​ELSA, a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence and speech recognition technology to help language learners improve their English pronunciation, today announces a Pre-A round of $3.2 million in capital led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, one of the most respected and longstanding VCs in Southeast Asia. Managing Partner, Peng T. Ong, will join ELSA’s board with this round.

The team at ELSA, which stands for English Language Speech Assistant, will use the capital to hire top-tier talent to develop new AI capabilities, open its voice recognition API, and expand its speech recognition technology to teach new languages beyond American English. The company will create a platform to support English teachers and schools around the world to integrate ELSA into their curriculum and help students with their speaking skills. Most ESL classes focus primarily on grammar, vocabulary and reading skills, while speaking remains a challenge that requires one on one support from teachers with limited resources. Until now, there wasn’t an efficient way for English teachers to grade a student’s speaking ability or toprovide them with personalized help. With ELSA, they now can.

ELSA currently allows 1.5 billion English language learners across the globe to increase their speaking fluency. Using ELSA’s proprietary voice recognition technology, language learners can improve their accent, pitch and intonation when speaking English. The app listens to the way language learners pronounce words, sentences or conversations to pinpoint exact errors and provide real-time, accurate feedback on their pronunciation mistakes with specific suggestions on how to improve. For example, ELSA teaches English learners how to move their tongue or their lips differently in order to fix pronunciation errors.

“We’ve built a very large speech corpus of non-native speakers from around the world learning English. With this very valuable data set that we’ve collected and trained over the past few years, we continuously improve our advanced pronunciation assessment engine using state-of-the-art speech recognition and deep learning technologies. The support of Monks Hill Ventures is crucial as we execute our plans for growth and development to new languages, educational platforms and extensive AI capabilities,” said Ms. Vu Van, co-founder and CEO of ELSA.

ELSA, the 2016 SXSWEdu winner, has experienced exponential growth of three times the usage by language learners in 2017, as compared to 2016. With millions of users from 100+ countries around the world, ELSA uses recurrent neural networks (specifically LSTM networks) to model American speech and detect user's pronunciation mistakes with 90% accuracy, a significant achievement in the field of speech recognition.

“We are pleased to support ELSA’s team of experts in the fields of AI and speech recognition as they scale their technology to new languages and markets. ELSA has achieved exceptional organic growth over the past two years and we’re excited to help grow their business and partnership efforts in 2018 and beyond,” said Monk’s Hill Ventures managing partner, Peng T. Ong.

About ELSA Founded in 2015 by Stanford MBA / M.Ed grad Ms. Vu Van, and Dr. Xavier Anguera, a veteran in speech recognition and AI, ELSA is a mobile app for language learners that helps them improve pronunciation and reduce accents, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. The inspiration for ELSA came when Vu realized that pronunciation and accent often pose as a hindrance for non-native employees in business.

Based in San Francisco, ELSA is backed by respected angel investors in Silicon Valley and Vietnam, such as 500 Startups, and belongs to the StartX Fall 2015 group, an accelerator for Stanford’s to entrepreneurs. The company has offices in Portugal and Vietnam. For more information, visit: https://www.elsaspeak.com/home

About Monk’s Hill Ventures Monk’s Hill Ventures is a venture capital firm that invests into high-growth, post-seed stage technology startups in Southeast Asia. With a mantra of “entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs”, its founding partners Peng T. Ong and Kuo-Yi Lim are seasoned entrepreneurs who have built and backed global companies in Silicon Valley and Asia. With offices in Singapore and Jakarta, Monk’s Hill Ventures invests in top entrepreneurs who are leveraging technology to take advantage of the fast-growing Southeast Asian markets. For more information, please visit www.monkshill.com

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