English-learning Site 51Talk Pockets Series C Financing Led by Sequoia Capital

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51Talk, an oral English training service providing one-to-one courses, announced that it has received US$55 million of Series C financing led by Sequoia Capital along with DCM and the Shunwei Fund headed by Xiaomi founder Lei Jun.

It is worth nothing that 51Talk is the first online education company in which Sequoia Capital invested. Sequoia is the backer of a number of highly successful Chinese internet companies, like Alibaba, Qihoo 360, VipShop, JD, Dianping, and so on.

51Talk closed a US$12 million Series B round last year and received several million dollars in Series A from DCM at the end of 2012. The angel investment is secured in 2011 from ZhenFund which was founded by legendary angel investor Xu Xiaoping.

51Talk offers e-learning courses at affordable prices, with teachers mainly coming from southeast Asian countries who speaks English as their native language. The company currently claims more than 2,500 foreign teachers, up from 1,000 at the end of last year, and more than 50,000 paying students.

The funds will be used in upgrading the technical platform and IT systems, as well as improving syllabus design. The site is planning to expand into the overseas market and kids’ education, according to Huang Jiajia, CEO of the company.

51talk is also trying to diversify its user experience by setting up offline experience centers, following a similar initiative by major competitor Hujiang. In addition to building such centers in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, 51Talk is also planning to expand their offline network into second- and third-tier cities, since more than half of their users come from them, Huang added.

image credit: 51Talk