Language learning app Duolingo pops 36% on IPO debut, valuing the EdTech startup at nearly $5 billion
We wrote about Duolingo two days ago after the language learning app and the world’s most popular language-learning platform raised its IPO price target from the previous range at $85 to $95 per share to $95 and $100 each.
Increasing the target price seemed like a big gamble for a startup that started out 10 years ago as a project between Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Luis von Ahn and one of his Ph.D. students, Severin Hacker.
Today, Duolingo finally made its official debut on Nasdaq. Duolingo closed up 36% in its market debut Wednesday, going public under the ticket symbol “DUOL.” When all the dust settled, shares of the language-learning startup closed at $139.01 (way above the initial $85 to $95 target), giving the company a market capitalization of nearly $5 billion.
At the close of the market, Duolingo raised $521 million at an implied $3.7 billion valuation, up from last year’s private market valuation of about $2.4 billion. “We’re the most popular way to learn languages in the world,” co-founder and CEO Luis von Ahn said on CNBC’s “TechCheck” Wednesday morning before shares started trading. “We make the majority of our revenue through subscriptions.”
Duolingo started out in 2009 as a free app to help people of all backgrounds learn new languages. According to documents filed with SEC Monday, Duolingo saw 97% revenue growth year over year but net losses widened more than six-fold to $13.5 million in the three months ending March 31st.
We last wrote about Duolingo in 2019 when the language learning app had 300 million registered users worldwide. Two years later, Duolingo is the most popular language-learning platform with over 500 million registered users and 42 million are active once a month. Duolingo is also the most downloaded education app worldwide.
Duolingo started out as a project led by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Luis von Ahn and one of his Ph.D. students, Severin Hacker. At the time, von Ahn was looking for a new project after his success selling two businesses (reCAPTCHA) to Google in his 20s. He later saw an opportunity to turn the language learning model on its head and Duolingo was born.
Today, Duolingo offers 95 total courses across over 30 distinct languages — from the world’s most spoken, such as Spanish, French and Italian, to endangered languages like Hawaiian, Navajo, and Scottish Gaelic. Its app is available on iOS, Android, and Web. Duolingo’s mission is to make language education free and accessible to all. Its platform is free, designed to feel like a game, and scientifically proven to be effective.
In addition to its core platform, the startup also created the Duolingo English Test, an affordable and convenient language certification option accepted by more than 2,000 universities and institutions worldwide.