I loved Duolingo for a long time. Over the course of three years I managed to do approximately 20 lessons, dabbling my way through French, German and Irish Gaelic before dismissing daily reminders that I should keep up my progress if I really wanted to learn a language.
Eventually it hit me with the ultimate line:
This doesn’t seem to be working. I’m going to stop sending these reminders now.
(Or something like that. It’s been a while.)
Ouch. A first rate “not angry, disappointed” notification from an app if ever there was one.
The fact is, Duolingo has been amazing at doing what it does, especially when it first appeared and then spawned a wide range of competitors (even helping pave the way for the wider EdTech industry). The fact you can do SO MUCH language learning for free is incredibly impressive – I recall wondering how it could be making money given how much it was giving away.
But, yes, it makes money. And it has now announced it plans to conduct an IPO. It’s last valuations placed it at US$2.4 billion and its revenue jumped to US$161.7 million (+129%) off the back of the pandemic. It says it makes 73% of its revenue from subscriptions, 17% from ads, and 10% from the Duolingo English Test (an accredited language test that is far cheaper than the traditional tests in the market).
I wish Duolingo well in its ongoing journey toward success. It’s still technically losing money, because somehow that’s how it works in startup land regardless of how long you’ve been around. But hopefully the IPO helps it land on the right side of the plus/minus column more often in future.
I just feel for all those pandemic language learners who are currently getting a lot of passive aggressive notes from the owl reminding them to get back into their lessons to achieve their language goals.