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Contxto – It’s one thing to boast about a free app with thousands, or even millions of downloads. But what about the paid version of a product? Now there’s something worth some startup swagger (and media coverage). Much to edtech Duolingo’s credit, it surpassed one million paying users, according to an announcement made earlier this month.

And no doubt the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has greatly pushed these edtech’s numbers.

What’s more, it also has some ambitious hiring plans for this year. Besides having recently recruited its first Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and first General Counsel (GC), it expects to increase its staff by 50 percent

As of December of last year, Duolingo had 200 people on its team.

Is Duolingo preparing for what’s to come?

Last we knew of this language-learning startup, it hit a US$1.5 billion valuation. In other words, it reached “unicorn status.”

Since then, Duolingo’s been quite busy. 

In March, it pre-released a free app for kids to learn how to read. Meanwhile, its user base for its language-learning app has risen to unprecedented levels. According to Business Insider, during the month of March, there was a 108 percent increase in new signups worldwide.

Regarding its CFO and GC announcement, the startup’s CEO/Co-founder, Luis von Ahn, said the business is lucky to have them on board, “as we prepare for our next phases of business growth.”

And hiring these high level execs certainly lays down some groundwork for a potential IPO. 

This time around, I’m focusing on Duolingo’s pick for GC, Stephen Chen. He has vast experience in tech companies like Yahoo!, VMWare and Proofpoint and acquisitions.

Why it’s a big deal: In a 2019 December interview, von Ahn stated Duolingo was considering an IPO launch in 2021 and it’s interested in buying businesses in education and language-learning. Seems to me like Chen really might be their guy for that end.

Covid-19 has derailed many startup’s plans for 2020 and even affected them into 2021. One can speculate that this may not be Duolingo’s case…

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