Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars Welcomes a New Class of Startups Innovating with Voice
Rodrigo Prudencio Jun 17, 2020
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Companies from France, Estonia, Israel, Italy, and the US join a virtual program to scale their businesses and explore collaboration and integration opportunities with Alexa

 

The Alexa Fund, a $200MM venture investment fund from Amazon that provides venture capital to fuel voice technology innovation, along with Techstars, is pleased to welcome its newest cohort of companies participating in Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars. Teams from 7 companies, operating in 5 different countries, and across 9 time zones will begin an 8-week virtual program built to support startups as they integrate Alexa with their technology in order to create delightful new experiences for customers.

Evolving Our Startup Work to the Next Stage

Since launching the Alexa Fund nearly five years ago, we’ve looked for ways to keep innovating and inventing how the Alexa Fund and its programs support startups. Over the past three years, the Alexa Accelerator has supported 27 companies who have gone on to join the Alexa Fund’s portfolio of investments. Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars is an evolution of our Alexa Accelerator and is designed to engage a broader set of companies, both by stage and geography, and bring more Alexa experiences to life and to our customers. The evolution reflects how Alexa has expanded and that great startups can be found all over the world. 

Expanding Participation by Going Virtual

In 2020 we wanted to find new ways to engage startups that would expand participation in the program. We announced Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars in March 2020 and made the decision to go virtual. Hundreds of startups applied. We fired up our remote conferencing software and met companies from all over the world led by creative and brilliant founders. This all-virtual shift has enabled companies to participate in Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars when they may previously have been unable to participate in the accelerator due to travel and extended stay in Seattle. For the first time, the program welcomes more companies based outside the US than companies that are US-based. Additionally, for the first time, Amazon is excited to welcome Amazon employees from around the world who will serve as mentors to the 2020 class.

The Next 8 Weeks

Over the next eight weeks, these companies will follow a curriculum built by Techstars, and  influenced by Amazon culture and leadership principles. Participants will also partake in mentoring sessions relevant to growing great companies, workshops led by the Alexa team on best practices in voice design, and office-hours to check on and troubleshoot Alexa integrations. The program culminates on August 11, 2020 with a virtual Innovation Showcase where companies will present the progress they have made over the past eight weeks.

Presenting the 2020 Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars Class

The companies in this year’s class can both deepen the experiences that Alexa has become known for – engaging audio content and high quality audio processing and extend capabilities in new areas such as meeting productivity, social audio, language learning and emotional assistance. For the selection of this class, we paid close attention to how these kinds of experiences are helping customers thrive in new and emerging environments today, including ways that Alexa could be at the center of more touchless interactions. 

See what the founders and CEO’s of each company had to say about their participation in Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars and how voice has the potential to impact and help drive their businesses. 

Accessibility Aide

ALBA Robot

Located in Turin, Italy, ALBA Robot is building self-guiding wheelchairs with voice commands powered by on-board navigation systems for use in hospitals, airports, and shopping centers. 

“While some people are already thinking about going to Mars, we are laser-focused on making life easier for people with disabilities on Earth," shared Andrea Segato Bertaia, CEO at ALBA Robot. "Technology can help; while users typically use their hands to move their wheelchairs, voice can become one of the best interfaces to those technologies."

Better Team Work

Symbl

Located in Seattle, WA, Symbl integrates with popular collaboration tools and meeting software to enable users to capture meeting highlights and improve post-meeting productivity.

“We saw an opportunity to take the massive amounts of information humans exchange in any channel during a typical workday, mine for the key insights, and facilitate the exchange of these takeaways at scale,” says Surbhi Rathore, founder and CEO of Symbl.ai. “With a comprehensive suite of voice and text APIs that enable brands to build native experiences resulting in real-time actionable insights based on conversational meta-data. Symbl wants to be the de facto conversational intelligence tool for tech-savvy brands and we are thrilled by Amazon’s support and leadership in this space.”

Entertainment and Fun

Blerp

Located in Salt Lake City, UT, Blerp is the search engine for short audio soundbites that can be shared on streaming gaming platforms like Twitch.

“Audio expression enables us to add unique tones and rhythm to any moment giving us the ability to focus away from our screens and connect with the people around us,” said Aaron Kc Hsu, CEO and Co-founder at Blerp. “We couldn't have asked for a better collaborator than the Alexa Next Stage program as we explore ways to bring sound-sharing to more people.”

Sybel

Located in Paris, France, Sybel is a content studio that creates original premium audio content based on licensed characters and stories.

“Sybel is dedicated to creating stories that users can listen to anywhere,” said Virginie Maire, Co-founder and President at Sybel. “Alexa is pioneering the era of voice services, and we’re eager to explore possibilities to enable customers to experience entertainment whether they are at home or in their car through a simple voice command.”

Companionship

Blue Fever

Located in Los Angeles, CA, Blue Fever is a conversational app geared to provide young adults ages 13-20 a judgement-free digital best friend.

“For Blue Fever’s demographic of Gen Z users, self-expression is one of their greatest daily needs,” shared Greta McAnany, CEO and co-founder at Blue Fever. “Voice is a natural way to turn emotional self-expression into, arguably, the most relevant type of “search”- helping people find what they need based on how they feel. Through the Alexa Next Stage program, we aim to test and integrate our emotional data with voice to continue to support our users’ everyday lives.”

Learning on the Go

Lingvist

Located in Tallinn, Estonia, Lingvist is building a faster way to learn and retain foreign language vocabulary. 

“E-books and audiobooks are an incredible source of education,” shared Mait Müntel, CEO at Lingvist.  “Unfortunately, those resources are behind the language barrier for non-native English speakers. As people have developed to learn languages by using voice, we'd like to work with Alexa to build language learning technology that ultimately will help to make learning more efficient." 

Alexa in the Car and in Noisy Environments

Kardome

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kardome improves the performance of smart speakers in noisy environments.

“Kardome's technology gives the machine better ears through algorithms that manage to isolate the user's voice, even in a noisy environment,” said Dani Cherkassky, CEO and co-founder. "We are extremely excited and proud to join the Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars program. Our participation in the program indicates the interest in a zero touch interface that works reliably in a natural and noisy environment." 

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