March 5, 2021

Ex-Amazon engineer raises $ 500K to grow voice tech platform used by Whirlpool, LG, others

Picovoice CEO Alireza Kenarsari. (Picovoice Photo)

Vancouver, BC startup Picovoice raised a $ 500,000 investment from Seattle-based Founders’ Co-op for its platform that lets companies build their own voice-enabled experiences.

Developers at Whirlpool, LG, Telenav, and other companies use Picovoice to create voice assistants with custom wake words that run on-device without internet connectivity. It’s similar to saying “Alexa,” or “Hey Google,” to activate Amazon and Google devices, but custom-designed for a specific use case. Developers can still add a voice option such as Alexa alongside their Picovoice assistant.

“The domains range from appliances, consumer electronics, smart home, industrial, workflow automation, space tech, and government,” said CEO Alireza Kenarsari. “The Picovoice platform then performs both wake word detection (think Alexa but branded) and follow-on command intent inference.”

Kenarsasri spent three years as a software engineer at Amazon and also previously worked at a speech tech startup.

“During my time at Amazon, I followed the evolution of Alexa and realized that the whole model of sending all voice data to the cloud to perform speech recognition had fundamental limitations but there were no competitive offline alternatives,” he said.

The 3-year-old company bootstrapped and became profitable this year. It plans to raise a full investment round next year. Picovoice employees just under 10 people.

Competitors include Mycroft, Sensory, and others.

Picovoice also today opened up their developer platform to the public under the permissive Apache 2.0 license.