Voice AI Reading Coach Startup Ello Raises $15M

Voice AI-powered reading coach developer Ello has raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Goodwater Capital. Ello provides personalized voice assistants that teach children how to read and even design a long-term literary curriculum for each student.

AI Literacy

Ello’s virtual literacy coach employs an AI combining voice recognition and natural language processing to teach children aged five to eight how to read. The subscription-based app assesses a child’s literacy and interests and then provides five books a month for $25 from among more than 300,000 available. The AI provides real-time corrections to a student as they read aloud. Progress is rewarded with points that the child can use to get real toys and other prizes. Ello boasts that its AI performs better than OpenAI’s Whisper and Google Cloud’s speech API when it comes to speech recognition and is accurate down to the phoneme level.

Former Google for Education head of impact and adoption Tom Sayer co-founded Ello in 2019 with Catalin Voss, the founder of multiple machine learning and AI startups, and clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Adams. The company plans to use the new investment to further enhance its service, including plans for incorporating generative AI into its features.

“Elizabeth, Catalin, and I have all come to Ello through our own journeys, but we share a belief that reading is the key to education in the information age, and are driven by the mission to give a high quality literacy education to all children, regardless of their resources,” Ello CEO Tom Sayer said in a statement. “We are appreciative of our investors’ support as we build out new versions of our product this fall that will reach more families who are looking for tools to help their child tackle reading challenges and get more excited about reading. With the latest advances in technology, including GenAI, we can finally meet the challenge of 1:1 teaching and democratize education through our AI-based reading coach.”

Ello is part of the rising AI educational providers, including SoapBox Labs, whose deal with education industry giant Scholastic has begun expanding access to its child-centered voice AI. The adoption of generative AI in educational technology is also accelerating. For instance, generative AI education startup Loora recently raised $9.25 million for a voice-based English teacher app that mimics a human tutor in expanding and correcting their linguistic skills. Meanwhile, OpenAI and Duolingo have partnered to produce generative AI features for the language education app.

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