Language learning platform Duolingo has seen a surge in users, prompting the company to hire its first CFO, Matt Skaruppa.
Skaruppa comes to the Pittsburgh-based startup from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, where he served as a senior member of a venture and growth equity fund of more than $1.2 billion.
Along with Skaruppa, to meet skyrocketing demand for the app, Duolingo has hired its first general counsel, Stephen Chen, who has spent over 20 years as an attorney for publicly traded companies, including Yahoo!.
"As our business has grown significantly, we are very fortunate to have Matt and Stephen join the team as we prepare for our next phases of business growth, and a 50% increase in our team headcount this year," Luis von Ahn, co-founder and CEO, said in the announcement.
Duolingo, which offers all levels of language-learning services and skill development for children and adults, saw a 148% spike in sign-ups between March 9 and March 30, as state after state enacted stay-at-home mandates, Business Insider reported.
While certain functions of the app are free, last month, Duolingo exceeded one million paid subscribers for its Duolingo Plus subscription product, representing a 200% increase year-over-year in 2019.
The company declined to share how many new users signed up, but a representative told Business Insider it amounted to "millions." Alongside its free language learning courses, its $9.99 Duolingo Plus offering doesn't have advertisements and allows for offline use.
"We've seen evidence of many people taking up language learning during this period of isolation and quarantine as a means of self-improvement," a representative for Duolingo told Business Insider. "Learning a new language comes with numerous benefits, including cognitive ones, such as improved memory, and social ones, such as connecting better with others."
According to Duolingo, the company was valued at $1.5 billion in December 2019, becoming Pittsburgh's first venture capital-backed unicorn. The announcement made no mention of Skaruppa’s hiring being an indicator of a potential IPO.
Prior to Goldman Sachs, Skaruppa spent five years as an operating executive for KKR Capstone, a private equity firm, advising CEOs and CFOs managing company growth. As first CFO of Duolingo, he will lead the app in building out a large finance and accounting team.
"Duolingo has shown that it's possible to build a strong business without straying from its mission to help people learn new languages and better their lives," Skaruppa is quoted as saying. "I am inspired by this mission, and look forward to working with the rest of the team to continue growing our business while empowering millions of learners around the world."
Representatives for Duolingo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.