Sololearn raises $24M for its Duolingo-like coding app

Sololearn, which has created a successful mobile-first education platform now has over 21 million users across 25 curriculum categories.

Main Highlights

Coding is no longer only for engineers and computer programmers: due to the rapid speed of technology and its increasing ubiquity, even nontech positions will demand people to have some level of expertise in order to accomplish their jobs in the future.

Today, Sololearn, which has created a successful mobile-first education platform to fulfill that need and now has over 21 million users across 25 curriculum categories such as Python, JavaScript, Java, C++, HTML, and SQL, announced $24 million in investment to grow its business.

Drive Capital led the investment, with existing investors from Sololearn’s previous $1.2 million Series A round in 2016 also participating (Learn Capital and Prosus Ventures).

Drive Capital, based in Columbus, Ohio, was co-founded by two Sequoia alums with the goal of focusing on innovators outside of the “usual” centers. That is exactly what they have done here: Sololearn is based in Yerevan, Armenia, a city that has generated a lot of engineering talent but, curiously, not as many entrepreneurs. 

Yeva Hyusyan’s Verdicts

Yeva Hyusyan, the founder and current CEO of Sololearn, says that the inspiration for the firm originated from a prior initiative (a startup accelerator) she worked on while working for Microsoft in the nation.

One side project was a coding academy they created to assist upskill would-be entrepreneurs. The Bootcamp ultimately took on a life of its own, with IT firms in the nation, particularly the capital city, asking Hyusyan to find intriguing individuals for employment, and shortly after to take and educate people in certain areas on their own.

During this time, the accelerator began developing technologies that could be utilized outside of the classroom. Throughout it all, Hyusyan stated that she realized there was a chance to focus only on this. As a result, Sololearn was born.

I know what you’re thinking at this point: aren’t there already hundreds of good online coding courses and tools on the market? 

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Why finance yet another online learning platform?

The key to what Sololearn is doing is that it has adopted a pragmatic approach: consumers demand brief bursts of material on mobile, therefore coding instruction on that platform should follow suit. Lessons like this are available in bite-size chunks that may be completed in minutes if necessary.

Its intended users are evenly split among individuals who are focused on learning extensively about coding and non-tech people who are seeking to master certain specialized skills for their professions, and both have taken to the format, according to her.

“Everyone was skeptical about learning to code on a smartphone device, so we created a compiler a few years ago,” she explained. “However, believe me when I say that the younger generation prefers to code on mobile devices. It’s as common as a desktop computer. You’d be astonished at how many thousands of lines of code they wrote on a phone.”

The curriculum’s Duolingo-like approach was followed by the fact that there are no professional “teachers,” but if learners need help, they may turn to others in the Sololearn community. Helpers are rewarded, according to Hyusyan, “because they learn and gain appreciation from the community.”

“The best help is community influencers, specialists that work for free with us and basically aid everyone. They are our most valuable and important members,” she continued.

The formula appears to have been successful. According to her, Sololearn adds between 200,000 and 300,000 new members each month, with active users increasing over 300 percent year over year. The platform’s current 21 million users came to it primarily through word of mouth. (That will undoubtedly change now that Sololearn has raised such a large sum.)

The potential audience is enormous. “Billions will need to re-skill in the next 10 years,” Hyusyan said, implying that Sololearn (and others like it) will play that role. “We believe that the age of institutional learning is coming to an end. That demand could not be met by a single institution, let alone a consortium.”

With the company seeing a lot of traction for learning in platform-specific languages like C# and Swift for Apple iOS, Kotlin for Android, and Go for Google cloud computing, it will use the funding to not only continue expanding into more languages, but also more learning tailored to specific job categories.

With Duolingo and other bite-sized content companies experiencing rapid growth, there is clearly a lot of promise in the educational space, and especially with Sololearn.

“Sololearn delivers bite-sized habit-forming teaching at scale, a friendly and supportive community, and incredible user-generated content,” Masha Khusid, partner at Drive Capital, said in a statement. “And with Sololearn bringing that same proven methodology to a subject topic that has such a significant influence on the financial destiny of millions of people, it’s very thrilling and satisfying to be their Series B lead.”

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