Fluentify, a London-based videoconferencing language learning platform founded last year, has closed a $410,000 angel investment, led by Stefano Marsaglia, former chairman of Barclays global financial institutions group and current co-head of Mediobanca investment bank.
The new funding brings the startup’s total raised to date to $500,000.
The webcam-based language learning marketplace, which aims to connects people who want to brush up their skills in a particular language with native speakers from around the world, allows any native speaker to become a ‘fluentifier’ language tutor — provided they pass its vetting procedure.
The aim is to offer a broad pool of potential tutors who bring other professional skills with them, allowing fluentify users to find tutors who also work in particular professions to help them brush up on specialist vocab, for instance. That’s one way the platform says it’s setting itself apart from the myriad other language learning marketplaces already out there.
Another point of difference it flags up is that all conversations take place over fluentify’s own platform, with no other videoconferencing tech pulled into the mix.
“Our main competitors are Verbling and Italki. Our competitors have just copied what language schools have been doing for ages, they just brought it online. What really separates fluentify from Verbling or Italki is that our tutors are not only teachers of English but also working professionals in their fields (bankers, web developers, musicians, etc.). What fluentify offers is real-life experience,” it says.
“Also, fluentify is an ‘all in one’ solution. Users don’t need to download any software or switch to other videoconferencing platform (such as Skype or google handouts) as they must do with our competitors. The entire experience from the tutor selection to the online conversation takes place on our website.”
The startup says it’s had more than 700 applications from people wanting to be tutors, and has only accepted the top 10%. The vetting procedure is extended via an ongoing user feedback system aimed at keeping quality levels up.
Tutors can charge anything from $8 to $30 per 30-minute session, with prices apparently averaging $13. Fluentify takes a 20% service fee as its business model.
The startup, co-founded by three Italian entrepreneurs Giacomo Moiso, Andrea Passadori, Matteo Avalle & Claudio Bosco, says it plans to use the funding for new hires and to concentrate on perfecting the service in Southern Europe, where it’s had some early traction, before scaling more widely.