AI-powered English coach developed by YC alum Fluently secures $2M in seed funding

$2M seed round, AI-powered, English coach, Fluently, YC alum

Fluently: The AI-Powered Coach for Near-Native English Speakers

In today’s globalized world, fluency in English is a highly sought-after skill. It opens doors to better job opportunities, enables effective communication in international business settings, and promotes cultural exchange. While there are numerous resources available for learning English, there is a noticeable lack of options for near-native speakers who want to further improve their fluency. Stan Beliaev and Yurii Rebryk recognized this gap in the market and were inspired to create Fluently, an AI-powered coach designed to provide feedback and tips on spoken English.

Similar to ELSA, an AI speech tutor, as well as traditional online and offline coaching solutions, Fluently utilizes AI technology to assess and improve spoken English. However, what sets Fluently apart is its unique approach to feedback generation. Instead of relying on pre-recorded lessons or scripted conversations, Fluently listens to and analyzes real-life phone calls. This innovative feature allows users to practice their English skills in authentic situations, maximizing their ability to apply what they learn in real-world scenarios.

One of the primary features of Fluently is the option to have it record and transcribe users’ side of real-life calls. For example, professionals who use platforms like Zoom for work can leverage Fluently to analyze their speaking patterns and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, Fluently offers AI coaches named “Ryan” and “Kyle” for different purposes. “Ryan” provides conversational practice, allowing users to engage in daily chit-chat and enhance their conversational skills. On the other hand, “Kyle” is tailored for individuals who need to prepare for and excel in mock interviews, which are often crucial for non-native candidates seeking job opportunities that require advanced English speaking skills.

Beliaev and Rebryk, as near-native speakers themselves, recognized the potential market for Fluently. They estimate that there are approximately 84 million non-native employees who work in English-speaking environments. While it is difficult to determine the exact number of individuals within this group who desire better speaking skills, it is undoubtedly a large and growing niche. This particular market segment is less crowded than the broader field of English as a Second Language (ESL), making it a promising space for Fluently.

Furthermore, the potential of Fluently did not go unnoticed by investors. The startup gained entry into Y Combinator’s winter 2024 batch and secured a $2 million seed round, with participation from Pioneer Fund, SID Venture Partners, and individual angels. The fact that Fluently emphasizes the tech aspect of edtech undoubtedly influenced investors’ decision. Three out of the four team members are engineers, showcasing their technical expertise and experience in machine learning. With past internships at industry giants such as Amazon, Google, and Nvidia, Beliaev and Rebryk possess a track record that instills confidence in venture capitalists.

Interestingly, none of the founders have backgrounds in teaching or pedagogy. However, their personal experience as learners of English gives them a unique advantage. They understand the needs and preferences of individuals who already possess a high level of fluency. These learners often seek solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into their daily lives and only highlight areas that require their attention. Fluently addresses this by developing a solution that can function in the background and provide targeted feedback when necessary.

Fluently aims to be a comprehensive platform for improving speaking skills, encompassing not only accent but also pronunciation, grammar, pace, and vocabulary expansion. Additionally, the founders envision incorporating rephrasing advice similar to tools like Grammarly or Ludwig, which assist with writing. By offering a range of features, Fluently endeavors to cater to the diverse needs of near-native English speakers who strive for better fluency.

Although Fluently is still in its beta form, it already demonstrates its potential. Early users have reported significant improvements in their pronunciation, such as learning how to correctly say words like “computer.” These practical outcomes make Fluently’s $25 per month subscription fee seem worthwhile. However, there is room for further development, particularly in implementing effective gamification strategies. Drawing inspiration from successful language-learning app Duolingo, Fluently can incorporate features that enable users to correct mistakes and track their progress in an engaging and interactive manner. This gamified approach can help users stay motivated and committed to their language learning goals, as motivation tends to fluctuate over time.

Privacy concerns are natural when dealing with an app that requires microphone access and operates in the background. To address this, Fluently emphasizes user privacy by ensuring that audio is stored locally, encrypted, and protected from third-party providers. The startup takes transparency seriously, stating that data sent to third-party AI providers for transcription is anonymized and not used for training purposes.

Fluently’s current beta version is only available on MacOS, but the startup has plans to develop a Chrome extension to cater to a wider user base. The recently secured seed funding will enable Fluently to expand its team and allocate resources towards marketing efforts. As Rebryk mentioned, prioritization is essential for a small team, and Fluently aims to make strategic decisions to propel its growth in the future.

In conclusion, Fluently fills a significant gap in the market for near-native English speakers looking to improve their fluency. By leveraging AI technology and analyzing real-life phone calls, Fluently provides personalized feedback and guidance. With the potential to cater to the 84 million non-native employees in English-speaking environments, Fluently has attracted investments and gained entry into prestigious programs like Y Combinator. Privacy-conscious features and a commitment to user satisfaction position Fluently as a promising and innovative solution for individuals striving to enhance their English speaking skills.

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