The Co-Founder of Duolingo on Tim Ferriss - Deepstash
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Duolingo's Journey to Monetization

Duolingo's Journey to Monetization

For many years Duolingo offered a free app, the company running on investor money. After they raised an 100M VC round from Google they realised they have to start making money:

  • Their first iteration was a user generated translation service they offered to CNN & Buzzfeed. It made them so little money it was shut down.
  • They finally landed on ads as a way to incentivise people to get a pro subscription.

The ads were chosen because offering the app for free was a key value proposition. The challenging part was convincing the team to go with it, as most of Duolingo thought ads were inherently evil.


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Duolingo's Userbase

Duolingo's Userbase

Duolingo has a userbase split between:

  • Professionals who want to learn English. Because knowing English is the universal booster to your career.
  • Hobbyists who think playing language games are better than scrolling Instagram.

Considering the split, phone apps like Insta or Tiktok are Duolingo's biggest competitors.


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Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.


Duolingo is the biggest learning app in the world and the founder was cool to share some honest insights.


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