Soundcheck is on a mission to make the web voice-first
Today we launch with $1.5m funding from True Ventures, Resolute Ventures, and Automattic, along with angels Biz Stone and Caterina Fake.
If you haven’t noticed, the web is undergoing another major transformation. The first Amazon Alexa smart speaker was released in 2014, and we are already on pace to reach 200 million smart speakers worldwide by the end of 2019. Industry researchers estimate there will be 8 billion voice assistants in use globally by 2023.
The voice assistants are coming; content on the web is now in a race to catch up. We recently conducted an analysis to determine how many news organizations are optimizing their web content for voice. We examined 13,000 Google News articles from 1,300 different news domains in August, checking each for valid speakable structured data. Only about 11% of the domains we checked had at least one article with speakable content, and this was highly concentrated among major national outlets. The online publications of CBS News, CNBC, CNN, and Fox News accounted for over 63% of the articles with speakable content.
Our findings in the news sector is representative of the web at large, where the vast majority of information is still not available natively through voice. The internet is home to more than 1.7 billion websites, yet less than 100,000 Alexa skills exist. One of my favorite real world examples: I should be able to ask Alexa the time of the next class at my local gym. This information is readily available online. Yet anyone who has tried getting basic information like this from their voice assistant knows they will, at best, get a link to a website, and often nothing at all.
The reality is, optimizing web content for voice is still beyond the means of anyone lacking serious technical expertise and resources.
This is where Soundcheck comes in. Soundcheck is a web-based platform that enables anyone to easily build a basic voice presence. The same way WordPress made it easy for anyone to make their own website, Soundcheck will make it simple for anyone to optimize their content for voice.
With Soundcheck, users can preview voice-optimized content, create voice-specific content blocks, and validate speakable markups on web pages. Businesses can use our platform to create native voice assistant interactions, known as a skill on Amazon Alexa or an Action on Google Assistant, making important information available via voice-initiated questions.
For WordPress users, all of this can be done within your existing CMS utilizing our plugin. News organizations running on WordPress simply install the Soundcheck plugin and add 2-3 sentences of speakable content directly to any article. Our plugin adds the required structured data and markup to enable voice assistants to discover the content on the web.
We will roll out similar plugins for additional CMS platforms in the future, making it as easy as possible to optimize your content within your current workflow.
Some of our earliest adopters are media outlets and small businesses. Indigenous uses Soundcheck to optimize material from their award winning 60 Second Docs for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, adding a new dimension to their documentaries. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my local gym, CrossFit Marin, started using Soundcheck to create a voice assistant interaction. Now anyone can learn their upcoming class schedule via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. To experience these voice interactions yourself, try asking Google or Alexa what’s new at CrossFit Marin, or to play 60 Second Docs.
We have raised $1.5 million thus far, with some of the best in Silicon Valley supporting us on this mission including True Ventures, Resolute Ventures, and Automattic, the company behind WordPress. We are honored to also have fellow entrepreneurs Biz Stone and Caterina Fake personally invested in Soundcheck.
Soundcheck grew out of a mobile app called Peck. The Peck app let users gather important information from around the web and summarize it in short, easily readable bits. At one point we added a feature that allowed users to make the short information bits readable by text-to-speech. This quickly became our most popular feature and encouraged us to make a full pivot into voice. Peck re-launches today as Soundcheck.
We are excited about the future of a voice-first web. If you are too, we want to hear from you.