Several high-profile English tutoring platforms focus on children, including VIPKID and Magic Years. Ringle carved a niche for itself by focusing on adults first with courses like business English and interview preparation. The South Korea-based startup today announced that it has raised an $18 million Series A led by investor Must Asset Management at a valuation of $90 million. Ringle is preparing to launch a program for school children later this year, and also plans to open offline educational spaces in South Korea and the United States.
Other participants in the round, which raised Ringle’s total to $20 million, include returning investors One Asset Management and MoCA Ventures, as well as new backer Xolon Invest. Ringle claims that its revenue has tripled every year since its founding in 2015, and bookings for lessons increased by 390% over the previous year.
Ringle currently has 700 tutors, who are pre-screened by the company, and 100,000 users. About 30% of its students, who learn through face-to-face live video sessions, are located outside Korea, which includes the US, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Singapore.
Ringle’s co-founders are Seonghun Lee and Sungpa Lee, who both have MBAs from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He developed Ringle based on the challenges he faced as non-native English speakers and graduate students in the US. The startup was first created to serve professionals who are already established in their career or education. Its students include people who have worked for companies such as Google, Amazon, BCG, McKinsey and Samsung Electronics.
Seunghun Lee told ClearTips that Ringle creates proprietary learning materials based on current events to keep its students interested. For example, recent topics include blockchain NFT technology, how the film “Parasite” portrayed class conflict and global inequalities in vaccine access.
Ringle’s tutors are recruited from top universities and are required to present proof of education and verify their school email. The company’s vetting process also includes a mock session with Ringle staff. Lee said applicants are asked to become familiar with some of Ringle’s teaching material and lead a full lesson based on its guidance. Ringle assesses candidates on their teaching skills and ability to lead engaging discussions that also improve their students’ language skills.
A portion of Ringle’s new funding has been earmarked for its technology platform. It is currently developing a language diagnostic system that tracks the complexity and accuracy of students’ spoken English, along with researchers from KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology).
The company already has an AI-based analytics system that uses speech-to-text and measures speech pacing (or spoken words per minute), the amount of filler words, and the range of words and expressions in lessons . It gives feedback that allows students to compare their performance across various metrics with that of the top 20% of Ringle users.
The new language diagnostic system that is currently under development with KAIST will begin releasing features over the next few months, including speech fluency scoring, a personalized dictionary, and auto-paraphrasing suggestions.
Funding will also be used to create more original learning materials, and rent for Ringle’s offices in Seoul and San Mateo, Calif. Ringle also plans to diversify its revenue sources by providing premium content on a subscription basis, and will launch its junior program for students aged 10 and above later this year.