Duolingo Business Model

Duolingo Business Model Canvas - Duolingo Business Model

The Duolingo Business Model revolves around creating an interactive language-learning platform accessible to people worldwide. The platform allows users to learn different languages through gamified lessons, quizzes, and challenges. It offers many languages, such as Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.

What sets Duolingo apart is its freemium model. It allows users to access basic language learning features for free, offering a premium subscription for additional benefits. The company generates revenue through its Super Duolingo subscription, which provides features like offline access, ad-free lessons, and progress tracking.

Since its inception in 2011, Duolingo has gained immense popularity, with more than 500 million downloads globally. The platform is widely used by language learners, students, professionals, and travelers who want to enhance their language skills. With its user-friendly interface and personalized learning experience, Duolingo has become a go-to platform for language enthusiasts.

Duolingo Key Information - Duolingo Business Model

A brief history of Duolingo

The roots of Duolingo can be traced back to a Carnegie Mellon University research project called the Language Technologies Institute. This project aimed to create a platform that would make the process of learning English and other languages accessible to people worldwide. Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, and Severin Hacker, a Ph.D. student, were the minds behind this innovative project.

In 2011, Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker decided to take their idea of creating a free language learning platform to the next level. They founded Duolingo and launched the platform to the public in beta mode in November of the same year. The initial version of Duolingo focused on teaching Spanish and English, with a unique approach that combined gamification and crowdsourcing.

Duolingo quickly gained popularity, attracting millions of eager users to learn new languages for free. The platform’s gamified elements, such as earning points and leveling up, made language learning fun and engaging. Additionally, Duolingo leveraged crowdsourcing to create its language courses, with users contributing translations and helping to improve the platform’s content.

In October 2011, Duolingo secured $3.3 million in Series A funding led by Union Square Ventures and actor Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments. This investment allowed Duolingo to develop its platform further and expand its language offerings. Over the years, Duolingo added more languages to its curriculum, allowing users to learn over 36 languages.

In 2014, Duolingo introduced its language certification program. This program aimed to provide users with a recognized language credential that could be added to their resumes or used for academic or professional purposes. The Duolingo language certifications gained recognition from leading institutions and organizations worldwide, establishing the platform’s credibility as a language learning resource.

Duolingo continued to innovate and grow, attracting more users and expanding its business model. In 2017, the company introduced its premium subscription on Android devices, offering additional features like an ad-free experience and offline access to lessons. This subscription model provided Duolingo with a new revenue stream while keeping users’ core language learning experience free.

Today, Duolingo has established itself as one of the leading language learning platforms in the world, with over 570 million users worldwide. The company’s innovative approach to language learning, combined with its commitment to accessibility and affordability, has made Duolingo a popular choice for language learners of all ages and backgrounds.

Who Owns Duolingo

According to MarketScreener, as of April 12, 2024, Duolingo is predominantly owned by institutional investors, mutual funds, and individuals.

Class A Shareholders

  • Baillie Gifford & Co.: Baillie Gifford & Co. is a renowned investment management firm based in Edinburgh, Scotland. With a focus on long-term growth investing, Baillie Gifford has become a significant player in the global investment landscape. Their substantial ownership, of approximately 9.796% of Duolingo’s Class A shares, underscores their confidence in Duolingo’s potential for sustained growth and innovation;
  • Vanguard Fiduciary Trust Co.: A subsidiary of The Vanguard Group, Vanguard Fiduciary Trust Co. is a leading provider of investment management services known for its index funds and low-cost investment options. It holds approximately 9.052% of Duolingo’s Class A shares;
  • Durable Capital Partners LP: Durable Capital Partners LP is a growth-oriented investment firm founded by former T. Rowe Price portfolio manager Henry Ellenbogen. Known for its concentrated investment approach and focus on disruptive technologies, Durable Capital Partners owns approximately 8.711% of Duolingo’s Class A shares;
  • BlackRock Advisors LLC: BlackRock Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of BlackRock, Inc., is the world’s largest asset manager, with a diverse range of investment strategies catering to institutional and individual investors alike. Holding roughly 6.481% of Duolingo’s Class A shares, currently valued at $524 million, BlackRock’s investment underscores its belief in Duolingo’s innovative platform and potential for global expansion;
  • Whale Rock Capital Management LLC: Whale Rock Capital Management LLC is a technology-focused hedge fund known for its expertise in identifying and investing in high-growth companies within the technology sector. Whale Rock holds about 2.807% of Duolingo’s Class A shares, currently valued at $227 million;
  • D.E. Shaw & Co., Inc.: D.E. Shaw & Co., Inc. is a global investment and technology development firm known for its quantitative and systematic investment strategies. D.E. Shaw’s approximately 2.642% of Duolingo’s Class A shares, is currently valued at $214 million;
  • Fidelity Management & Research Co. LLC: A subsidiary of Fidelity Investments, Fidelity Management & Research Co. LLC is one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world. It is known for its active management approach and diverse range of investment products. With ownership of roughly 2.539% of Duolingo’s Class A shares, valued at $205 million, Fidelity’s investment reflects its confidence in Duolingo’s disruptive business model and growth prospects.

