AI-powered personalized spoken English coach Blackboard Radio has raised a seed funding round of $100,000 from social enterprise incubator Villgro, as well as from other marquee angel investors.
The company said that the fund will be used to accelerate the development of the startup’s platform for school going students in Tier II and III cities in India.
Founded in 2016 by Vatsal Dusad, Shubham Gupta and Arpit Jain, who were hostel mates in IIT Delhi, Blackboard Radio (BBR) is an AI-powered personalized spoken English coach. It enables conversational English mastery providing interactive, personalized instruction over a basic smart phone to young children from all socio-economic backgrounds.
Blackboard Radio provides children with guided speaking practice with expert English trainers. The core focus of BBR is on making students become confident in speaking, improvement on real-life English skills in pronunciation and articulation, and tangible outcomes measured using continuous spoken English assessment based on international CEFR levels.
Speaking about the company and its app’s benefits to the users, Shubham Gupta, Co-founder and CPO of Blackboard Radio, said,
“Using state-of-the-art machine learning models uniquely trained on Indian accents of young children, the app provides automated scoring of pronunciation on a user’s speech and provides feedback to improve. Blackboard Radio has created a platform where students can speak freely without fear of judgements, which helps students to become more confident.”
On what makes Villgro invest in Blackboard Radio, Vikash Jha, Manager for Education Investments at Villgro, commented saying,
“The simplicity of the innovation, ubiquity of the problem in the target segment, strong validation from the early traction, and the passion of the founders is what really excited us to invest in Blackboard Radio.”
Blackboard Radio uses AI and NLP to create conversation bots for children. Their conversation bots are chatbots with an additional layer of animated graphics. These bots simulate a real-life conversation between a child and a virtual cartoon character. This technology is used to create adaptive daily 10-minute workouts for children where they play an activity by speaking to this conversation bot.
Having recognized that not being proficient in English leads to many Indian students under-confident and often left with fewer opportunities in higher studies and jobs, Co-founder and CEO of Blackboard Radio Vatsal Dusad said that the company is looking to tap the massive opportunity and help 200+ million school students in India to speak better English.
The company currently works with over a 1000 students in a closed beta and has plans to reach out to 10,000 students by 2019.