Grammarly founders become billionaires by correcting their sloppy writing

Your teachers probably told you that grammar was important – but did they mention that it could turn you into a billionaire?

A $ 200 million investment round announced last week by the popular grammar checker Grammarly not only catapulted the company’s value to $ 13 billion, but shaped two of its founders: Max Lytvyn and Alex Schevchenko, billionaires. The Ukrainian-born entrepreneurs who launched the automated typing assistant in 2009 with the help of programmer Dmytro Lider are now worth at least $ 4 billion each thanks to recent funding. Forbes Estimates.

According to data gathered by Pitchbook, about 22% of Grammarly is owned by the investors involved in its two funding rounds in 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, Lider, the third co-founder, holds just a 1% stake, a company spokesman said earlier Forbes Ukraine, a licensed edition from Forbes. That leaves Lytvyn and Shevchenko each with an estimated 35% of Grammarly’s equity, which after accounting is worth about $ 4 billion each Forbes’ Discount for private companies. A source familiar with the business confirmed these numbers.

Grammar disputes Forbes“Estimates but has provided no evidence of divergent assessment of its co-founders. “Grammarly is a private company and does not disclose the ownership structure or the numbers of the company,” said the company’s communications director, Senka Hadzimuratovic, in an email.

The San Francisco-based company was founded over a decade ago under the quickly-abandoned name Syntax as a subscription-based product designed to help students with their grammar and spelling. Since then, it has moved away from its exclusive focus on education and opened up access to its intelligence-driven grammar checker that makes it easy to weed out errors in emails, documents, and more. The company has also released spin-off products like Grammarly for Business, an edition of its corporate grammar checker, the brags well-known customers such as Zoom, Cisco, Dell and Expedia.

Grammary’s key product has been widely distributed under a freemium model since 2015, with the option of upgrading versions for Prices between $ 12 and $ 30 a month. “That was a turning point for us,” Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover told Fast Company in a 2019 interview, declaring that “word of mouth has really, really increased”. Today the company is Allegations to reach 30 million people every day through its operations over 500,000 applications and websites, including email apps, numerous web browsers, social media and Microsoft Word.

This is not the only company that Lytvyn and Schevchenko founded together. The two, who met while attending International Christian University in Ukraine, say that the idea for Grammarly actually came from their previous MyDropBox project, which dates back to college. “We had developed a product to keep plagiarism out of the writing of the students,” wrote Lyvtyn in a blog entry March. “This led us to ask a serious fundamental question: Why do people choose plagiarism in the first place? Could it be that they found it difficult to communicate what they meant with their own voice? ”

Their mission may sound noble, but at the beginning of their business trip, some questions were raised about Lyvtyn and Schevchenko’s motivations when it was discovered that two online services they had started to assist professors in checking student papers for plagiarism ( Predecessor to MyDropBox), seemed to have links to websites selling term papers to students. said The Chronicle of Higher Education however, at the time they were hired to program a paper mill, they denied any connection between the two companies. “We have never, ever, ever sold papers that were uploaded to our service,” Shevchenko told the 2002 publication.

The scandal disappeared to an almost forgotten spot on their files when Lytvyn and Schevchenko moved to the United States and Canada, respectively, to earn their MBAs from Vanderbilt University and the University of Toronto. They then realized their vision for MyDropBox, which was eventually acquired by education technology company Blackboard. It appears that one or both of the men are still living in Vancouver, and it is not clear whether the two men acquired US or Canadian citizenship. Grammarly has offices in San Francisco, Vancouver and Kiev, Ukraine.

Before the last round, Grammarly behaved $ 90 million from investors with a valuation of $ 1 billion in October 2019. This round was led by General Catalyst and included, among other things, IVP’s involvement. The new funding brought in new investors including Baillie Gifford and BlackRock, Grammarly’s CEO, announced in a blog post.

Additional coverage from Matt Durot.

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