This week, Website Planet
‘s Marko Velimirovic had the opportunity to speak with Tasha Chu, the Head of Demand Generation at ELSA. We talked about the evolution of the company, its typical customers, and what is in the pipeline for the future.
Please present ELSA Speak to our audience.
ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant) is the world-leading mobile solution designed to help non-native English learners improve their speaking skills through our proprietary AI-powered speech recognition technology. Hence, ELSA provides instant feedback on Pronunciation, Fluency, Intonation, Word Stress, Listening, Grammar, and Vocabulary use and suggests personalized learning plans for each user which integrate gamified learning with situational conversations to practice English easily and effectively.
As English communication quickly evolves to become a requirement in the modern skillset, ELSA helps businesses and educational institutions enhance learners’ English fluency and empower them to speak English with full confidence, which opens up opportunities for a better life. With 25+ million active users from 100+ countries globally, ELSA is recognized by prestigious organizations, such as GSV Edtech 150 and CB Insights AI 100, and featured in international media including Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and Forbes.
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
The backstory of ELSA stems from the real struggles that ELSA’s very own founder, Van Vu, experienced in the US as a non-native English speaker. Back in the day, she moved to the US for her MBA and Master in Education at Stanford, she struggled to express herself in English due to her inability to speak English fluently. She lost confidence and missed out on important opportunities because of my English skills. Then, she asked for help from one of her native friends. Every time she mispronounced a single word, he would give feedback on which sound she had to correct and improve as well as how to move her tongue and her mouth to pronounce it correctly. However, she finds that it’s really hard to find such a friend that can help you along the way in learning English. What’s more is that most people can’t afford to have a personal, native English coach which is reported to be $150 – $200 per month on average.
Besides, speaking is the hardest skill to master because it requires consistent one-on-one practice. Most non-native speakers struggle to fix pronunciation mistakes after the age of 6. That specific problem has inspired Vu to develop ELSA – an artificial intelligence “coach” that allows everyone to practice speaking English like a native speaker 24/7 from the comfort of their home.
Founded in 2015, after several rounds of funding, ELSA closed Series B funding in 2021 and successfully mobilized more than 20 million USD from world-class investors and is now aggressively evolving technically and commercially. The company is backed by Google Gradient Ventures and was Forbes’ Top 4 companies using A.I to change the world and Top 100 Artificial Intelligence Startups Redefining Industries by CBInsights. ELSA aggregated 25M+, 40M installs worldwide while retaining a 4.8 / 5 rating by 50,000+ users on the Apple App Store & Android Play Store.
What services do you offer?
ELSA offers the best-in-class English language learning app with unique features and training modules customized for specific industries such as Airlines, Hospitality, Call Centers, Banks, IT, etc.
- ELSA Speak App: ELSA App collected and analyzed audio input to provide detailed and instant feedback on Pronunciation, Fluency, Intonation, Listening, Word stress, and even Grammar & Vocab, as well as estimate equivalent speaking scores of standardized tests like IELTS/ TOEFL, etc. Other features include personalized learning paths, customized word lists, a free dictionary, and a variety of 16000+ fun exercises and 200+ topics.
- ELSA Dashboard: Update real-time analytics of learners from practice time, engagement rate, distribution of levels, etc,
- ELSA Testing platform: Help recruiters create and customize assessment tests, and assign and track results at scale.
- ELSA Speech Analyzer: This new product can record live audio, transcribe and analyze to give instant feedback on pronunciation, fluency, intonation, grammar & vocabulary – even predicting scores for IELTS/TOEFL speaking tests.
- ELSA API: ELSA API is available for any organization to integrate into their existing solution. ELSA API can give well-rounded and detailed feedback for both scripted and unscripted speech. The technology can comment on word stress, pronunciation, fluency, the intonation of the audio input, plus even grammar and vocabulary. Consequently, students can have one-on-one, interactive practice with an AI Coach anywhere, anytime.
Who are your typical customers, and what do you think is the main challenge that your product solves for them?
Together with a growing number of individual learners around the world who register for subscription plans at ELSA ranging from 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year to lifetime packages, ELSA aims to uncover the B2B market by providing an end-to-end solution for businesses to improve English proficiency.
In the global working environment, weak communication skills can lead to ineffective productivity and poor customer service quality. Especially in the globalized era today, where English speaking is the top requirement for employers, particularly in sections of the service industry such as airlines, hospitality, or bank. Plus, corporates and institutions have been reported to spend a lot of money on communication skills training annually while traditional English learning methods make it difficult for managers and teachers to track ROI. Hence, ELSA can help businesses enhance customer service quality, and revenue generation, and optimize training budgets.
ELSA API and ELSA App programs are also available for schools and universities to offer students an interesting and effective learning experience with AI technology. In large-sized English classes, there is hardly enough time for teachers to work on students’ pronunciation individually in class.
Moreover, teachers are facing an excessive workload to design assessment tests and give feedback to each student. With interesting UI design, gamified learning experience, and an interactive 24/7 AI Coach, ELSA is a perfect solution to complement both traditional and online learning methods.
What is unique about ELSA Speak?
I believe that the core capability that sets ELSA apart from other training solutions is our proprietary AI technology. We’ve spent years building this voice recognition technology that can recognize different non-native accents such as Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Brazil, etc with a 95%+ accuracy rate and adaptability to 100+ non-native accents. Other tools such as Google and Alexa just try to understand what you say but rather than that, ELSA listens to your speech and analyzes it, pinpointing exactly your pronunciation mistakes and how to improve. We are still expanding our voice database from 25M+ users globally.
What are the plans for ELSA Speak for the near future?
In the upcoming year, the company is eyeing deep expansion in Vietnam, Latin America, India, and Japan with the big mission to build a scalable B2B model which empowers global businesses and educational institutions toward English proficiency.
Among leading industries, ELSA plans to exploit the hospitality and the service industry which highly emphasizes the importance of English speaking.
At the same time, the ELSA team focuses on building a complete solution for communication training with user-centric design, more diverse English content for learners, training and developing AI technology along with the application of the blended learning model.