Ginger Software Raises $6.3M For Its ESL Writing Tools; Adds Former Facebook Exec As CEO

Ginger Software, the makers of contextual grammar and spell-checking tools, announced today that it has raised $6.3 million in series D financing, led by Israeli investment firm, Vaizra Ventures. Founded in 2007, Ginger has raised $15 million to date from investors which include serial entrepreneur and Lightspeed partner, Yoni Hefetz, and well-known Israeli angel investor Zohar Gilon, who has funded companies like Radvision, Ceragon Networks, Metalink, Radware, and Outbrain. As a result of its new investment, Shlomo Kalish of Vaizra will be joining the startup’s board.

In conjunction with its funding announcement, the Israeli and Massachusetts-based company is announcing today that former Facebook and AOL executive Net Jacobsson will be joining Ginger as its new CEO and as a board member. Jacobsson was, among other things, formerly the director of business development at AOL in the early 2000s, before going on to join Facebook in 2007, where he led international business development and user acquisition for nearly two years. The entrepreneur and exec is also an advisor to and shareholder in both the open source mobile/social gaming network, OpenFeint, as well as social games developer CrowdStar.

Jacobsson brings his social gaming and international business development experience to a company that is looking to expand its footprint overseas and capitalize on what it sees as an underserved market. For those unfamiliar, Ginger Software’s contextual spell-checking and grammar tools target both those learning English as a second language as well as those suffering from Dyslexia, providing its users with an online service that automatically corrects text as they type.

For the billions of ESL learners and the more than 50 million people with Dyslexia in the U.S. and the U.K. alone, Ginger’s patent-pending technology allows them to produce error-free documents, emails, and so on and learn to communicate as a native speaker — with support for Microsoft Office products as well as IE and Firefox.

The company’s “Proofreader” product, for example, corrects both spelling and grammar mistakes based on the context around the typed words, learning from each error the user makes, before offering personalized educational tips, lessons, and quizzes based on those miscalculations through its “Personalized Tutor.”

Ginger’s technology was developed by a team of natural language processing experts, statisticians, linguists, educators, and more, who created a text-correction algorithm to automatically analyze the context of errors written in English and to select the most appropriate semantic and grammatical correction.

“Initially, I quickly dismissed Ginger as boring software for grammar correction,” the company’s new CEO said, “but after digging much deeper into the technology, the platform and the potential usages, I realized that I had just seen the tip of the iceberg and that perhaps the company just did not have the right positioning and message.”

Giving it the right message, the former Facebook exec continued, is a meaningful challenge, considering the billions of people around the world who want to learn English (China, in particular, has 325 million English learners), but struggle to maintain their proficiency because they don’t live in an English-speaking environment and thus lack that level of immersion.

Thus, the new CEO believes that Ginger’s software not only has serious market opportunity, but that it has potential to be scaled across technologies, as the company currently has a text-to-speech product as part of its premium offering, but has not yet productized around the the technology’s capabilities to contextually help users search for images, videos, etc.

As of now, the CEO says that the company’s technology can eliminate up to 95 percent writing errors common to people with dyslexia, as well as those learning English for the first time.

For more, check out Ginger at home here.