Investing trends in voice tech

Voice Summit 2 weeks ago featured a panel of investors, from the panel I gather that the investors present, mostly from the east coast, weren’t getting the leads they were expecting. There was a lot around on what they wouldn’t invest at the moment as part of the panel. One of the things that have caught my attention in the recent investments in voice technology and applications is that Silicon Valley is not all in on it. I don’t have inside data on the investment firms, but I do know that when Silicon Valley investors get into it full weight it gonna get billions crazy.
Benedict Evans, a partner at Andreesen Horowitz investment firm tweeted this week:

Amazon can push it, and make it cheap enough (thanks to the smartphone supply chain) that people think ‘why not’. So volumes look great. But it doesn’t follow that it actually has product-market fit.

So maybe that explains why Silicon Valley is not jumping full weight into this investments.
Some of the replies included purchasing is horrible and we use it mostly for smart home automation, weather and listening to music.

The other thing to pay attention to, is that most of the investments are about the tools to build the apps, not a lot about direct to consumer applications. Which actually makes sense if you think that the attention is just not there yet for direct to consumer voice apps.
Let’s look at the list of the most recent investments:

  • Voice app development platform Storyline announced a $770,00 funding round last week.
  • Novel Effect which enhances stories with sound effects raised $3 million in June.
  • Independent voice assistant developer raised a $13 million funding round in June.
  • Independent voice assistant developer SoundHound closed $100 million in financing in May.
  • Healthcare voice assistant startup Suki raised $20 million in May.
  • Voice interactive meeting assistant maker Voicera closed $20 million in funding in April.
  • Sayspring was acquired by Adobe in April.
  • Bespoken, automation testing for Alexa raised 2.4 million seed round.
  • Voice game developer Sensible Object closed $3.2 million round in June.

From this list, probably Sensible Object is the only direct to consumer company. The focus is on the shovels, not the gold mines.
Newark Venture Partners, have said recently that they are looking at a number of horizontal voice application that can validate accros their corporate investor network. For them, targeting cross-industry integrations capture a significantly larger market opportunity. The most relevant part from Newark Venture Partners for me is that they are paying attention to what market leaders like Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are doing that might helo to support or undermine ecosystems in voice space. Basically, everyone is watching because no one wants to be crushed by one of the big 5. That has been a concern for 3P developers with Amazon for example, where your skill can become internal to Alexa and your whole business model just disappear. They control the network and the distribution. Newark partners also said they are particularly interested in B2B applications, as their recent investment in Veritonic, an audio testing platform, proves.
Thank you for listening, we’ll talk tomorrow!

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