LingoAce bags $100 million to teach foreigners Chinese

Business & Technology

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In China, teaching English to Chinese kids is falling out of fashion, but tutors can still teach Chinese to foreign kids. LingoAce, an online Chinese learning platform that teaches kids Mandarin, just completed a $100 million Series C round led by Sequoia Capital India, Owl Ventures, Shunwei Capital, and SWC Global.

  • Founded in 2017, LingoAce aims to provide an immersive and fun Chinese learning experience for overseas youths aged 4-15.
  • The company is headquartered in Singapore with six branches in Beijing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Silicon Valley, Jakarta, and Bangkok. LingoAce has over 4,000 Chinese teachers on its platform, 100,000 students, and its courses reach more than 100 countries. The U.S. is the largest market.
  • Many online tutoring companies that formerly specialized in teaching English are now pivoting to Chinese education. They include Guagua Long, Banyan Fish Children’s English, and VIPKID.

The context: In June 2020, the Ministry of Education issued guidelines proposing to “expand education to the outer world” and “provide quality courses for a global audience.” According to China’s vice minister of education, over 70 countries have incorporated Chinese into their national education curriculums in recent years and demand for Chinese education is ripe.

  • After Beijing banned for-profit tutoring under the “dual-alleviation” policy last July, companies began to pivot away from teaching K9 core subjects to adjacent sectors. Many, such as the education giant New Oriental Education, have set their eyes on Chinese education for overseas students.
  • Last September, New Oriental launched Blingo, which provides Chinese and Chinese culture courses for Chinese Americans. The company held an offline event in California to promote the program.
  • In 2017, VIPKID also launched Lingo Bus, another online Chinese education platform designed for children aged 4-15. Since the for-profit tutoring ban, Lingo Bus has become the company’s key focus. It currently boasts a total of 100,000 users.

The takeaway: Much of the demand for Chinese language tutors comes from Chinese American families who see Chinese as a gateway to more opportunities in the future. There are 60 million people with Chinese ancestry abroad, so the market is promising.

But it is a lot smaller than the market for tutoring Chinese kids in China, and may require a completely different approach to pedagogy and marketing.