Tandem closes $5.7 million funding for its language buddy app
The Berlin-based startup behind Tandem, an app for practicing a second language, has closed a £4.5 million (USD 5.7 million) Series A round of financing. The company plans to capitalize on growth opportunities it’s witnessing as the coronavirus pandemic crisis continues to accelerate the move to digital and online learning.
The Series A is led by European VC firm Brighteye Ventures, with Trind Ventures, Rubylight Limited and GPS Ventures also participating. It brings the startup’s total raised to date to £6.8 million.
With most of the higher education institutions going remote due coronavirus exposure risks of students mixing up with each other on physical campuses, there’s a need for technology that helps language students find people online to practice with. As other language learning apps make for a very crowded space, with giants like Duolingo and Babbel, Tandem focuses on a different niche i.e. native speaker practice.
The platform integrates a formal learning component by providing access to tutors. But the main focus is to help learners get better day by day by practicing chatting with native speakers of the language via the app.
The new funding will help the company in developing additional features for the app and expanding the team across marketing and engineering. Currently Tandem has 24 full-time employees and it is planning to double that to a 50-member team globally.
Tandem co-founder and CEO Arnd Aschentrup said, “Due to the pandemic push to socially distant learners, that’s a growing digital need. The coronavirus crisis spurred a 200 percent increase in new users — highlighting a clear appetite among consumers for digital language learning.”
Aschentrup also added, “Given the accelerated user-uptake and clear market opportunity, we felt that 2020 was the right time to partner with the Brighteye team to bring Tandem into the mainstream. We anticipate significant growth opportunities for online learning and social learning in the wake of coronavirus.”
Aschentrup, added, “Two key trends have emerged over the past few months. Firstly, schools and universities providing language courses have either temporarily shut down, or moved almost entirely to remote lessons. Students are therefore relying on additional platforms to learn and practice languages and that is precisely what Tandem offers.”
“Secondly, we know that lockdown has enormously limited people’s ability to socialize. Friendships have been harder to maintain, and new connections more difficult to spark. We’re excited about Tandem’s ability to connect people all across the globe despite lockdown.”
Alex Spiro, managing partner at Brighteye Ventures said. “The Tandem team’s innovative and effective strategy in building a community platform that tackles the language gap by connecting learners with fluent speakers. The product has seen remarkable growth during this period, and the team is now well equipped to support millions of language learners and many more in the coming years.”
Tandem’s best markets for language learners as per countries is China (10 percent), the US (9 percent) and, Japan (9 percent) — which combined makeup close to a third (27 percent ) of its user base. The most popular language pairs in the order of popularity are English – Spanish, Spanish – Portuguese, English – Chinese, English – French, and Chinese – Japanese.
While the vast majority – 94 percent of Tandem’s user base is making use of the freemium plan, it monetizes via a subscription product, called Tandem Pro, which was introduced in 2018 to cater to members who preferred taking a community approach to language learning.
For USD 9.99 per month, members can access key features like – translating unlimited messages, finding Tandem partners nearby or in specific locations — for example ahead of international travels or studying abroad — and having enhanced visibility in the community as a featured Pro member.
Tandem had been growing usage even prior to COVID-19 — increasing membership from around a million back in 2017, to more than 10 million members now, spread across about 180 countries.