We’re excited to announce Sierra Ventures’ investment in Modulate’s $4M Series Seed.
Modulate is using deep convolutional neural networks to build real-time (less than 10ms latency), speech-to-speech, voice-changing software. The software creates digital signatures of a target person’s voice and replicates their vocal chords enabling any speaker to sound identical to the target voice. The algorithm is trained via a novel (patent-pending) adversarial method, in which the adversary tries to distinguish between real speech from a target speaker and speech using the target voice skin. Modulate is initially deploying the technology with game developers and exploring B2B applications in sales, customer support, media, and film.
We were impressed by founders Mike Pappas and Carter Huffman who met at MIT in 2010 during their freshman year, where they both studied Physics. The two worked together on a number of projects and after full-time engineering positions at venture-backed Lola and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, left to create the technology powering Modulate. Mike and Carter not only have the unwavering drive to create the world’s first speech synthesis technology that is indistinguishable from a human voice, but also the technical ability to pull it off.
Game developers are hungry for voice skin solutions that enable gamers to obfuscate their voice to sound as if they’re older, the opposite gender, an animated character or a celebrity. Usage of these skins reduces toxicity in the games and allows gamers to express their creativity while also broadening monetization opportunities for developers.
Outside of the gaming market, voice synthesis technologies will be crucial in enabling businesses to have high-quality and personalized interactions with customers. With Modulate’s technology, customer support reps in offshore call centers could speak to customers with accents as if they’re based state-side. In media and film, Modulate can be used in post-production to dub an actor’s voice in a new language, and through Modulate’s library of licensed voices, enable anyone to create an ad or podcast with the voice of a professional voice actor.
We are looking forward to working with 2Enable Partners, who led the round, and other participating investors including Hyperplane Venture Capital, Third Kind Venture Capital, Everblue Management, and Angels including Mike Dornbrook, former COO of Harmonix, developer of Guitar Hero and Rockband.
The applications for Modulate’s voice synthesis technology stretch across a variety of industries and we are excited to be partnering with Mike and Carter on their journey to build a category-defining business!
Ben started his career as a System Architect working on advanced networking and wireless technologies at 3Com. Ben joined Sierra Ventures in 2000 and focuses on Emerging Technologies. Some of Ben’s prior investments include AutheTec (IPO; M&A – Apple $365M) and Invensense (IPO; M&A – TDK $1.3B). Ben holds a BE from University of Western Australia and MA and PhD degrees from Princeton University in Electrical Engineering. When he’s not working you can usually find him on the golf course.