Language Confidence, an Australia-based artificial intelligence (AI) language firm, announced Wednesday it has raised $1.5 million seed round to automate the teaching and testing of spoken English.

The capital raise was led by Wavemaker Partners, one of Southeast Asia’s leading early-stage venture capital firms, with participation from Investible, a leading Australian early-stage investment group, Language Confidence said in a statement.

The funding will enable the company to expand its product offering and grow it’s already global customer base.

“There are 1.4 billion people spending $60 billion trying to learn English, and there simply aren’t enough teachers to go around. I wanted to automate and scale what I was doing as a real human teacher with a focus on speaking. There is a huge opportunity to unlock universal access to the English language by leveraging artificial intelligence,” said Nick Jenkins, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Language Confidence.

“We offer our API on a per-student or per-usage basis, and our test at a per-test fee. We’re very excited about what the future holds, considering the customers we’ve secured and the interest we’re seeing in our technology,” he added.

Nick Jenkins formed strong relationships with a number of PhD students at MIT’s Speech Lab, who shared his vision and eventually became shareholders and technical advisors for the tech startup.

“I believe in businesses that do something good for the world and build a large, sustainable business at the same time. Language Confidence is exactly that; democratized access to high-quality language education,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way since our pre-seed round of A$500,000 ($119,260) ran out and we managed to keep the company alive on credit cards until we had our first real, paying customer late in 2019,” he added.

This funding comes off the back of a 5 times growth in the company’s newly signed enterprise customers and a greater than 10 times uplift in inbound leads in 2021 – even with zero outbound sales and marketing.

Language Confidence plans to use the fresh capital to expand on its product offering. The company has hired a small but elite team to execute on this and to formalize its internal processes. Its first hire was a Chief Commercial Officer, Marco Sentenlli, with over a decade of experience as an exec in tech companies and also a founder himself.

Language Confidence is a Sydney-based startup founded in 2018. It automates the teaching and testing of spoken English using AI, and offers access to this technology via an API (plugin) and an automated English test (whitelabel). The company has raised $1.95 million in capital, has customers in 5 continents and has made 10s of millions of API calls.

The startup is on a mission to provide democratic and affordable access to quality language education for anyone, delivering automated teaching and testing of spoken English using AI technology.

It offers an API (plugin) that “listens” to students and can assess and correct their spoken English pronunciation with visual feedback. This API can be plugged into any digital platform and enhance spoken products’ engagement, retention and student’s learning. Its API product has attracted customers from the high-stakes test preparation, business to business (B2B) and corporate English, general English, direct-to-consumer (app) and the learning-assisted (i.e. dyslexia) markets.

It also provides an automated English test, which is offered as a white-labeled platform to be used for a wide range of purposes, including mock high-stakes testing, placement testing, diagnostic testing for universities, schools, online platforms and even governments.

Nick Jenkins, who has previously sold one business at 21 years old and also founded another EdTech startup, began formulating the idea for the product during the nearly four years he spent living and teaching English in China. Swahn Fraye, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, left Atlassian to co-found Language Confidence, after experiencing the power of learning English himself.

“Despite an ever-growing demand for English speakers, affordable, quality English education remains unreachable for most. Nick is a three-time founder who experienced first-hand the pain points of teaching English, giving him unique insight into the space. With that insight, Language Confidence has built the best-in-class API-based product that’s loved by stakeholders across the board, from traditional universities to global edtech players. Even with a lean team, it has been able to compete against well-funded competitors and sign institutional clients, helping thousands of students learn and speak English as a result. We are incredibly excited to see how the Language Confidence team will revolutionize English learning globally,” said Eric Manlunas, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners Southeast Asia.

Investible Investment Director Daniel Veytsblit, on the other hand, said :“We’ve followed Nick and Swahn persevere, build and scale Language Confidence over the last two years through an incredibly difficult macro backdrop. They’ve developed a robust and scalable product seeking to solve a mammoth global problem in a low cost manner, assisting millions to learn English (first) and other languages (next).”