FluentU EdTech Startup Profile EDUKWEST

FluentU – EdTech Startup Profile

Name: FluentU
Website: www.fluentu.com
Headquarters: New Jersey, USA
Vertical: Language Learning
Tech: Web App, Mobile App

Introduce your startup and give a short description of what you are doing.

FluentU brings language learning to life with real-world videos.

FluentU takes music videos, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks, and turns them into language learning experiences.

Our iPhone app is like a mobile language learning lab.

Who are the founders, how did you meet, what are your different roles in the startup.

Alan Park is the founder of FluentU. He is a Duke university and Harvard Law School grad who went on to work as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group in China, Japan, and Asia.

Alan does a little bit of everything (content, marketing, product, and taking out the trash).

FluentU has a 20+ person distributed team, most of whom have never met one another. We’ve found each other virtually.

How was the idea for your startup born?

Alan started to learn Chinese, Japanese, and Korean for over a decade, and used those languages as a management consultant in Asia. FluentU came out of that experience of learning those languages to fluency.

While learning, Alan found that he learned best from authentic content like movies. But the process of learning from authentic content was very painful. It meant he had to look up words, write them down, create flashcards, and manage his learning. FluentU arose to make it possible to learn from authentic content without all of the pain.

What is the main problem in education that you aim to solve.

Language learning products today are boring and don’t equip people to learn a language the way that it’s actually used. Instead, they train learners to learn words in isolation. Once learners go from the classroom into the real world, they find themselves completely unequipped to engage in actual conversation. And even if they’re able to talk, they don’t know what to talk about because they haven’t really learned about the culture.

For language teachers, exposing students to authentic content is an increasing priority, especially as it becomes a core part of standardized tests like the AP exam. But finding, assigning, and grading authentic content is time consuming and difficult.

Who are your main competitors? What sets you apart from them?

2 competitors are Yabla and English Central, which are also great video immersion learning tools.

There are 4 differences that come to mind:

1. FluentU personalizes users’ experiences based on their history on FluentU. This means that even if 2 users are learning the same word, they will see different things on FluentU. Adjustments are automatically made based on a user’s strengths and weaknesses.

2. FluentU is more flexible in how it lets you learn with videos. For example, FluentU lets you import your own vocab list and start learning them with video context. Your learning is enhanced by the videos, without being limited by them. FluentU even has audio content.

3. FluentU has the most useful and comprehensive annotations. FluentU’s definitions are produced from scratch by a team of professional editors. Each definition is accompanied by picture, audio, and example sentences that are carefully written to demonstrate the meaning of the word. You can even see how a word is used across different videos on FluentU. This is a level of painstaking detail that is unique to FluentU. http://screencast.com/t/LQOzIPN9Q0g8

4. FluentU’s exercises are the most rigorous and are backed by spaced repetition. Other solutions succeed in getting users to remember isolated words. FluentU succeeds in getting users to reproduce entire sentences. FluentU is the most effective in getting people to learn words in context and to true fluency.

In which markets / regions are you active. What markets / regions are next.

Our biggest market is the US. FluentU is available for learning Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and English.

For now, we will focus on continuing to improve our product for existing markets – especially schools.

Who is your target audience.

Self-directed language learners and schools.

How many users / downloads does your service have?

Hundred of thousands of individual users and thousands of schools.

How do you engage with your target audience. How do you convert them into users of your product.

We have an active blog and are active on social media. We have a free plan that lets users and teachers try FluentU before buying.

What is your business model. How much does your product / service cost.

For individual users, it costs $8 or $18 per month, depending on the plan.

For schools, it currently costs $5 per user per year.

We are planning to raise prices in the future (while grandfathering existing paying users).

If you raised funding, how much did you raise. Who are your investors. If not, are you planning to raise funding.

Self and customer funded. 🙂

Are there milestones you are especially proud of and would like to share.

We launched our iPhone app on May 28.

Also, achieving liftoff and not needing to seek VC investment. Jeff Bezos has said that “if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”

We believe that this is especially true in the edtech space, where there are long sales cycles. We believe that our ability and willingness to have a long term view will be a big competitive edge.

What are the next steps in growing your startup.

Continue to add more content, and further develop the learning management system for schools.

How can people get in touch with you.


Room for anything else you would like to add.

Long term, we believe that SaaS tools will also become the norm in language learning education. We aim to become the go-to SaaS tool for language educators around the world.

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at KirstenWinkler.com.