September 15, 2023

English Language App Secures $23M Series C, Launches ‘Personal AI Tutor’

ELSA, the tech company that teaches English through speech recognition and machine learning, has raised $23 million in a Series C fund.


ELSA – English Language Speech Assistant – is an engaging app to help users improve their English pronunciation.

It started when Vu Van, CEO and co-founder of ELSA, left Vietnam to pursue an MBA and Master’s in Education at Stanford University.

According to ELSA’s website, Vu was confident in her English vocabulary but knew she had a strong Vietnamese accent. 

Her professors and classmates could not always understand what she was saying, which made her feel that her class opinions were often dismissed.

After searching for a co-founder to solve the communication barrier she and many international friends faced studying abroad, Van launched ELSA Speak in 2015.

Dr. Xavier Anguera, a respected speech technologist, joined her.

“Speaking English is rated the most valued skill on the job market,” said Anguera.

The company uses AI tech, which was developed using voice data of people speaking English with numerous accents, allowing it to recognize the speech patterns of non-native speakers.

Their website states that 27 hours of studying with ELSA Speak – their virtual pronunciation coach – is equivalent to an ESL speaking course at an American university.

Their vision is to enable the 1.5 billion language learners around the globe to speak foreign languages with complete confidence and unlock their opportunities in life.

Backed by Google’s AI-focused, Gradient Ventures took Van’s first funding series to more than $12 million and granted ELSA access to Google’s technical staff team to help build its backend infrastructure.

Elsa’s Series C Round

ELSA’s Series C round raised $23 million, alongside its launch of ELSA AI Tutor.

The round was led by UOB Venture Management, joined by UniPresident, and Asia Growth Investment Fund, which is a joint business of Aozara Bank and Development Bank of Japan (DBJ).

The funding will help fuel the launch and expansion of ELSA AI into international markets with Taiwan, Korea, and the Middle East.

It will also help accelerate partnerships with corporations and schools in countries such as Japan, where English learners seek to improve their language skills to access global job opportunities.


The launch of ELSA AI is described as “your personal English AI Tutor” that offers honest conversations, scenarios, and progress.

According to a press release, ELSA AI is the only application supported by years of speech recognition experience and data.

It is also the first teaching application to reproduce natural conversation through Generative AI.

The AI tutor aims to replace the need for an in-person tutor and make English language accuracy and fluency more accessible.

Features of ELSA AI Tutor include advanced role-play capability to practice real-life scenarios.

These range from simple interactions like asking for directions to significant conversations like negotiating a raise at work, preparing for interviews leading meetings and presentations.

Following each role-play conversation, users receive tailored feedback on their English-speaking proficiency notes on pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, intonation and rhythm.

Feedback is stored in the user’s profile so the AI tutor can reference past mistakes and tailor future lessons.

“I have discovered through my journey that my purpose is to help others become more effective and confident communicators in English,” said Van.

“ELSA AI is the most sophisticated and comprehensive app that offers a clear alternative to expensive, often inaccessible, high-quality human tutors. We believe we have the right team, technology, and incredible international investors to propel ELSA AI to become the global standard for learning to speak English.”

Featured Image Credit: lindatranphotography

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Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.