YC alum Fluently secures $2M seed round for its AI-powered English coach

Wed Jul 3, 2024 - 4:07am GMT+0000

In a world flooded with resources for learning English as a second language (ESL), there exists a gap for near-native speakers who seek to refine their fluency further. Addressing this gap is what inspired Stan Beliaev and Yurii Rebryk to create Fluently, an innovative platform leveraging artificial intelligence to help users improve their spoken English.

Key Features of Fluently:

AI-driven feedback and tips on spoken English
Real-life call recording and transcription
AI coaches for daily conversation and mock interviews
Focus on pronunciation, grammar, pace, and vocabulary
Emphasis on user privacy and data security
AI-Driven Feedback for Real-Life Scenarios

Fluently functions as an AI coach, providing feedback and tips on spoken English. Unlike traditional language learning tools, Fluently focuses on real-life application, offering feedback derived from listening to actual calls. Users can have Fluently record and transcribe their side of calls made through platforms like Zoom, providing a practical and immersive way to improve fluency. Additionally, users have the option to practice with AI coaches “Ryan” for daily chit-chat or “Kyle” for mock interviews, catering to specific needs such as preparing for job interviews.

Targeting a Niche Market

Beliaev and Rebryk, scratching their own itch, aim to address the needs of approximately 84 million non-native employees working in English-speaking environments. While it’s challenging to quantify how many of these individuals desire improved clarity, the niche is undeniably significant and less saturated compared to the broader ESL market.

Strong Technical Backbone

Fluently’s technological edge is a significant draw for investors. With a team of four, including three engineers, the startup leverages a robust tech foundation. Both founders share a background in machine learning, with internships at tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Nvidia, which adds credibility and excitement among venture capitalists. Despite the lack of formal teaching experience, their personal need for the product gives them a unique perspective, enabling them to develop a tool that meets the specific demands of near-native speakers.

Comprehensive Approach to Language Improvement

Fluently aims to be a comprehensive solution for enhancing speaking skills. Rather than focusing solely on accent, the platform emphasizes overall understandability. This includes improving pronunciation, grammar, and pace, as well as expanding vocabulary. The founders envision integrating rephrasing advice, akin to tools like Grammarly or Ludwig, to further refine users’ spoken English.

Early Days and User Feedback

Currently in its beta form, Fluently is still developing, and users might encounter occasional crashes. However, those willing to share their credit card details for a free trial can gain a clear sense of the platform’s potential. For instance, users have reported improvements in pronouncing specific words, which can be crucial in professional settings. The subscription plan, set at $25 per month, seems justified for those keen on advancing their English proficiency.

Potential for Gamification and Progress Tracking

One area where Fluently could evolve is in adopting gamification strategies to enhance user engagement. Drawing inspiration from successful apps like Duolingo, incorporating features that help users track their progress and correct mistakes in a fun, engaging manner could boost motivation and retention. The platform’s current goal is to leverage technology to address specific difficulties faced by users transitioning from near fluency to full proficiency.

Commitment to Privacy

Fluently places a strong emphasis on user privacy, particularly given the app’s need for microphone access. The platform assures users during onboarding that their privacy is protected, with audio stored locally, encryption in place, and data secured from third-party providers. Any data sent for transcription is anonymized and not used for training, ensuring that users’ information remains confidential.

Expanding Availability and Future Plans

The recent release of Apple Silicon has facilitated some of Fluently’s capabilities. Currently, the beta version is only available on MacOS, but the team is actively building a Chrome extension and maintaining a waiting list for users eager to try the new version. The $2 million seed round secured from Pioneer Fund, SID Venture Partners, and individual angels will enable Fluently to hire additional team members and allocate resources for marketing when the time is right.

Rebryk acknowledges the importance of prioritizing tasks with a small team, emphasizing the need to focus on core functionalities before expanding. As Fluently continues to develop, it promises to provide a valuable resource for near-native speakers striving to achieve full proficiency in English, making it a noteworthy addition to the edtech landscape.

With its strong technical foundation, commitment to privacy, and focus on practical application, Fluently is poised to make a significant impact on the niche market of near-native English speakers. By addressing the specific needs of this demographic, Beliaev and Rebryk are not only solving their own challenges but also offering a much-needed tool for millions of professionals worldwide.

Fluently’s innovative approach, leveraging AI to provide personalized feedback and practical language improvement, sets it apart in the crowded ESL market. As the platform evolves and expands its availability, it holds the potential to become an essential tool for near-native English speakers aiming to refine their fluency and advance their careers. With the support of a strong technical team and backing from notable investors, Fluently is well-positioned for future growth and success in the edtech sector.