This weekend we interviewed Benoit Curdy, a former Google employee and founder of Vocalytics (Update – January 2023: The website seems to be out of use, and we therefore deactivated the original link).
The Dublin-based startup Vocalytics aims to change the way we think about learning oral communication through data and visualization. In this context, we also like to announce proudly that Benoit Curdy will be doing a monthly contribution on EU-Startups. Check out this introductory interview to find out more about him and his startup.
When did you get the idea for Vocalytics and what made you sure it was the right one?
Linguists and psychologists have been interested in measuring the impact of voice on communication for at least 30 years. So the concept behind Vocalytics is not new, but it’s typically one of those ideas that never quite made it out of universities. I guess there would be a lot to say about how European universities fail to bring their innovation to market but this is another topic.
To make a long story short, after years of thinking that voice analysis was one of the best solutions for helping people to communicate, I decided that I had to do something about it. My experience at Google helped a lot. Not only did I learn a lot from a technical perspective but I also started seeing the world differently. Confidence, or what they call a “healthy disregard for impossible” is in the company’s DNA and it’s contagious.
Did you ever think about building Vocalytics inside of Google in any way and why did you decide to not do so?
Vocalytics aims to change the way we think about learning oral communication through data and visualization. This data-driven approach might look like something Google would do, but people there rather look for projects that can scale incredibly fast and that help them fulfill Google’s mission of organizing the world information. Also it is an engineering company. We all know how they struggle with social, so imagine psycho-linguistics! In addition, I simply wanted to be in charge. Launching a startup is an incredible life experience.
The idea of online voice analysis tools for professionals seems pretty unique and new to me. Is there already a market for online voice analysis and data-driven coaching, and if so what is Vocalytics going to do better than other services out there?
At the moment, you won’t see many online services offering products like the ones we develop. This is going to change over the next few years. Voice technologies are mature, cloud infrastructure are cheap and powerful, and mobiles are offering incredible opportunities as recording devices. Many people believe that voice recognition is the end of history for voice processing. I think it’s just the beginning.
What are the next steps for your startup and do you already have an official launch date in mind?
I just closed a small ‘friends and family’ round of funding and my current focus is on hiring and going from prototype to product launch. Nowadays, everything comes down to product design. I’m exploring different options, which is a fascinating but surprisingly difficult process. As many backend guys, I used to be very focused on technologies. These days I’m obsessed by user experience. I think we’re getting there and you will start seeing more of Vocalytics very soon.
What was your experience of Dublin as a location to start up a company?
Dublin is definitely a good place to start up a company. Among the good aspects of Dublin you can cite how easy and cheap setting up a company is and the fact that there are talents from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and many other companies in the city. The startup community is not very big, but it is growing and it’s really easy to get support from many organizations (private or not). Another advantage is that Irish people are naturally inclined to think globally (for historical reasons and because the local market is so small), which you don’t find in some European countries. Also Irish people are incredibly nice and friendly. The downside of it being that they would sometimes rather go to the pub than work extra hours to deliver great products.
More seriously, though, there are negative sides of being located in Ireland. The country has significant infrastructure challenges. The banking system is notoriously appalling and internet service providers are as bad as they are expansive. Altogether, the lack of internal competition for services is bad for the country. I know many people think weather should be added to the list but I find it to be actually OK.
Like I mentioned in the introduction, you’ll be contributing articles on a monthly basis on EU-Startups.com. What can our readers expect here?
I’d like to talk about some of the ways we can get European startups to succeed globally. The kind of topics I enjoy debating for instance is why I believe State money is toxic for startups or why looking for an European Silicon Valley is not only a waste of time but a wrong concept. I think Europe is a great place for innovation but that we need take a hard look at some of our practices.
Interested in Irish startups? Check out our articles on Ireland-based startups and scaleups here.
Vocalytics sounds like a interesting concept. I just played around with the audio examples on the site and can’t wait to the check out a first real version of your product.
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