Class B Shareholders

  • Luis von Ahn: As one of Duolingo’s co-founders, Luis von Ahn is a prominent figure in the technology and education sectors. He currently holds approximately 34.75% of Duolingo’s Class B shares;
  • Severin Hacker: Another co-founder of Duolingo, Severin Hacker has played a crucial role in shaping the company’s innovative approach to language learning. With ownership of roughly 34.63% of Duolingo’s Class B shares, Hacker’s substantial stake reflects his dedication to driving Duolingo’s continued success and impact in the global education landscape;
  • CapitalG Management Company LLC: CapitalG Management Company LLC, a growth equity firm under Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company), focuses on investing in technology companies with the potential for significant growth and innovation. CapitalG holds around 19.48% of Duolingo’s Class B shares.

These institutional and individual shareholders play a crucial role in shaping Duolingo’s future trajectory, providing financial support, strategic guidance, and expertise as the company continues to innovate and expand its reach globally.

Duolingo Mission Statement

Duolingo Mission Statement - Duolingo Business Model

Duolingo’s mission statement is “to develop the best education in the world and make it universally available.”

How Duolingo works

To start with Duolingo, users can create an account on the website or download the mobile app onto their smartphones or tablets. The platform offers a wide range of language courses, including popular languages like Spanish, French, and German, as well as less commonly spoken languages like Welsh, Irish, and Swahili.

Once users have chosen a language course, they can begin their language-learning journey. Duolingo uses a gamified approach to make the learning process engaging and enjoyable. Users progress through the course by completing lessons, which include a variety of exercises and activities designed to improve vocabulary, grammar, and speaking skills.

Each lesson in Duolingo is broken down into small, bite-sized chunks that are easy to complete in a short amount of time. This makes the platform suitable for users with busy schedules or those who prefer to learn in short bursts. The lessons are designed to be interactive and include reading, writing, listening, and speaking exercises to provide a well-rounded language-learning experience.

Duolingo’s technology platform uses data and machine learning algorithms to personalize each user’s learning experience. The platform records user progress and adapts the difficulty level of exercises based on their performance. This allows users to learn at their own pace and ensures the content remains challenging yet achievable.

In addition to the core language courses, Duolingo also offers various features and resources to enhance the learning experience:

  • Super Duolingo: Users can subscribe to Super Duolingo, a premium platform version that offers additional features such as ad-free learning, offline access to lessons, and unlimited hearts (a feature that allows users to continue learning even after making mistakes);
  • Duolingo Stories: This feature provides users with short, engaging stories in their target language. These stories help users practice reading and listening comprehension skills more effectively and authentically;

Duolingo’s business model is primarily based on offering free language courses and generating revenue through alternative means such as advertising, partnerships, and premium subscriptions.

How Duolingo makes money

Duolingo Revenue (2019-2023) - Duolingo Business Model

Duolingo operates a freemium business model, offering its language learning app and services for free to users. However, the company has several revenue streams contributing to its financial success. The following are ways through which Duolingo makes money:

Super Duolingo Subscription

One of Duolingo’s primary sources of revenue is its Super Duolingo subscription. Users can upgrade to a premium version of the app for a monthly or annual fee, which offers additional features and benefits. These include ad-free learning, offline access to lessons, unlimited hearts to prevent interruptions, progress tracking, and learning insights. The subscription fees provide a consistent revenue stream for Duolingo and are a popular choice for users who want an enhanced learning experience.

Language Certification Tests

Duolingo offers language certification tests that validate a learner’s English proficiency. These tests are recognized by institutions, employers, and immigration programs as a credible assessment of language skills. Users can take the tests to earn certificates, which can be used for job applications, university admissions, and other purposes. Duolingo charges users a fee for taking these tests, generating revenue from individuals seeking official recognition of their language abilities.

