Another month in lockdown, but this doesn’t mean that the voice industry went to a halt, nor did we at Voice & You. Here is what to remember from this month:

Fundraising and Acquisition News

  • Apple acquires Voysis
Apple has acquired Voysis, a Dublin based startup that offers a solution for digital voice assistants to better understand people’s natural language. Like always with Apple, price, purpose, and plans were not discussed. Voysis NLU solution differs from Alexa or Google Assistant. The general-purpose have to cater to a board range of requests for the likes of games, smart-home, productivity skills…etc. The models are therefore complicated to train as they need to adapt to a very large set of terminologies. Voysis solution has always been focusing on retail and allows therefore to better index the catalogs to ultimately present better search results to users.
Search is seen by many as the ultimate goal of voice assistants. Both Amazon and Google would love nothing more than to drive a user request to either the Amazon offerings or (paid) search results. Apple may have a solution to strike back. It is also interesting to note that the Voysis acquisition comes about a year after the acquisition of Pullstring, a company that helped developers publish voice apps for Alexa and Google Assistant.
Apple has now acquired two complementary voice technology companies. While Siri has been disappointing for long, with those two acquisitions, Apple maybe be able to finally open itself up to brand presence and the launch of a proper developer marketplace

  • Mybuddy.ai

MyBuddy.ai, the San Francisco based startup behind the virtual English tutor announced having closed a $1m seed funding. The round was led by LETA Capital. With MyBuddy.ai, children learn English by interacting with a cartoon robot and the service uses speech recognition to understand what the kids are saying and how to correct them so that they continually improve. The company claims 20’000 families as clients, from which we could estimate annual revenue (run rate) at around $5m which sounds high compared to the valuation implied by the financing round ($4m to $5m post-money). With such a revenue level, one would expect the valuation to be north of $20m.

  • More Acquisitions in the coming months? 

Due to my side activity as a venture capitalist, I’m often asked questions about how the market for funding rounds or acquisition will evolve. While I don’t have a crystal ball, here is what I usually answer:

  • Expect very few early-stage funding rounds. As mentioned last month, VCs are mostly focusing on their existing portfolio.
  • Expect increased activity in acquisitions. Due to the current crisis, companies become cheaper to buy for those who can afford it, and acquisition is also a viable alternative for companies not able to raise cash. The deals may not be fantastic, but better sell than close a company.
  • The challenge will come from the attitude of the buyers, mostly large corporate. While in the short term they are cutting their innovation budgets (where voice projects mostly lay today), they recognize the impact of voice as a touch-free solution in the long term.

Some Market Data

Voicebot released its Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report. As one would expect, the report provides plenty of data points and useful insights. Here is what we at Voice & You are taking away:

  • More Than a Third of U.S. Adults Have a Smart Speaker
  • Amazon is still the market leader in terms of sales. Its market share is being eaten by Google and Sonos, but when it comes to installed based, Alexa devices clearly dominate
  • Voice assistant usage on smartphones or in cars is higher than on smart speakers
  • The use cases are still very broad and – unfortunately – the usage of skills (voice apps) is still not very common. Two challenges here: discovery (both of the fact that skills exist and then of specific skills) and delivering value from skills.

Voice & You news

We have been running a few user acquisition campaigns for our clients’ Alexa skills this month and learned quite a bit. While this is something we know very well thanks to years of experience, we were again surprised by the effect that a single creative could have on campaign performance. We have also started exploring new user acquisition solutions that would – hopefully – very soon allow us to propose acquisition campaigns on a CPA (Cost per Activation) basis: a risk-free solution for skill publishers.

Alexis Hue

Alexis Hue

Alexis is the founder of Voice & You, a voice growth consultancy. With his strong background in marketing and user acquisition for digital services, he advises brands, publishers and developers on how to grow the audience of their voice apps.