Chinese online English school 51Talk has raised a $55 million Series C led by Sequoia Capital with participation of existing investors Shunwei Capital and DCM. The round brings the total funding raised by 51Talk to over $70 million including a $12 million Series B in December of last year.
Founded in 2011, 51Talk has currently 50.000 paid users who are taught by over 2.500 English teachers who are mostly home-based in the Philippines. The company plans to ramp up its staff to over 8.000 teachers by the end of 2015 according to 51Talk’s co-founder and COO Shu Ting. He also estimates that there are between 20 to 30 million people interested in learning English in China alone.
Based on the Series C 51Talk will focus on growth and not profit for the next three years according to its other co-founder Huang Jiajia. The funding will be used to upgrade the technology platform, IT infrastructure as well as the core curriculum. Currently 51Talk is targeting adult learners but an expansion into English courses for children and its international expansion are planned among the next steps.
The English language learning space in China has heated up significantly over the past couple of months. Besides several sizeable rounds for smaller startups in the space TutorGroup, a direct competitor of 51Talk in the Chinese ESL space, raised more than $100 million in February and March.