Advertising Partnerships

Duolingo also generates revenue through advertising partnerships. The app’s large user base and engaged learning environment make it an attractive platform for advertisers looking to reach language learners. Duolingo offers opportunities for targeted advertising within its app, allowing brands to showcase their products and services to users. Advertisers can leverage Duolingo’s user data and targeting capabilities to deliver relevant ads to their desired audience. This advertising revenue contributes to Duolingo’s overall earnings.

Language for Business Solutions

Duolingo offers language learning solutions tailored for businesses and organizations. Through its Duolingo for Business program, Duolingo provides customized language learning courses and tools to companies looking to enhance their employees’ language skills. These programs can be utilized for employee training, cross-cultural communication, and international business expansion. Duolingo earns revenue by charging organizations for access to these enterprise solutions, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement where companies can invest in language training while Duolingo expands its business reach.

In-App Purchases

In addition to the Super Duolingo subscription, the app offers in-app purchases that allow users to unlock additional features or content. These purchases may include access to specialized language courses, bonus lessons, or further learning materials. Users have the option to make one-time purchases to enhance their learning experience. The revenue generated from these in-app purchases contributes to Duolingo’s overall revenue stream.

Duolingo Business Model Canvas

The Duolingo Business Model can be explained in the following business model canvas:

Duolingo Business Model Canvas - Duolingo Business Model

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Duolingo Customer Segments

Duolingo’s customer segment is diverse and spans different demographics, focusing on language learners and individuals seeking to enhance their language skills. The following are the primary customer segments of Duolingo:

  • Language Learners: Most of Duolingo’s customer segment comprises language learners from around the world. These users sign up on the Duolingo platform to learn new languages or improve their existing language skills. Duolingo offers courses in multiple languages, catering to a wide range of language learners. These individuals use Duolingo’s services to learn languages at their own pace, making it a convenient and accessible platform for language learning;
  • Students and Educational Institutions: Another significant customer segment for Duolingo includes students and educational institutions. Duolingo has made its mark in education by providing language learning resources and tools specifically tailored for classrooms and educational purposes. Many schools and universities integrate Duolingo into their language programs to supplement traditional language instruction or as a digital language learning solution;
  • Professionals and Business Users: Duolingo also attracts professionals and business users who desire to learn languages for career advancement or international business purposes. Effective communication in multiple languages is increasingly becoming valuable in the global job market. Duolingo offers specialized language courses for professionals, such as business communication, industry-specific vocabulary, and cultural etiquette, catering to this customer segment’s needs;
  • Language Enthusiasts and Hobbyists: Duolingo’s customer segment also includes language enthusiasts and hobbyists passionate about languages and enjoy exploring different languages for personal enrichment. These users utilize Duolingo’s language learning resources to broaden their linguistic knowledge and enjoy the process of language acquisition as a hobby;
  • Travelers and Tourists: Duolingo’s customer segment includes travelers and tourists who want to enhance their travel experience by learning the local language or improving their communication skills abroad. Duolingo’s mobile app allows users to know on the go, making it a convenient tool for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in local culture and interact with locals;
  • Schools and Non-Profit Organizations: Duolingo offers partnerships and special programs for schools and non-profit organizations to make language learning accessible to underserved communities and underprivileged learners. This customer segment comprises educational institutions and non-profit organizations that leverage Duolingo’s resources to provide their students or members with language learning opportunities.

Duolingo Value Propositions

Duolingo’s value propositions to their different customer segments include the following.

  • For Language Learners: Duolingo’s value proposition for language learners is its innovative and engaging approach to language learning. Duolingo makes language learning fun, convenient, and effective, allowing users to learn at their own pace and track their progress with personalized feedback and achievements;
  • For Students and Educational Institutions: Duolingo’s value proposition for students and educational institutions lies in its ability to supplement traditional language instruction with a digital learning solution. Their value proposition centers around providing schools and academic institutions with a modern and interactive approach to language learning, enhancing students’ language skills and boosting their learning outcomes;
  • For Professionals and Business Users: Duolingo’s value proposition for professionals and business users is its specialized language courses and resources that cater to professional needs. Their value proposition is providing professionals with the language fluency necessary to excel in their careers and thrive in global business environments;
  • For Language Enthusiasts and Hobbyists: Duolingo’s value proposition for language enthusiasts and hobbyists is their ability to provide a platform for exploring and learning multiple languages. Duolingo provides language enthusiasts an enjoyable and convenient way to satisfy their curiosity and cultivate their interest in different cultures and languages;
  • For Travelers and Tourists: Duolingo’s value proposition for travelers and tourists is its ability to assist in language learning for travel purposes. It provides users with the necessary language skills to communicate with locals, navigate unfamiliar environments, and immerse themselves in the local culture, making their travel experience more immersive and rewarding;
  • For Schools and Non-Profit Organizations: Duolingo’s value proposition for schools and non-profit organizations is its commitment to making language learning accessible and affordable. Duolingo provides schools and non-profit organizations with a cost-effective and scalable solution to promote language education and empower learners with valuable language skills.

