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SoundHound is no Shazam

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 14th 2020

According to a Grand View Research report, the global voice and speech recognition market is estimated to grow at 17% CAGR to $31.82 billion by 2025. The growth in the industry is expected to be driven by the adoption and development of AI-based technologies that leverage voice and speech recognition capabilities.

SoundHound’s Offerings

Santa Clara-based SoundHound was set up in 2005 by James Hom, Keyvan Mohajer, and Majid Emami. In its early days, SoundHound was best known for its app SoundHound, which was a close rival to Shazam. The music recognition app helped listeners identify the music and songs that they were listening to. But unlike Shazam, SoundHound did not stop at music. It also developed another technology in parallel. It launched its voice-AI developer platform called Houndify in March 2016.

Houndify was a natural language virtual assistant built off of its proprietary platform. Even in its early days, Houndify was known to be a faster and more accurate speech recognition tool than the likes of Siri, Google, and Cortana. Additionally, SoundHound also offers Hound, a voice-enabled digital assistant that leverages its Speech-to-Meaning technology to deliver a more natural smartphone experience.

Today SoundHound operates on a mission to want to “Houndify everything”. It wants to allow humans to interact with their devices such as mobile phones, TVs, music speakers, coffee machines, and other IoTs in the same way that they interact with other humans. It has been continuously improving its technology offerings. For instance, SoundHound now allows users to discover, explore, and share the music around them, and find songs that they are humming or singing but unable to name. Similarly, it is helping developers leverage voice recognition tools through the Houndify platform to build tools that use the speech-to-meaning revolution.

SoundHound’s Financials

SoundHound is privately held so far and has raised $215 million from investors including France Telecom, Daimler, Tencent Holdings, Midea Group, Hyundai Motor Company, RSI Fund, Nvidia GPU Ventures, MKaNN, Global Catalyst Partners, and Kleiner Perkins. Its last round of funding was held in May 2018 when it raised $100 million at a valuation of $1 billion. The round was of great importance as it allowed several tech players such as Midea, Tencent, Daimler, and Hyundai to invest in the company. These tech companies have since been able to leverage SoundHound’s capabilities in their own products. SoundHound has been using the funds for market expansion.

SoundHound may not be able to take on the likes of Alexa and Google, but by allowing technology companies to invest in its service, it is letting them use its product and is thus expanding its market reach. The company has shown great market resilience so far. Rival Shazam was sold off to Apple for a comparatively modest $400 million, and many suspected that SoundHound may also end a similar way. Instead, the company pivoted to becoming a successful Unicorn player in the voice recognition market.

Photo: JD Lasica /Flickr

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