51Talk, an English-learning service which provides one-to-one courses in English speaking, announced that it has received US$55 million of Series C financing led by Sequoia Capital and followed by DCM and Shunwei Fund, a fund headed by Xiaomi founder Lei Jun.

It is worth noting that 51Talk is the first online education company that Sequoia Capital invested in. Sequoia is the backer of a list of successful Chinese Internet companies, like Alibaba, Qihoo 360, VipShop, JD, Dianping, etc.

51Talk has closed a US$12 million Series B round last year and several million dollars in Series A from DCM at the end of 2012. The angel investment was secured in 2011 from ZhenFund which was founded by Chinese legendary angel investor Xu Xiaoping.

51Talk offers e-learning courses at more affordable prices with teachers mainly come from Southeast Asian countries who speak English as their native language. The company currently claims more than 2,500 foreign teachers, up from 1,000 at the end of last year, and more than 50,000 paying students.

The funds will be used in upgrading the technical platforms and IT systems, as well as improving syllabus design. The site is planning to expand to overseas market and kids’ education, according to Huang Jiajia, CEO of the company.

51talk is trying to intensify its user experience by setting up offline experience centers, following the drive initiated by a major competitor Hujiang. In addition to building such centers in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, 51Talk is also planning to expand its offline network into more second- and third-tier cities, since more than half of its users come from these cities, Huang added.

This story originally appeared on TechNode. Copyright 2014

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