YC alum Fluently’s AI-powered English coach attracts $2M seed round

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Fluently: Helping Near-Native English Speakers Reach Fluency with AI Coaching

The quest for English fluency is a global phenomenon, with millions striving to master the language. However, resources often cater to beginners or those just starting their journey. What about near-native speakers – individuals who already speak English well but desire to refine their pronunciation, grammar, and overall fluency? This is the gap Fluently, a new AI-powered coaching platform, aims to bridge.

Founded by Stan Beliaev and Yurii Rebryk, two former university roommates with a shared background in machine learning, Fluently addresses the unique needs of near-native speakers. Recognizing their own struggles as near-native speakers seeking to improve their English proficiency, Beliaev and Rebryk set out to create a solution that goes beyond traditional language learning methods.

"There are plenty of resources to learn English, but not so many for near-native speakers who still want to improve their fluency," says Beliaev. "This is what inspired us to create Fluently."

AI Coaching for Real-World Scenarios

Fluently operates as a personalized AI coach, providing feedback and tips on spoken English. This sets it apart from other language learning tools, such as ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant) and traditional one-on-one coaching solutions. Fluently’s unique approach lies in its analysis of real-life conversations.

Users can record and transcribe their side of calls via platforms like Zoom, allowing Fluently to analyze their natural speaking patterns in context. This offers valuable insight compared to pre-recorded exercises, providing feedback tailored to real-world communication situations.

For those seeking to practice specific scenarios, Fluently offers two AI coach characters: Ryan, for general chit-chat, and Kyle, for mock interviews. This caters to a significant target audience, particularly foreign professionals seeking to advance their careers in English-speaking environments.

"We estimate there are 84 million non-native employees who work in English-speaking environments," explains Rebryk. "It’s a large and growing niche, and much less crowded than the ESL market overall."

A Tech-Centric Approach to Edtech

Fluently leverages its engineering expertise to create a robust and user-friendly platform. Out of its four-person distributed team, three are engineers. This focus on technology is evident in Fluently’s AI-driven feedback system, which analyzes various aspects of spoken English, including:

  • Pronunciation: Identifies and pinpoints areas for improvement, much like the feedback provided in the example of correctly pronouncing "computer".
  • Grammar: Offers suggestions to refine sentence structure and usage.
  • Pace: Helps users maintain a natural and engaging speaking rhythm.
  • Vocabulary: Encourages the expansion of vocabulary with relevant suggestions.

"We want to be a one-stop shop for better speaking skills," notes Rebryk. "Our goal is understandability, not just accent correction."

Addressing User Needs and Ensuring Privacy

Fluently’s developers are acutely aware of the specific needs of near-native speakers. They understand that such learners often seek subtle improvements rather than a complete overhaul. "People who already speak quite fluently are more interested in a solution that can be used in the background and only calls their attention to issues that need addressing," says Rebryk.

To ensure user privacy, Fluently employs stringent security measures:

  • Local audio storage: User recordings are stored locally on their devices, not on remote servers.
  • Encryption: Data is encrypted to protect it from unauthorized access.
  • Third-party data anonymization: Data sent to third-party AI providers for transcription is anonymized and not used for training purposes.

"We are committed to protecting user privacy and ensuring a secure experience," emphasizes Rebryk.

Future Plans and Challenges

Despite its early beta stage, Fluently has already garnered attention and support from investors. Its $2 million seed round, secured before Demo Day at Y Combinator, showcases its promising potential. The funding will allow Fluently to expand its team and focus on marketing efforts.

"When you have a small team, you prioritize what to do first," Rebryk says.

Looking ahead, Fluently plans to:

  • Expand its reach: By launching a Chrome extension, Fluently will become more accessible to users across different platforms.
  • Enhance user engagement: Incorporating gamification elements, inspired by Duolingo, could further motivate users and help them track progress.
  • Continuously improve AI algorithms: Refining its AI algorithms will ensure even more accurate and personalized feedback.

While Fluently faces challenges in a crowded edtech market, its unique focus on near-native speakers and innovative AI-powered coaching provides a compelling differentiator. By combining cutting-edge technology with user-centric features, Fluently promises to help near-native English speakers reach new levels of fluency and confidence in their communication skills.

Article Reference

Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson is a tech enthusiast with over a decade of experience in the industry. She has a knack for identifying the next big thing in startups and has reviewed countless internet products. Emily's deep insights and thorough analysis make her a trusted voice in the tech news arena.