Game of Tongues: How Duolingo Built A $700 Million Business With Its Addictive Language-Learning App

Beg to your life in Spanish,” needs Duo, a plump green owl. The viral meme circulating on Twitter stars the mascot for Duolingo, the hugely popular language-learning app downloaded by extra than three hundred million humans worldwide. While the meme is a funny story, the real app is masses insistent. Slack off to your daily Spanish lesson, and a cellular phone alert will car-generate when you used the app the day before. The Duo seems for your display screen as an emoji, nagging you to preserve up with your drills. Millions obey Duo’s instructions. Created seven years ago by MacArthur “genius” computer geek Luis von Ahn, forty, Duolingo has hooked all of us, from Bill Gates, Khloe Kardashian, and Jack Dorsey to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

“The moment I felt proudest became after I found out, Wow, the richest guy within the global is the use of the same gadget as the bottom people at the monetary scale,” says von Ahn. “That is, for me, virtually special and quite big.” Duolingo has masses of room to develop more substantially, nonetheless. More than 2 billion people globally are analyzing a foreign language and are increasingly doing it online. Digital language studying generates $6 billion in sales, and that variety is projected to rise to $8.7 billion by using 2025. But it’s a fragmented market with dozens of gamers scattered worldwide, begging for a dominant one.


Von Ahn sincerely knows how to execute on a grand scale. When he turned into a 21-year-old grad scholar, he gave the world CAPTCHA—higher regarded to billions of net users as the ones worrying squiggly letters you need to transcribe to prove you are not a bot. Later he sold two innovations to Google, netting more than $20 million. He splurged on a Lamborghini and a Tesla Model S; however, in any other case, he leads a modest life in the six-bedroom house he offered along with his ex-spouse in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood near Duolingo’s offices. “I may want to have long gone to Guatemala to live in a villa. However, I didn’t want to,” he says. Instead, he has thrown himself into constructing the sector’s maximum downloaded education app.

Duolingo already gives more significant languages than its competition, 36 at closing rely on. They include little-spoken tongues like Hawaiian, Navajo, and Gaelic and the fictional language High Valyrian from the HBO blockbuster Game of Thrones (1.2 million users are studying it). À Los Angeles Wikipedia, Duolingo enlists volunteers to assist in creating its more challenging-to-understand courses. Seven years after its release, it has nearly 30 million active monthly users, in step with its figures. Venture capitalists have pumped in $108 million, ballooning Duolingo’s valuation to $seven hundred million in 2017, $one hundred fifty million other than the marketplace capitalization of Rosetta Stone, its 27-year-antique publicly traded rival.

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