Slang Raises $14M to Improve Professional English Literacy

The app, which focuses on Latin Americans who want to improve their business English, offers more than 150 courses.

A student works on a laptop computer at home during a remote learning day.
By Marcella McCarthy (EN)
December 20, 2021 | 08:00 AM

Miami — Slang, the professional English learning app, today announced the close of a $14 million Series A round led by DILA Capital and ALIVE, with participation from Salesforce Ventures, Roble Ventures, Impact Engine and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The app, which helps Latin Americans learn English in the area in which they work, launched in 2018 and has 150 career language courses. People who already speak English but want to learn business English or those who don’t know any English, are both good candidates for Slang, said Diego Villegas, co-founder and CEO.

A large portion of the world’s population doesn’t speak English, but “most of the world’s knowledge is in English,” Villegas added. When he realized that, at that moment he thought to himself, “Man, this is professional illiteracy.”

The idea for Slang came from a pain point Diego came across in a previous business he had. He founded MASA, a technical services company, back in 1993 and sold it in 2007 to Stork, but as he was growing the company in Latin America, the lack of English speakers on his team became a problem.


“The entire back office for my company was all reporting in English, but they didn’t have the English for that,” he said. “As we were growing the company, the English fluency was always a problem for us.”

English as a company’s main language is becoming more and more popular as many companies find themselves as global companies, according to Harvard Business Review. Nubank, Netflix, and Bloomberg Línea are a few examples of where English is the official language. It also allows companies to recruit from all over the world as opposed to one or a hand full of countries.

Villegas knew then and there what his next company would be. And when he met Kamran Khan, a computer science major from MIT who was in the process of earning a masters in the same area, but with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), he pitched him to be his co-founder and CTO.


“Diego’s original idea was to make an English course for every job title on LinkedIn, but that would take forever,” said Kamran. So instead, they hired someone to build just one course - an accounting program in English - and Khan watched, taking notes on what could be automated, and how AI could speed up the process.

“It took the teacher more than 30 weeks to create an accounting in English course, and today, after several improvements on the platform, we’re now able to create a course in one week,” Khan said.

The company, which largely sells its app through an employer, though individuals are also eligible to sign up, said that Cornershop is one of their clients.

“Every year we produce twice as many courses as the year before with the same resources,” he added.


Pandemic fueled adoption

It used to be that to learn a language, or improve upon it, people or companies would hire a tutor. But since the pandemic began, more and more of those people have turned to online learning to improve their skills.

“Covid and the pandemic have been in favor of the solution, starting with digital adoption,” said Villegas.

But another trend that has also caused many to want to improve their business English, is the possibility of remote work, especially when considering that you could live in Latin America but make your salary in dollars.

“Remote work was already a strong trend, but since Covid it’s just exploded. The main problem for remote work is professional proficiency,” said Villegas.