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The top pitches from Amazon’s Alexa Accelerator as startups push boundaries of voice tech – GeekWire

The top pitches from Amazon’s Alexa Accelerator as startups push boundaries of voice tech – GeekWire

The second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator at Demo Night time in Seattle on Tuesday. (GeekWire Pictures / Taylor Soper)

“Alexa, please ask the audience to take their seats.”

Between dangerous Alexa jokes and revolutionary concepts pitched on stage, the speedy progress of voice-enabled applied sciences and corporations was on full show Tuesday night on the Alexa Accelerator Demo Night time.

9 startups from the world over spent the previous three months as half of the second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator, a Seattle-based program co-led by Techstars and Amazon. Entrepreneurs constructed out B2C and B2B applied sciences that incorporate Alexa, Amazon’s synthetic intelligence and machine learning-powered voice platform.

On Tuesday this system culminated with a Demo Night time on the Museum of Historical past and Business in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, with buyers, entrepreneurs, and different group members within the viewers.

The pitches provided a glimpse into the longer term of a fast-growing voice recognition business, with concepts ranging from a digital assistant inside science laboratories to know-how that helps individuals with speech disabilities.

“What’s been different this time is seeing how much more mature the Alexa service is, and how much more mature the companies are around this,” Aviel Ginzburg, managing director of the Alexa Accelerator, advised GeekWire. “All of these companies are building meaningful businesses.”

Tom Taylor, senior vice chairman for Amazon Alexa, speaks on the Alexa Accelerator Demo Day.

Amazon companions with Techstars to run the Three-month program, which supplies an preliminary $20,000 in every firm for six % widespread inventory, with potential for a further $100,000 convertible notice. The accelerator is a component of Amazon’s $200 million Alexa Fund, which launched in 2015 and is utilized by Amazon to spend money on corporations that may push the boundaries of voice-based interplay.

“The startup community is very important,” Tom Taylor, senior vice chairman of Amazon Alexa, stated on stage earlier than the pitches started. “For us at Amazon, as much as we can do, we only have so many people, so much time, and so many ideas. It’s so exciting to see the ideas coming out of the startup community in this city and around the world.”

Pulse Labs CEO Abhishek Suthan; Jargon co-founders Jonathan Burstein and Milkana Brace; and Sunil Nagaraj, managing companion of Bay Space-based Ubiquity Ventures.

All 9 pitches have been robust, however one stood out from the remaining. GeekWire teamed up with Silicon Valley enterprise capital agency Ubiquity Ventures for the first-ever Ubiquity-GeekWire Award, a $2,500 money prize to acknowledge and reward our profitable startup — no strings hooked up and no fairness in return.

After the shows, I huddled with Sunil Nagaraj, managing companion of Bay Space-based Ubiquity Ventures, and Pulse Labs CEO Abhishek Suthan, who participated within the first Alexa Accelerator cohort, to select our favourite concept. We judged the businesses based mostly on the standard of the pitch, enterprise mannequin, and demonstration of deep voice know-how integration.

Alexa, are you able to perceive me now? Seattle startup Jargon helps translate voice apps into different languages

After a radical debate and dialogue, Jargon was our decide for the Ubiquity-GeekWire Award. The Seattle-based startup helps engineers localize voice apps or “skills” which were inbuilt English in order that they’ll work for customers in different nations. Jargon additionally helps non-English-native builders translate their apps for the U.S. market.

“If you find product market fit in one geography, you want roll it out as quickly as possible to other geographies,” Nagaraj stated. “With mobile and PC, you could take your time. But with this rapid voice technology adoption curve, you want a turnkey tool to flip on ten geographies tomorrow. Jargon makes that happen.”

Suthan, whose startup raised follow-on funding from Amazon and Google, stated he thinks Jargon could be a huge enterprise, notably if it will get into content material administration.

“The promise of voice is that it can be leveraged to create a truly personal experience globally,” he added. “It drops barriers from the devices, machines, computers. To be able to do that at scale is the problem that Jargon is solving.”

Jargon CEO and co-founder Milkana Brace.

Jargon CEO and co-founder Milkana Brace gave a cultured pitch on Tuesday. She defined how anytime Alexa expands into a brand new nation, its market expands. Corporations are already spending upwards of $40 billion on localization providers for cellular and net merchandise, she added.

“Our strategy is to capitalize on the burning need for voice localization in order to accomplish two goals: to drive wide adoption of the Jargon SDK, and to build a subscription-based customer base,” Brace stated throughout her pitch.

Jargon truly pivoted its enterprise after becoming a member of the Alexa Accelerator. The unique concept was to create an on-demand interpretation service, however suggestions from Amazon mentors who lamented about taking Alexa to worldwide markets helped Jargon change gears.

“We were really intrigued by their sense of urgency,” Brace advised GeekWire after her pitch. “We rebuilt our product from the ground up and our whole story has changed.”

Brace co-founded the corporate with Jonathan Burstein, Jargon’s chief know-how officer. Brace’s background consists of jobs at Groupon and Expedia. Burstein has labored at Amazon, Zillow and Microsoft.

Right here’s a rundown of the eight different corporations that pitched on Tuesday, together with my different favourite pitch from the night time: Voiceitt.


