Smart AI English Pronunciation Assistant ELSA secures $7 million in Series A funding

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Backed by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, Company Expands to Meet Exponential Growth & Opens Japanese Office

“This round helps us accelerate our growth and potential in new markets, such as Japan, Indonesia and India. The support and resources from Gradient Ventures is aligned with our company’s focus on AI", said Ms. Vu Van, co-founder and CEO of ELSA

ELSA, a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence and speech recognition technology to help language learners improve their English pronunciation, today announces a Series A round of $7 million in capital led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, with previous investors Monk’s Hill Ventures and SOSV also participating.

ELSA has experienced exponential growth in 2018 of 3.5 times in paid subscriptions from language learners, as compared to 2017. The company will hire additional AI scientists and engineers to expand its AI and speech recognition capabilities which help people improve their English speaking skills. Due to ELSA’s rising popularity in Asia, the company will also hire a local team to establish its business and operations in Tokyo, Japan.

ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant) helps 1.5 billion English language learners across the globe with an easy way to improve their English speaking ability. The company has built its own proprietary speech technology using deep learning and AI to detect people's pronunciation mistakes with 95%+ accuracy. The app listens to the way language learners pronounce words, sentences or conversations to pinpoint exact errors and provide real-time, accurate feedback on their pronunciation mistakes with specific suggestions on how to improve.

“This round helps us accelerate our growth and potential in new markets, such as Japan, Indonesia and India. The support and resources from Gradient Ventures is aligned with our company’s focus on AI. We look forward to working with their team of experts as we scale our global team and advanced AI capabilities to meet the international demand for English speaking skills,” said Ms. Vu Van, co-founder and CEO of ELSA.

Later this year, ELSA will also introduce new social features to foster community-based learning and build out more advanced AI capabilities to evaluate other speech elements like rhythm and intonation for a more complete evaluation of learner's speech. Vietnam has been the fastest growing market for ELSA. Specifically, ELSA grew its business 4x in Vietnam within 2018 alone and it expects to grow at a faster pace in 2019. After a successful pilot program of its educational platform in Vietnam, ELSA will open the teacher platform offering to a global market. This platform allows English teachers and schools to integrate ELSA into their curriculum and help students with their speaking skills.

“ELSA provides language learning in a fun, accessible way to a quickly expanding population of users that get to see the difference in their personal and business lives. Communication and engagement across borders and cultures is only increasing, and we are excited to see how far this technology and team can go, particularly after their speedy development thus far,” said Zachary Bratun-Glennon, Partner at Gradient Ventures, who is also joining Elsa’s board.

About ELSA
Founded in 2015 by Stanford alum Ms. Vu Van, and Dr. Xavier Anguera, a veteran in speech recognition and AI, ELSA is a mobile app for language learners that helps them improve pronunciation and reduce accents, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. The inspiration for ELSA, the 2016 SXSWEdu winner, came when Vu realized that pronunciation and accent often pose as a hindrance for non-native employees in business. Based in San Francisco, ELSA has raised $12 million in capital and is backed by leading VCs in Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia and Japan. The company has offices in Portugal and Vietnam. For more information, visit:

About Gradient Ventures
Gradient Ventures is Google's AI-focused venture fund - investing in and connecting early stage startups with Google's resources, innovation, and technical leadership in artificial intelligence. The fund focuses on helping founders navigate the challenges in developing AI-based products, from leveraging training datasets to helping companies take advantage of the latest techniques, so that great ideas can come to life. Gradient was founded in 2017 and is based in Palo Alto, California. For more information, visit

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Nicole Brunet

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Vu Van
ELSA, Corp.
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