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AI-powered voice transcription startup Verbit secures $250M

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Verbit, a startup developing an AI-powered transcription platform, today announced that it secured $250 million, bringing its total capital raised to $550 million. The round — a series E, made up of a $150 million primary investment and $100 million in secondary transactions — was led by Third Point Ventures with participation from Sapphire Ventures, More Capital, Disruptive AI, Vertex Growth, 40North, Samsung Next, and TCP.

With the fresh capital, Verbit, which is now valued at $2 billion, plans to expand its workforce while supporting product research and development as well as customer acquisition efforts. Beyond this, CEO Tom Livne said that Verbit will pursue further mergers and acquisitions and “provide enhanced value” to its media, education, corporate, legal, and government clients.

During the pandemic, enterprises ramped up their adoption of voice technologies, including transcription, as remote videoconferencing became the norm. In a survey from Speechmatics, a little over two-thirds of companies said that they now have a voice technology strategy. While they cited accuracy and privacy as concerns, 60% without a strategy said that they’d consider one within five years — potentially driving the speech and voice recognition market to $22 billion in value by 2022.

Livne cofounded New York-based Verbit with Eric Shellef and Kobi Ben Tzvi in 2017. Shellef previously led speech recognition at Intel’s wearables group, while Tzvi cofounded and served as CTO at facial recognition startup Foresight Solutions. As for Livne, who’s also a member of Verbit’s board, he was an early investor in counter-drone platform Convexum, which was acquired by NSO Group in 2020 for $60 million.

AI-powered transcription

Verbit’s voice transcription and captioning services aren’t novel — well-established players like Nuance, Cisco, Otter, Voicera, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have offered rival products for years, including enterprise-focused platforms like Microsoft 365. But Verbit’s adaptive speech recognition tech can generate transcriptions that it claims achieve higher accuracy than its rivals.

Verbit users upload audio or video to a dashboard for AI-powered processing. Then, a team edits and reviews the material — taking into account customer-supplied notes and guidelines.

Finished transcriptions from Verbit are available for export to services like Blackboard, Vimeo, YouTube, Canvas, and Brightcove. A web frontend shows the progress of jobs and lets users edit and share files or define the access permissions for each, plus add inline comments, requesting reviews, or viewing usage reports.

“Verbit’s in-house AI technology detects domain-specific terms, filters out background noise and echoes, and transcribes speakers regardless of accent to generate … transcripts and captions from both live and recorded video and audio. Acoustic, linguistic, and contextual data is … checked by our transcribers, who [incorporate] customer-supplied notes, guidelines, specific industry terms, and requirements,” Livne told VentureBeat via email. “By indexing video content for web searches, Verbit [can help] companies improve SEO and increase their site traffic. [In addition, the platform can] provide audio visual translation to help global businesses with translations and to reach international audiences with their products and offerings.”

The transcriber experience

Like its competition, Verbit relies on an army of crowdworkers to transcribe files. The company’s roughly 35,000 freelancers and 600 professional captioners are paid in one of two ways, per audio minute or word. While Verbit doesn’t post rates on its website, a source pegs transcription pay at $0.30 per audio minute. Two years ago, transcription service Rev faced a massive backlash when it slashed minimum rates for its transcribers from $0.45 to $0.30 per word transcribed.

In some cases, pay can dip below $0.30 on Verbit, according to employee reviews on Indeed. The company reportedly started paying as low as around $0.24 cents per audio minute last year for a standard job.

Transcription platforms also don’t always have the technology in place to prevent crowdworkers from seeing disturbing content. In a piece by The Verge, crowdworkers on Rev said that they were exposed to graphic or troubling material on multiple occasions with no warning, including violent police recordings, descriptions of child abuse, and graphic medical videos.

A spokesperson told VentureBeat via email: “Currently, we employ a mix of full-time transcribers and captioners, as well as freelancers that are paid per audio minute. We’ve established a ranking system based on efficiency and accuracy to incentivize and reward freelancers with higher compensation in exchange for consistently delivering high-quality transcripts … The company’s transcribers have a support system — chat and forum — that constantly relays feedback to Verbit management, and it has a bonus program to ensure proper compensation for its top performers.”