Duolingo Channels

Duolingo’s channels consist of:

  • Mobile App: Duolingo’s primary channel is its mobile app, which users can use to access its language learning courses, exercises, and other features;
  • Web Platform: Duolingo also provides a web platform where users can access its language learning content and resources through their computer browsers;
  • Partnerships: Duolingo has partnered with organizations such as schools, universities, and governments to provide language learning programs for their students or employees;
  • Social Media: Duolingo leverages social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to engage with its user community, share updates, and promote language learning;
  • Referral Program: Duolingo encourages its users to refer others to join the platform, leveraging word-of-mouth marketing as a growth channel.

Duolingo Customer Relationships

Duolingo’s customer relationships consist of:

  • Self-service: Duolingo provides a self-service platform where users can independently sign up, take courses, track their progress, and access learning resources without requiring direct interaction with the company;
  • Community Support: Duolingo fosters a sense of community among its users by enabling them to interact with each other through discussion forums, language clubs, and social features. Users can seek guidance, ask questions, or connect with other learners;
  • Gamification: Duolingo incorporates gamification elements like leaderboards, badges, and streaks to motivate and engage users in their language learning journey;
  • Notifications and Reminders: Duolingo sends push notifications, email reminders, and progress updates to keep users engaged and encourage them to continue their learning activities;
  • Customer Feedback: Duolingo actively seeks and incorporates user feedback to enhance its language courses, features, and user experience.

Duolingo Revenue Streams

Duolingo’s revenue streams consist of:

  • Super Duolingo Subscription
  • Language Certification Tests
  • Advertising Partnerships
  • Language for Business Solutions
  • In-App Purchases

Duolingo Key Resources

Duolingo’s key resources consist of:

  • Language Courses: Duolingo’s extensive library of language courses is a crucial resource that they create and maintain to provide users with a variety of learning options;
  • Technology Platform: Duolingo’s technology infrastructure and software development capabilities are essential resources for delivering its language learning experience across web and mobile channels;
  • User Community: The active and engaged user community contributes to the success of Duolingo by providing feedback, participating in discussions, and supporting each other’s learning journeys;
  • Brand and Reputation: Duolingo’s brand and reputation as a leading language learning platform are essential resources that attract and retain users;
  • Data and Analytics: Duolingo leverages data and analytics to understand user behavior, optimize learning algorithms, and improve the effectiveness of its language courses.

Duolingo Key Activities

Duolingo’s key activities consist of:

  • App development and maintenance
  • Creating interactive language courses
  • Gamification and user motivation
  • Expanding language offerings
  • User-generated content curation

Duolingo Key Partners

Duolingo’s key partners consist of:

  • Language experts and educators
  • Translators for course creation
  • Companies for sponsorship and ads
  • Collaborating with universities

Duolingo Cost Structure

Duolingo’s cost structure consists of:

  • Infrastructure and server maintenance
  • Employee salaries
  • Course creation and quality assurance
  • Marketing and user acquisition
  • Research and development expenses

Duolingo Competitors

Duolingo faces direct competition from several established and emerging players in the language learning market. These competitors include:

  • Rosetta Stone: Rosetta Stone is a well-established language learning software company offering a comprehensive course suite. It provides interactive exercises, language immersion, and personalized feedback, catering to many learners;
  • Babbel: Babbel is another prominent language learning app that offers a similar approach to Duolingo. Focusing on conversational skills, Babbel provides interactive lessons and real-life dialogues to help learners gain proficiency in different languages;
  • Memrise: Memrise is a language learning platform that utilizes spaced repetition and mnemonic techniques to help users remember and retain vocabulary. The platform features a variety of user-generated content and allows learners to interact with native speakers;
  • Pimsleur: Pimsleur is known for its audio-based language learning method, emphasizing listening and speaking skills. The program provides recorded lessons that follow a structured curriculum, allowing learners to practice pronunciation and comprehension;
  • Busuu: Busuu offers self-paced lessons and social interaction with native speakers. The platform provides grammar exercises, vocabulary drills, writing exercises, and audio recordings to improve language skills;
  • Mango Languages: Mango Languages provides language learning programs focusing on conversational skills and cultural awareness. The platform offers courses in over 70 languages and incorporates interactive exercises, multimedia content, and adaptive learning.

