September is back to school, or rather back to business with plenty of announcements in the exciting Voice industry. Here is your monthly digest.

People use Alexa Skills as much as they use smartphone apps

NPR (US public radio network) released its Spring Smart Audio Report and while some numbers are definitely worth noticing, what stroke me what the part related to Skill Discovery and Usage.

The average smart speaker owner uses about 10 skills per week, with the recent owner using 11.7 and the older owner (>2 years) 7.0. Those numbers are in line with what is seen on mobile (9 apps used daily, 30 monthly), especially if you consider that Social Media and Communication Skills (Facebook, Whatsapp…etc.) are not available on Alexa, neither are Photography Skills (Instagram…etc.).

This means then, that mastering Acquisition in the Skill Store (my favorite topic) is absolutely key. According to NPR, the key drivers to skill discovery are 1.Recommendations from friends or family, 2. Emails from the smart speaker brand (Alexa, Google) and 3. Searching the smart speaker app. As the Skill Store keeps developing, I believe that the ability for brands and developers to acquire users at a reasonable cost will be a challenge as well as a massive opportunity.

Voice Assistants everywhere…

At the beginning of the month, the IFA took place in Berlin. For those not familiar with the trade show. IFA is a sort of European CES and another must-attend for those in the consumer electronics business.

At the show, Voice Assistants were everywhere. Here I mean the assistants themselves, not the smart speakers as was the case last year. So, it looks like voice assistants are becoming a “simple” feature, and in no way a differentiation factor for the manufacturers anymore. And the announcements continued after the show, a sign that Voice is clearly becoming a User Interface.

Among the many examples, I would mention chip manufacturers like NXP or Qualcomm to washing machines, wifi-routerswatches, and even shoes. Some undoubtfully useful, some less…

…but not on Apple devices 

You haven’t heard about anything about Apple upgrading Siri, introducing a smarter assistant to its new iPhone, iPad, and other devices? You haven’t heard anything about the new Homepod? That’s normal and you didn’t miss anything as Apple did not have any announcements to make when it comes to voice. That leaves plenty of analysts perplex…

Fundraising for Voice Startups is picking up, and the first acquisitions are taking place

Quite a few announcements when it comes to fundraising this month :

  1. Drivetime (USA): the company which produces voice-based car entertainment has raised $11 million with noticeable investors such as the Amazon Alexa Fund and Google via its Assistant investment program. During this summers’ Voice Summit, the company shared some metrics which were very impressive, be it for the game, entertainment or voice industry at large.
  2. Vivoka (France): after launching its Voice-Market in July, the French startup behind Zac (an assistant for hotels) raised 2m€ mostly from Angels or corporates from the construction/real-estate sector.
  3. Snackable (Estonia / USA): the AI-powered audio content search engine has announced a $1.4 million seed funding. Among the investors are one of the Skype founders

Looks like this is only the beginning and that there will be much more to come (I personally know of at least 4 more in the making). Investors may be realizing the massive potential of voice and start betting on it. They are not the only one as some corporations also went shopping for voice solutions recently. The most visible was clearly the acquisition of Apprente by McDonalds. The startup building conversational agents that help voice-based ordering in several languages is definitely a good fit for the fast-food giant and its drive-throughs. The acquisition follows a pilot in which the technology was tested.

Also interesting were the announcements from Descript, the latest startup of Groupon founder Andrew Mason: $15 million in fresh funding from high profile funds Andreesen Horowitz and Redpoint as well as the acquisition of Montreal based Lyrebird. By combining the two, the users will have the possibility to edit audio (think podcast recording) by simplex editing text.

Alexis Hue

Alexis Hue

Alexis is the founder of Voice & You, a boutique consulting agency where he advises brands on how to utilize Voice to increase their competitive advantage. Part-time venture capitalist, part-time entrepreneur, and originally from France, Alexis now lives in Berlin.