The spokesperson continued: “In addition to competitive pay and opportunities for advancement, our staff of full-time transcribers and captioners are eligible to receive healthcare benefits … Our transcriber community follows a ranking system based on tenure and number of hours worked, allowing freelancers to earn promotions to roles such as editor, reviewer, and supervisor.”

On the subject of graphic content, the spokesperson said: “Verbit does not take on any business associated with violent or graphic content. For example, an adult entertainment company recently requested our services, but we chose not to accept them as a customer.”

Growth year

Verbit’s platform has wooed a healthy base of over 2,000 customers, bolstered by its acquisition of captioning provider VITAC earlier this year. In recent months, Verbit has pursued contracts with educational institutions like Harvard and Stanford, which have stricter accommodation standards than organizations in other sectors.

Auto captioning technologies on YouTube, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and like platforms aren’t beholden to the accommodations standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. In contrast, captioning must satisfy certain accuracy criteria in order to meet federal guidelines. A recent survey conducted by Verbit found that only 14% of schools provided captions as a default, while about 10% said that they only caption lessons when a student requests it.

Verbit also says that it’ll continue to explore verticals in the insurance, financial, media, and medical industries. The company — which currently has 470 employees, a number that it expects will grow to 750 by 2023 — recently launched a human-in-the-loop transcription service for media outlets and inked an agreement with the nonprofit Speech to Text Institute to invest in court reporting and legal transcription.

“With six times year-over-year revenue growth and close to $100 million in annual recurring revenue, Verbit continues to expand into new verticals at a hyper-growth pace. The shift to remote work and accelerated digitization amid the pandemic has been a major catalyst … and has further driven Verbit’s rapid growth,” Livne added. “In today’s digital era where audio and video content is a given, and many times the main method of conveying information, these AI tools are crucial to ensure that individuals and organizations of all sizes and forms can engage with their audiences and stakeholders more efficiently and effectively.”

Livne previously said that Verbit plans to file for an initial public offering in 2022.

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Categories
AI

AI-powered transcription startup Verbit raises $157M

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Verbit today announced the close of a $157 million series D round that the company says will bolster its product R&D and hiring efforts. CEO Tom Livne, who noted that the raise brings the company’s post-money valuation to more than $1 billion, said that the capital will also support the company’s geographic expansion as it prepares for an initial public offering.

The voice and speech recognition tech market is anticipated to be worth $31.82 billion by 2025, driven by new applications in the banking, health care, and automotive industries. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five people in the U.S. interact with a smart speaker on a daily basis and that the share of Google searches conducted by voice in the country recently surpassed 30%.

Livne, who cofounded Verbit.ai with Eric Shellef and Kobi Ben Tzvi in 2017, asserts the New York-based startup will contribute substantially to the voice transcription segment’s rise. “The transcription market has been ripe for innovation. That’s the initial reason why I founded Verbit. The shift to remote work and accelerated digitization amid the pandemic has been a major catalyst … and has further driven Verbit’s already-rapid development,” Livne said in a press release. “Securing this new funding is yet another milestone that brings us closer to becoming a public company, which will further fuel our expansion through strategic acquisitions and investments.”

AI-powered technology

Verbit’s voice transcription and captioning services aren’t novel — well-established players like Nuance, Cisco, Otter, Voicera, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have offered rival products for years, including enterprise-focused platforms like Microsoft 365. But Verbit’s adaptive speech recognition tech can generate transcriptions it claims offer over 99.9% accuracy.

Verbit customers first upload audio or video files to a dashboard for AI-guided processing. Then a team of over 33,000 human freelancers in over 120 countries edits and reviews the material, taking into account customer-supplied notes and guidelines. Finished transcriptions from Verbit are available for export to services like Blackboard, Vimeo, YouTube, Canvas, and BrightCode. A web frontend shows the progress of jobs and lets users edit and share files or define the access permissions for each, as well as adding inline comments, requesting reviews, or viewing usage reports.

Verbit

Above: Verbit’s transcription dashboard.

Image Credit: Verbit

Customer have to make a minimum commitment of $10,000, a pricing structure that apparently paid dividends. Annual recurring revenue grew six times from 2020 despite pandemic-related headwinds, according to Livne, and it now stands at close to $100 million.

