The funding will be used to expand italki’s marketplace, which connects learners with online language teachers for one-on-one language lessons. Italki claims to have more than 3,000 active language teachers on its platform.
Teachers on Italki negoatiate their own prices, and the company takes 15 per cent commission from lessons transacted on the platform. The average price for an hour of personal lessons is $10-15 per hour, which can be more affordable than traditional language schools and tutoring.
“We believe the key to learning a foreign language is building a genuine connection to a native teacher. We’re excited to work with Hujiang, and we hope that we’ll be able to reach more Chinese students looking for foreign teachers,” said co-founder and chief executive Kevin Chen.
About half of the students on the platform learn English. Other popular languages include Spanish, French, Chinese, and Japanese. Italki started operations in 2007 and raised angel funding in 2012.
The Chinese edtech market is estimated to be worth $20 billion. Italki plans to expand its services in the nation, and would benefit from the experience of Hujiang, which has more than 100 million users.
“When I studied Chinese in Shanghai, my progress was a lot faster than when I learned French in high school. It wasn’t because the textbooks or teachers were better. The difference was that I had many opportunities to meet native speakers and to use the language for real communication. We’re trying to give learners everywhere that same opportunity by connecting them to native teachers online,” Chen said.
Hujiang has been expanding to new geographies, much like its bigger counterparts in other industries, such as Tencent and Alibaba.
It has tied up with companies such as international education companies such as McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and HarperCollins.
That strategy is similar to that of Italki, which counts U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Brazil as its top markets.
Hujiang recently raised $157 in venture funding from China Minsheng Investment, and Chinese tech giant Baidu, among others.