- Language learning marketplace Preply has raised $10 million in funding, as it sees demand spike 50% for language tutors amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Preply pairs anyone looking to brush up their language skills with a relevant tutor, and schedules lessons and provides a virtual classroom.
- Preply CEO Kirill Bigai said demand had spiked in countries experiencing longer lockdowns, with bookings in Italy tripling since February.
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European language learning platform Preply has raised $10 million in funding, and says demand for lessons has doubled as more countries move towards long lockdown periods.
The round was led by London’s Hoxton Ventures, with Point Nine Capital, The Family, and angel backers including Unity founder David Helgason, Booking founder Arthur Kosten, and Couchsurfing founder Daniel Hoffen all participating.
Preply is a marketplace that pairs students wanting to brush up their language skills with tutors able to offer coaching via a “virtual classroom”, which includes Preply’s video platform and other learning tools. Its target audience is professionals aged 25 years old and upwards who want to improve their languages for work, although there are also some parents using the platform to help their children learn a new language.
The timing of its funding is fortunate. The startup, which is rooted in Ukraine and has offices in Kyiv and Barcelona, closed its funding round in January, just before the COVID-19 crisis hit and decimated startup valuations and funding.
“At the time we were raising, there was no evidence of the coronavirus,” CEO Kirill Bigai told Business Insider. “The process was smooth, and we’re happy with the investors we have on board.”
It looks like the investors are fortunate too. Although education has long been a promising area of growth for the European tech sector, nationwide lockdowns has led to a surge for platforms that offer online learning.
Preply said it had seen the hours of tutoring purchased double between mid-February and mid-March, and almost triple in Italy, which has been locked down since the beginning of March. Its site traffic has surged globally by 50%, and the number of tutors are up 80%.
“We see big demand in the countries whose lockdowns were longer, in Italy, we’re seeing a tripling of weekly demand,” Bigai said.
The company has 10,000 tutors on its platform offering lessons in 50 languages. It doesn’t disclose exact customer numbers, but says students are in the healthy “tens of thousands” and that it has conducted 2 million lessons to date. The average price of a lesson is $15 to $20 per hour. The US is the firm’s biggest market and demand for Spanish highest there, but English is overall the most popular language.
Such is the recent spike in interest that venture capitalists have been reaching out to Preply through March, Bigai said. “There is a particular interest from some investors towards online tutoring companies,” he said, adding that the firm wasn’t raising further capital.
Bigai and his cofounders, Sergey Lukyanov, and Dmytro Voloshyn, founded Preply in 2013, after trying to improve their English with tutors via Skype. “We tried to solve our own problem,” said Bigai, adding that he doesn’t have much time to improve his English currently and that he hopes to improve naturally.
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