Rapid growth

Verbit’s suite has wooed a healthy client base of over 400 educational institutions and commercial customers (up from 70 as of January 2019), including Harvard, the NCAA, London Business School, and Stanford. Following its recent acquisition of captioning provider VITAC, Verbit claims it’s the the “number one player” in the professional transcription and captioning market, supporting more than 1,500 customers across the legal, media, education, government, and corporate sectors including CNBC, CNN, and Fox.

Verbit plans to add 200 new business and product roles and explore verticals in the insurance and financial sectors, as well as media and medical use cases. To this end, it recently launched a human-in-the-loop transcription service for media firms with a delay of only a few seconds. And the company inked an agreement with the nonprofit Speech to Text Institute to invest in court reporting and legal transcription technologies.

Sapphire Ventures led the 110-employee Verbit’s series C round with participation Third Point, More Capital, Lion Investment Partners, ICON fund as well as existing investors such as Stripes, Vertex Ventures, HV Capital, Oryzn Capital, and ClalTech participated. It brings the 4-year-old, 120-plus-employee company’s total capital raised to more than $250 million following a $60 million series C in November 2020.

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Categories
AI

Verbit acquires transcription service provider VITAC

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AI-powered transcription platform Verbit today announced it has acquired VITAC, the largest provider of captioning products and solutions in North America. Verbit says the deal will position it as one of the top firms in the professional transcription and captioning market across legal, media, education, government, and corporate sectors.

The voice and speech recognition tech market is anticipated to be worth $31.82 billion by 2025, driven by new applications in the banking, health care, and automotive industries. Indeed, the enterprise is experiencing an uptick in voice technology adoption during the pandemic. In a 2020 survey of 500 IT and business decision-makers in the U.S., France, Germany, and the U.K., 28% of respondents said they were using voice technologies and 84% expect to use them this year.

Verbit says VITAC, which was founded in 1986, will enable it to offer a “deeper” portfolio of transcription solutions, including experts, AI-based tools, additional languages, and integrations with video cloud platforms. VITAC also provides access to a 1,700-organization customer base spanning every broadcast company, most cable networks, program producers, corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies.

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based VITAC, which has over 700 employees, estimates that it captions over 550,000 live and 75,000 prerecorded hours of programming per year.

“We’re delighted to join the Verbit family and bolster their leading position in the transcription industry globally,” VITAC CEO Chris Crowell said in a statement. “We’ve been incredibly impressed with Verbit’s rapid growth and technology advantages, and together we look forward to serving more of this dynamic industry with clients across all vertical segments.”

Verbit’s growth

Verbit’s voice transcription and captioning services aren’t novel — well-established players like Nuance, Cisco, Otter, Voicera, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have offered rival products for years, including enterprise-focused platforms like Microsoft 365. But Verbit’s adaptive speech recognition tech can generate transcriptions it claims offer over 99.9% accuracy.

Verbit customers first upload audio or video files to a dashboard for AI-guided processing. Then a team of over 33,000 human freelancers in over 120 countries edits and reviews the material, taking into account customer-supplied notes and guidelines. Finished transcriptions from Verbit are available for export to services like Blackboard, Vimeo, YouTube, Canvas, and BrightCode. A web frontend shows the progress of jobs and lets users edit and share files or define the access permissions for each, as well as adding inline comments, requesting reviews, or viewing usage reports.

As of November 2020, Verbit had over 400 educational institutions and commercial clients, including Harvard, the NCAA, London Business School, Fashion Institute of Technology, Stanford, Coursera, and Udacity. Revenue is in the “millions,” and the company is cash flow positive, Verbit CEO Tom Livne told VentureBeat in a previous interview.

Verbit recently closed a $60 million funding round led by Sapphire Ventures. The Tel Aviv- and New York-based company’s total raised stands at over $100 million.

“We are thrilled to further strengthen our position as the market leader in the transcription and captioning industry, in partnership with VITAC. This opportunity allows us to expand our offerings for the media vertical and provide advanced transcription capabilities to our current education, legal, and corporate customers,” Livne said in a press release. “The combined company will harness decades of transcription and captioning expertise to offer customers a best-in-class solution based on our proven technology. We will continue to invest in our platform, top talent, and domain expertise to evolve and develop our solutions to meet our customers’ dynamic needs.”

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