These competitors often offer unique features, different teaching approaches, and a broader range of language options.

Duolingo SWOT Analysis

Duolingo SWOT Analysis - Duolingo Business Model

The SWOT analysis is a valuable tool for evaluating a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In the case of Duolingo, conducting a SWOT analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of its competitive position, growth potential, and areas of improvement.

By examining Duolingo’s internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats it faces, we can gain insights into how the company can leverage its existing advantages, address its limitations, and navigate the ever-evolving language learning market.

Duolingo Strengths

  • Gamified learning platform: Duolingo offers a gamified experience that keeps users engaged and motivated to learn languages by earning points, leveling up, and competing with others;
  • User-friendly interface: The platform’s interface is simple and intuitive, making it easy for users of all ages and skill levels to navigate and use;
  • Widely available content: Duolingo offers a wide variety of language courses, including popular languages like English, Spanish, and French, along with less common languages often overlooked by other language learning platforms;
  • Free to use: Duolingo’s basic features are completely free, making language learning accessible to millions of users worldwide;
  • Crowdsourced translations: Duolingo utilizes its user base to translate a large amount of real-world content, allowing users to practice their language skills while helping translate the web.

Duolingo Weaknesses

  • Limited depth and advanced content: While Duolingo is an excellent platform for beginners and intermediate learners, it may not provide in-depth language learning for those aiming to attain advanced proficiency;
  • Dependency on exercise-based learning: Duolingo heavily relies on repetitive exercises rather than providing comprehensive explanations and targeted practice for language concepts, which may limit certain learning styles;
  • Lack of conversational practice: The platform mainly focuses on vocabulary and grammar exercises, lacking opportunities for real-life conversation practice, which can be crucial for language fluency;
  • Constraint on learning pace: Duolingo follows a predetermined learning path, which may only accommodate the individual needs and preferences of some learners, who want to learn at their own pace or focus on specific skills.

Duolingo Opportunities

  • Collaborating with language certification providers: By partnering with well-established language certification providers such as TOEFL or DELE, Duolingo can align its courses with recognized language proficiency standards, increasing its credibility and attractiveness to learners seeking official certifications;
  • Expansion into lifelong learning: Duolingo can extend its offerings beyond language learning by providing courses in other subjects or skills, catering to users’ ongoing desire for personal and professional development. This expansion can attract a more extensive user base and diversify the platform’s revenue streams;
  • Strategic acquisitions or partnerships: Duolingo can consider acquiring complementary language learning technologies or partnering with educational technology companies to enhance its platform further and expand its reach in the education sector.

Duolingo Threats

  • Intense competition: The language learning market is highly competitive, with numerous platforms offering similar services and features that could potentially pose a threat to Duolingo’s market share;
  • Language learning apps with AI-based features: The emergence of artificial intelligence-powered language learning apps may pose a threat to Duolingo’s market position, as they offer personalized learning experiences and advanced speech recognition capabilities;
  • Shifting user preferences: User preferences and trends can change rapidly, challenging Duolingo to adapt and stay relevant in a dynamic market landscape;
  • Privacy concerns: Given the amount of personal information gathered from users, Duolingo faces the ongoing challenge of protecting user data and maintaining trust in an era of increasing privacy concerns.


Duolingo’s business model is a successful example of leveraging technology to offer a quality language learning experience while monetizing its platform effectively. By adopting a freemium model, Duolingo has attracted a massive user base and created a strong community around its app. The balance between offering a free version and generating revenue through ads and subscription services has proven sustainable. 

In addition, Duolingo’s popularity and engagement levels have been contributed to by its gamification elements, personalized learning approach, and crowdsourced content. With its impressive revenue growth and user retention, Duolingo has demonstrated that a combination of accessibility, gamification, and innovative monetization strategies can pave the way for success in the language learning industry.



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