ELSA Asia Education & Talent

Vu Van Transforms AI-Powered Language Learning in Vietnam and Around the World

Each year, the United States has over 100,000 students learning English as a foreign language. The multilingual character of the student population significantly impacts a student’s academic experience, often leading to inconsistent accessibility to the educational frameworks and curriculum available at leading universities around the world. Vu Van, a top student at Stanford University, experienced this reality first-hand while pursuing her MBA and Masters in Education.

“I lost confidence and felt quite embarrassed. But later, I found that I was not alone. Most of my international friends who studied abroad faced the same obstacle,” said Vu. “Speech therapy can cost around $150 an hour and, although listening to films online is an alternative, there is no one there giving feedback.”

So, she began on the journey of identifying partners and talent in the field of artificial intelligence and voice recognition — often specialties only tech giants could afford — to address this growing problem. After countless visits with her professor, Xavier Aguerar, a leading expert and engineer in voice recognition, together they founded ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant).

The ELSA method focuses on speaking and real-life contexts, such as small talk at work, delivering a presentation, going for a job interview, or eating at a restaurant. The user learns by practice, emphasizing correct pronunciation and intonation. The app can recognize a wide range of English-speaking accents and detect pronunciation mistakes up to the phoneme level at 95% accuracy.

After launching in San Francisco in 2015, ELSA began experiencing significant momentum and by 2020 joined the Endeavor network, reaching 750,000 monthly active users from 101 countries. The company now has offices in Vietnam, India, Portugal, Japan, and Indonesia.

“Endeavor was crucial in helping with our geographic expansion in Brazil and Vietnam, and in developing my B2B sales and GTM strategy,” said Vu.

In 2021, Endeavor Catalyst was among the investors who participated in a Series B round of $15 million in new capital.

The investment followed significant milestones achieved in 2020, when ELSA nearly doubled its customer base, increasing revenue by almost 300% and introducing multiple product enhancements.

With the increase of remote work and investment from companies looking to improve the English speaking skills of their staff, especially in Asia and Latin America, ELSA has sparked numerous partnerships with corporations, including Globant, and educational institutions worldwide.

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