Japan’s HiNative, Q&A app for language learning, secures $2M to boost user growth

Yangyang Xi, founder and CEO of Lang-8

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Lang-8, the company behind a Q&A app for language learning called HiNative, announced on Wednesday that it has secured 200 million yen (nearly $2 million US) in funding. The investors in this round include Kyoto University Innovation Capital, East Ventures, and DeNA, as well as individual investors notably Chiba Kotaro and Zynga co-founder Justin Waldron, in addition to multiple others. Details of the shareholding ratios and payment date have not been disclosed.

Since its official launch back in November of 2014, HiNative has gradually assembled users, and as of the end of July 2016 it had reached around 200,000 registered users. “We can see a 500,000 users milestone within the year,” CEO Yangyang Xi said in a previous interview back in July.

HiNative’s user growth

In relation to the number of questions and responses, which is of special importance to the Q&A app, as of the end of September there have been 960,000 questions asked receiving 3.4 million answers. The app supports 120 languages and gains user access from almost every country in the world. The company plans to use the funds raised this time around to strengthen their development system, as well as promoting marketing measures aimed at acquiring 2.5 million users by the end of 2017.

And so the story continues, with Xi having said in a previous interview, “Finally, we’re on track and growing,” to now, where he is set to advance to the next stage. He says that while they have to some degree seen verification of their growth, he’d like to improve the number of acquired users and at the same time qualities to retain them.

Xi explained:

As we thought, the more concurrent connections we have the better the numbers become, so first of all we’ll do our best to win over new users. At the same time, what we want to do within 6 months is increase the response speed. If we can get to where answers come within an average of 5 minutes, user experience would also significantly improve, so we want to focus on that from here on out.

Additionally, since his debut in 2007 as a student entrepreneur, Xi has continuously operated his social network for language learning, but unable to make any breakthroughs, experienced his share of struggle. As such, this is his first chance to take a large sum of funding to strengthen the system.

He continued:

Until now we have been working with 5 team members, but we would like that to become 10. In particular, we’re looking for engineers, 1 iOS specialist and one Android, as well as a designer, so those are areas we’d especially like to strengthen. Also, I am still doing the web design, so of course I’d like someone who could take that over.

In terms of business development, they will look for measures to attract YouTuber marketing to their ‘big hit’, as well as for managerial support similar to COO for Xi.

To begin with, Xi seeks to complete his goal of breaking through the 2 million user mark. He also discussed hopes of opening up the language learning contents stored on HiNative for searching capabilities (like Stack Overflow).

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda