What happened in Voice in July? As usual with Voice, plenty of new development, from new funding rounds to Alexa pushing the envelope – but killing one of our product lines 😒. It wasn’t a lazy summer month for Voice.
Fundraising marches ahead
Voicemod, a Valencia (Spain)-based audio avatar startup for gamers closed an $8 million Series A financing round led by BitKraft Ventures – an early-stage Venture Capital fund specialized in gaming from Germany. The company allows a gamer to change her own voice in real-time while playing via some filters. The company, founded in 2014, passed the 10 million downloads on PC mark, has more than 50 employees, and claims to be profitable. Impressive.
Chatterize, a Wellington (New-Zealand) based company providing chatbots designed to help Chinese students learn English through conversation raised NZ$1m (about US$950,000) to accelerate its growth and monetization. NZ-based Icehouse Ventures led the round. Interesting to note is that the service works on top of the WeChat ecosystem.
- Simply Speak
What could stop Alexa?
During the Alexa Live event – the Alexa equivalent to Apple WWDC – Amazon unveiled 31 new features for its voice assistant aiming to become the leading assistant not only inside the house (it already is) but also outside of the home.
I will get to the developer/marketer oriented news later, but let’s step back for a minute first. Users do interact with voice Assistants that could be available on three main types of devices: smart speakers, cars, mobile phones. Alexa has a clear lead on smart speakers, significant agreements and traction on cars but was – until now – lagging behind Google Assistant and Siri when it comes to mobile.
With the new Alexa app as well as the Alexa for Apps, now Android and iOS users can use Voice (and Alexa) to open apps and complete tasks. That’s a significant step forward when it comes to the “Alexa everywhere” strategy. There is some friction when switching between assistants, and a scenario where one dominates the market and becomes the gateway to other ecosystems is possible. I would be behind Siri I would be afraid.
For developers and marketers, I’m taking away three main features:
- Alexa conversations: this massively increases context within skills and gives users the freedom to speak naturally with Alexa, opening the door to enhanced experiences.
- Quick Links is the Voxalyze Attribution Analytics killer. With it, marketers can create and track links that will launch a skill or a specific section of a skill. IT’s opening the door to online advertising. As for the impact on Voxalyze, see below.
- Name Free Invocation. Often users don’t remember the name of a skill if the developer behind it doesn’t enjoy strong brand recognition. With name free invocation, developers could fill the Alexa algorithm with what the skill does, and Alexa will pick the right skills to answer users’ requests.
So, we have here Alexa that is going after the mobile phone as voice assistant surface, making it easier for developers to create great experiences and marketers to acquire users. Those are great news, and it shows Amazon’s commitment to building a real ecosystem (and economy) around Alexa.
Those of you reading those monthly ramblings, this blog regularly know that we started Voxalyze with the mission to help Alexa developers grow the audience of their voice apps. The first product we realized was missing to achieve this was an attribution solution (i.e., where do users come from). With the release of Amazon Quick Links, we had a new competitor, a big one, with plenty of resources, privileged access to data and distribution. Fighting was pointless. We therefore very quickly decided to stop that service and communicated less than 24h after the announcement to our users.
So, what will Voxalyze become? Same same but different as it often said in Thailand. We still have the same mission – helping developers grow the audience of their voice apps – and luckily, we have been working on a Skill Store Optimization solution for quite some time. The prototype is working, and we should be releasing it in private beta very soon. We also have clients who require our expertise when it comes to running acquisition campaigns for their Alexa skills – the only difference being then that the Quick Links attribution replaces the Voxalyze attribution.
As someone at Amazon would say: “it’s day one” 😉 !