their accent.

During an interview with TechCrunch, Van said having a strong foreign accent in America can “impacts confidence when you apply for jobs or are even just meeting friends.

There are so many English learning solutions but they are mostly focused on expanding vocabulary or grammar, very few deal with pronunciation.”

Elsa is using voice recognition and AI to analyze the user’s accent versus the typical American English. The AI at the end give you a score and from there you can take pronunciation courses to improve on it.

The app gives users unrestricted content to up to 1,000 courses for about $3-6 per month subject to the length of the package selected. With this Series A round of funding, Elsa is set for growth in the market; see it downloaded and being used in thousands of devices.

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