[Update] Alibaba Leads $100 Million Series B Financing in Language-learning Service TutorGroup

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Online education service TutorGroup is closing a nearly $100 million USD round of Series B financing from Alibaba Group, Singapore investment company Temasek and Qiming Venture Partners. [Update] TutorGroup announced this March that SBI Group (formerly known as Softbank Finance Group) invested in the company through its education-focused fund SBI-Fudan Fund as a strategic partner.

TutorGroup plans to use the funding to accelerate further growth across Asia market, and also expand its presence in the Americas. The company has raised $15 million in Series A from Qiming Venture and CyberAgent in 2012.

Although TutorGroup’s research and development group is based in Silicon Valley, most of its offices are spread across Asia. Founded in 2004, it now runs four brands of English-learning site VIPABC, TutorABC, English-learning service for youth TutorABC Jr (8-18 years old) and TutorMing for Mandarin Chinese.

With more than 2,000 teachers in 30 countries and 60 cities around the world, TutorGroup provides real-time interactive language learning through millions of class sessions annually. Powered by a proprietary technology platform that combines software, individual student’s history and data analytics, the service recommends class size, learning pace and content that best suit the language learners.

The financing comes at a time of rapid growth for the company. VIPABC.com and TutorABC.com have served more than 5 million classroom sessions, combining for more than 10,000 hours of course content, all of which is accessible for classes at any time. Moreover, TutorGroup just announced a partnership with former NBA star Yao Ming, who is also focused on improving global education through the Yao Ming Foundation.

TutorGroup forecasts the adult English language-learning segment alone within China is growing at 25% annually, and will grow to more than U.S. $21 billion by 2016. Within China alone, TutorGroup expects sales to experience a triple-digit annual growth rate in the years to come.

The company also established a scholarship for Chinese language learning students in the United States and Singapore, offering 10,000 free sessions to students selected from an application contest on TutorMing.org.

Alibaba Group has launched online education platform Taobao Classmate last year. This investment is considered as another step for the e-commerce juggernaut to explore online education market.

Chinese education is undergoing a revolution towards private and online education with a wave of startups raised findings in the first half of 2013. 51Talk raised $12 million Series B financing from funds backed by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun in last December and 91waijiao raised funds in last year. Big Chinese Internet companies also swarmed into this industry by building homegrown online education platforms.

image credit: TutorGroup