Voiceitt (Tel Aviv, Israel)

Voiceitt co-founder and vice chairman of technique Sara Smolley.

The pitch: “Our mission with Voiceitt is to give people with speech disabilities their voice back by making speech recognition truly accessible to everyone.” — Sara Smolley, Voiceitt co-founder and vice chairman of technique.

Know-how: Voice recognition cellular app that may perceive non-standard and dysarthric speech.

Goal market: Tens of millions of individuals all over the world with speech disabilities, together with youngsters with cerebral palsy or autism, and adults with ALS, or Parkinson’s illness.

Traction: Examined know-how with 200 customers in six nations. Raised $10 million in funding from grants, company prizes, and conventional funding. Gained a $1 million prize from Microsoft, by way of its AI for Good program.

Group: Machine studying specialists and medical specialists with experiences at startups and large corporations. Based mostly in Tel Aviv, Israel.


Helix (Atlanta)

James Rhodes, Helix co-founder and CEO.

The pitch: “Helix turns scientists into the best version of themselves.” — James Rhodes, Helix co-founder and CEO.

Know-how: Voice-powered assistants for scientific laboratories that permit customers to entry info hands-free and create digital data of lab actions.

Goal market: Biopharmaceutical business.

Traction: Engaged in 5 pilot packages and generated $140,000 in income this yr. Early clients embrace Johnson & Johnson.

Staff: Husband-wife founding staff with software program and microbiology expertise. Based mostly in Atlanta, Georgia.


Unruly (Boston)

Unruly CEO and founder Bryanne Leeming.

The pitch: “These are kids who are voluntarily choosing Splats over Fortnite.” — Unruly CEO and founder Bryanne Leeming.

Know-how: Digital programmable flooring buttons referred to as Splats that mild up, make sounds, and might be stepped on, all half of lively video games that train youngsters the way to code.

Goal market: Youngsters ages 6-to-12.

Traction: Examined product with Three,000 youngsters and raised $600,000 in funding.

Staff: Expertise at Hasbro, Mattel, iRobot, Nickelodeon. Based mostly in Atlanta, Georgia.


Presence AI (San Francisco)

Presence AI CEO and founder Michel Meyer.

The pitch: “Presence AI enables appointment-making business to offer an ideal customer experience through AI-powered conversations on messaging, Alexa, or Google Assistant.” — Presence AI CEO Michel Meyer.

Know-how: Provides companies such as salons, gyms, and others to routinely talk with shoppers.

Goal market: 1.5 million U.S. companies.

Traction: Final month, 40,000 finish customers interacted with the service. Paying clients in 21 states.

Staff: Meyer beforehand began and bought two corporations. Based mostly in San Francisco, Calif.

Roby (San Jose/Seattle)

The pitch: “In a future smart office, employee requests can be resolved immediately, 24/7, without a human involved.” — Roby co-founder and CEO Jay Hsueh.

Know-how: AI-powered software program that routinely acts on worker requests associated to workplace provides, temperature, IT points, and extra.

Goal market: 500,000 U.S. companies with 50 staff or extra.

Traction: Working with corporations together with Amazon, Dropbox, and Honeywell.

Group: Hsueh beforehand constructed and bought his first startup. Different execs have expertise at Coursera, IBM, HP Cloud, and Maxim Built-in. Based mostly in San Jose, Calif., and Seattle.


Novalia (Cambridge, UK)

Novalia CEO Dr. Kate Stone.

The pitch: “We want to make the world more magical than technical.” — Novalia CEO and founder Dr. Kate Stone.

Know-how: Constructed a tactile printed contact sensor referred to as PrintedTouch that permits contact activation on printed surfaces, with wi-fi connectivity and knowledge seize.

Goal market: Giant manufacturers. Its latest product is focused to musicians.

Traction: Shoppers embrace Disney, Audi, Chrysler, Pizza Hut, Bud Mild, IKEA, and extra.

Workforce: Stone beforehand earned a level in electronics and Ph.D in physics from Cambridge College. Based mostly in Cambridge, U.Okay.


Conservation Labs (Pittsburgh)

Conservation Labs CEO and co-founder Mark Kovscek.

The pitch: “Whether it is a home, a mid-rise apartment, or a restaurant, people are concerned about these leaks, the increasing cost of water, and the impact on the environment.” — Conservation Labs CEO and co-founder Mark Kovscek.

Know-how: Straightforward-to-install sensor that makes use of machine studying to handle water move, detect leaks, and shield a property.

Goal market: Business sector.

Traction: Carried out pilots with mid-rise flats.

Group: Expertise working at Google and for the U.S. authorities. Knowledge science specialists. Based mostly in Pittsburgh, Pa.


Blutag (New York)

Blutag CEO Shilp Agarwal.

The pitch: “Blutag doing for voice what shopify did for web” —Blutag CEO Shilp Agarwal.

Know-how: Provides retailers a method to offer voice-enabled buying experiences with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Goal market: Retailers.

Traction: 50 voice apps and generated greater than $100,000 in ARR. New partnership with Amazon Pay.

Workforce: Agarwal is a serial entrepreneur with e-commerce and retail tech experience. His co-founders have many years of expertise in style merchandising and software program engineering.

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