Praktika raises $35.5M to use AI avatars to make learning languages feel more natural

Most apps that help you learn languages have features where you select options or swipe away wrong answer cards — you're more or less interacting with a machine. Language-learning app Praktika is adopting a different approach: It lets you create personalized AI-powered avatars to replicate the experience of having a private tutor, leveraging inflections like tone of voice and emotions to help make learning a language feel more natural.

Praktika claims to have 1.2 million active monthly users across 100 countries and said it generated revenue of almost $20 million in the last 12 months. To keep growing, the startup has now secured a $35.5 million Series A funding round led by Blossom Capital. The round follows a previously unannounced $2.5 million seed fundraise that was led by Creator Ventures and Blue Wire Capital.

Praktika's users interact with AI avatars who then “tailor” lessons for you and can speak with several accents, such as American, British, Asian, and Indian. The more the learner interacts with the avatar, the more tailored the lessons will become — at least that's the idea.

The company's founding team, Adam Turaev (CEO), Anton Marin (CTO) and Ilya Chernyakov (CPO), previously built Cleverbots, an AI service business that counted companies like Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark, and AstraZeneca among its clients.

“Most language learning apps are all about human interaction, with a human tutor. Or it is ‘machine-to-human’ interaction involving clicks and drag and drops," Turaev told TechCrunch. "But we are the only app out there about tone of voice, where you mimic human-to-human interaction. We were the first to master this AI avatar approach, which is very natural to language learning. So that's what really makes it different from any other app that you can see on the market right now.”

When asked how the startup is using AI, he said, “We orchestrate different LLMs, but we're an AI-native company. We have used GPT-4, GP Turbo, Gemini, Claude, and Mistral. We experiment with different versions of their models as well. We gathered a lot of training data, and the app still learns. We have terabytes of this human-to-AI interaction data. We use anonymized data to reinforce the models.”

"Praktika's founding team is bringing its deep knowledge of AI to create a fun, affordable way to learn languages with personalized AI tutors. For too long, other learning apps have taken students for granted and shortchanged them. The team’s determination to build a global challenger has translated into one of the fastest-growing early-stage consumer AI companies globally,” Ophelia Brown, managing partner of Blossom Capital, said in a statement.

Both the seed round and the recent Series A saw participation from prominent figures like Carles Reina (ElevenLabs) and Patrice Evra (five-time Premier League champion).

Sasha Kaletsky, managing partner at Creator Ventures, added in a statement: “Learning a language is a basic human experience, and the Praktika team has successfully injected this human-like element into the product using AI … Over a million learners worldwide are improving their English with Praktika already, and this is just the start.”