Duolingo doesn’t want to disrupt the college degree

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there is too much changed for Duolingo. The language learning company launched on the Disrupt platform almost a decade ago without any monetization plans. Today, that useless app has become a well-known consumer brand and a business that makes a ton of money. This growth fueled the startup’s recent decision to go public, which is rare for a consumer edtech company.

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CEO & Co-Founder Ego to Louis To explain how the sophistication of public markets influences the company’s strategy, Nerdshala returns to Disrupt. With new capital from IPOs and attention from the public markets, Duolingo is drawing its own line on what’s next on its roadmap and what’s never going to happen.

Part of becoming a listed company is opening itself up to criticism from public markets, which are full of investors looking for viable businesses that know how to make money and appreciate in value. But what happens if optimizing for money isn’t what a company wants to do?

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Duolingo’s early days were defined as allergic to monetization because its mission was the scale of free education. When the company eventually introduced monetization through subscriptions, it didn’t pay for any learning materials. Instead, its subscription product is built to enhance the user experience – from completely avoiding ads to allowing unlimited mistakes. Today, about 95% of Duolingo users consume the product for free.

Von Ah defended the idea that Duolingo might be tempted to introduce paid learning features to its subscription service, now that it’s in the eye of retail investors.

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