Discover how developers are growing and finding success for their small and medium-sized businesses by developing for Alexa
This year’s 2020 Small and Medium Business (SMB) Impact Report highlights the incredible opportunity Alexa offers software builders, developers, and entrepreneurs to build voice-first businesses. Our mission has always been to empower our developers. We do this by building powerful technology, making it accessible, and then stepping back to let them innovate.
Today, there are hundreds of millions of Alexa devices, over 100,000 Alexa skills, and over 700,000 developers creating solutions and new experiences for customers. Alexa is helping to generate billions of dollars for the developer and device maker community. Alexa gives SMBs and entrepreneurs the opportunity to reach millions of engaged customers, and the ability to invest in and build a voice-first business.
We chatted with four Alexa Champions who are innovating with voice and building thriving voice businesses. Nick Schwab, Sarah Andrew Wilson, Dr. Teri Fisher, and Ilarna Nche are all helping to define a new voice economy with their voice-powered SMBs. Discover their inspiring stories, as well as tips for other developers starting a business with Alexa.
Sarah first became involved with voice technology as a side project in mid-2017. Today, as Chief Content Officer at Matchbox.io, she has helped build a business that develops some of the most highly ranked Alexa skills. Her background in education and passion for kid-friendly content inspired the creation of Kids Quiz, and Matchbox.io’s roster features 16 popular games, education, wellness, and utility skills.
While the ability to monetize has been key to Matchbox.io’s success and continued growth, Sarah remains laser-focused on building skills that solve a need or want. She constantly asks herself, “What can we create to make someone’s life easier or more enjoyable?” To other developers starting a voice-first career, she offers, “As with any endeavor worth exploring, there is a lot of trial and error involved, so embrace that idea upfront. If your initial idea doesn’t seem to work, how can you tweak it to find success?”
Teri became passionate about the power and potential of voice technology in late 2017 before Alexa became available in his home country of Canada. Since then he has written a book, given a TEDx Talk, produced multiple Alexa in Canada podcasts and built an entire business to educate the industry about the benefits of Alexa and voice technology. His daily Voice in Canada flash briefing to help listeners discover Alexa tips, tricks, commands, and skills became so popular he created Flash Briefing Formula, one of the most comprehensive courses available to develop flash briefing skills.
For Teri, voice technology is the next big service, one that allows us to interact with technology in our most natural and instinctual form of communication. With that in mind, Teri suggests developers should “keep ears open for the way people speak. Listen for ways to incorporate voice skills into daily activities based on the interactions people have when speaking with each other.”
Ilarna, also part of the Matchbox.io team, is a UK-based software engineer who has been working with Alexa skills since they were first introduced in the UK in 2016 . Given Ilarna is not a traditional graphic or visual designer, she was intrigued by the concept of developing voice technology easily with Alexa. Ilarna’s first skill was Odds On, a truth-or-dare type game where users dare their friends to complete tasks against each other through voice. Since building her first skill, Ilarna has further honed her skills in voice by launching the Music Bop Adventures skill, as well as working on other popular skills such as Question of the Day, Kids Quiz, and Find My Phone.
As part of her role as an Alexa Champion, Ilarna enjoys going to meet ups and chatting with other voice developers on Twitter. Ilarna’s advice to developers? “Examine the marketplace - see what is doing well and what is not. What skills are missing from the market that you can bring to the table?”
After losing his job at a struggling startup in early 2016, Nick began to research Alexa skill development to see how he could build new capabilities for Alexa to integrate into his daily life, given his long-time advocacy for hands-free technology. Nick’s first skill was Bargain Buddy, which reported the daily deal from online merchants woot.com and meh.com - a simplification of hearing deals that Nick was looking up on a daily basis. Since developing his first skill, Nick has published a variety of popular skills, helps other skill builders in the Alexa Slack Group, and speaks about Alexa skills development at conferences across the world.
What started as a passion project for Nick, building Alexa skills has turned into a thriving career thanks to Alexa in-skill purchasing (ISP) and the hundreds of thousands of customers who use Invoked Apps’ skills every day. Earlier this year Nick was able to resign from his comfortable corporate job and turn his focus toward his voice-first business. Today, he’s living his dream as the CEO of a profitable voice-first company, has a growing team, and reaches millions of Alexa customers every month.
Nick’s advice to novice developers is to make sure their skills are designed to reflect the simplicity of voice. Keep skill responses short, anticipate a variety of ways consumers might respond to a prompt, and use sound effects and voice-overs for a more engaging experience.
Join Amazon leaders and Alexa product experts tomorrow, July 22, for a half-day virtual event on building delightful customer experiences with voice. Alexa Live is a free educational event for skill builders, device makers, and business leaders. You’ll hear about the latest product advances in a keynote by VP Alexa Devices & Developers, Nedim Fresko, and see how to build new voice experiences with these offerings. You’ll dive deep on technologies through expert-led breakout sessions featuring device makers, brands, and independent developers. And you’ll learn how to build with voice yourself, or explore strategy, development, and integration options with Alexa solution providers. Don’t miss out - register now!