East Liberty-based language learning company Duolingo files to go public

Starting language learning Duolingo has made it clear.

The East Liberty-based company filed a S-1 form at the Securities and Exchange commission on Monday.

The two founders – Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker – met at Carnegie Mellon University and have since grown their company to include more than 400 employees and offices in New York City, Seattle, Beijing and Pittsburgh. The Duolingo app, which helps people learn the language through daily reminders from a useful and sometimes bitter green owl, has over 500 million downloads.

The first, launched in 2011, offers at least 98 complete courses in 40 languages, from Spanish to Arabic to Yiddish to Klingon. Users complete more than seven billion tests each month.

The two founders started Duolingo as a way to combat academic inequality, the company said in its SEC submission. Technologies such as smartphones and the Duolingo app – which provides “biting, needed and engaging” content, he said – can make learning accessible and equitable.

“The most important thing you should know is that I plan to dedicate my life to building a future where, through technology, everyone on this planet can access quality education,” he said. Von Ahn in a letter to investors.

“And not only that, but also the future when people want to spend their time studying. Duolingo is the building site for that future, and we are just getting started. ”

So far, it has been involved, the company said in its file. Duolingo is the leading education app in the Google Play and Apple App store. On Google, people search for the word “Duolingo” more often than not “learn Spanish.”

Karin Tsai, director of engineering at Duolingo, said the company’s approach has been complex over the years, but its goal of providing free technical education has remained elusive. The company relies on analytics but recognizes the importance of keeping an open mind, it said Tuesday at an event held at tech news store TechCrunch to highlight Pittsburgh’s technology environment.

“We have found that it has made us more efficient as a company over time,” said Ms Tsai.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill Peduto said Duolingo’s presentation to the public for the first time could bring more talent to the city to strengthen the startup.

“It’s a company that is committed to making the world a better place,” he said. “That’s what makes all the Pittsburghers proud.”

Duolingo lost $ 15.7 million by 2020 – up from a loss of $ 13.5 million in 2019 – but the company’s revenue doubled last year.

Revenue has grown from $ 70.8 million in 2019 to $ 161.7 million by 2020, according to its S-1 form. In the first three months of 2021, it reported $ 55.4 million.

The app is free but users can purchase subscriptions to avoid ads from the end of each lesson. As of March, about 5% of Duolingo’s monthly active users – or 1.8 million users – were registered, the company said.

About 73% of the company’s revenue comes from enrollment by 2020 and early 2021. Another 17% comes from advertising. The English certificate test, which is used by higher education institutions for admission, is rated at 10%.

Duolingo has been planning the move for some time.

Department spokeswoman Michaela Kron told the Post-Gazette in December 2019 that she plans to try her hand as a public company in 2021. The COVID-19 epidemic has temporarily put off such plans as the company looks at market conditions and other external factors.

At the end of 2019, Duolingo had just announced a $ 30 million grant that had reduced its budget by more than $ 1 billion, making the company a “unicorn”. In terms of investment, the term “unicorn” is used to describe a private startup with an estimated value of more than $ 1 billion.

Duolingo announced another budget in November 2020, bringing the total to $ 183 million and its estimated value of $ 2.4 billion.

While the COVID-19 epidemic has led to doubts about Duolingo’s future as a public company, it has also encouraged the growth of users as people stay at home learning and playing. Students have grown by 34% by 2020 compared to last year, according to SEC filing. Paid subscribers have grown by 84% year over year.

Duolingo proposes trading in Nasdaq under the brand DUOL.

Lauren Rosenblatt: [email protected] Emma Skidmore contributed to the report.

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