How did editing software Grammarly become one of the world’s biggest unicorns?
Remember when everyone worked in offices and what often could have been an email was easier to flesh out in person? Fast forward three years into the pandemic, with millions working from home and Zooming in their PJs, those “could have been an email" conversations are now, in fact, emails, and it’s important they’re well written.
As such, it isn’t a huge surprise that a bunch of people hopped on the Grammarly bandwagon over the pandemic. If you haven’t heard of Grammarly, think of it as autocorrect on steroids. Not only does it catch misspellings, but it helps people write better by giving suggestions for improving their work and overall tone. Like, it’s just one of the things we use at our mini media factory daily to deliver this Dickens-like prose.
But just to be clear, we’re not hanging all of Grammarly’s success on the pandemic. It was valued at around US$2 billion in late 2019, about a decade after three Ukrainians launched the company in Canada. Now, Grammarly is one of the world’s biggest unicorns, having raised over US$200 million in November and being worth an estimated US$13 billion. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, two of the three founders are worth US$2.4 billion a piece, and the editing tool has attracted investors like BlackRock Inc.
All of that is really exciting, but there are cynics among us that we should probably lend an ear to. Critics of Grammarly aren’t so much critics of the company itself as they are the idea that computer-generated emails will start becoming the norm in an era where we’re spending a little less time with each other in person.
“Authentic communication is very important," said Andrea Lee, a professor at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee who’s looked at how apps like Grammarly affect people’s ability to learn English. “Students may not put in the necessary effort on assignments if they are reliant on Grammarly."