SpinVox Makes Big Plans for Additional Funds

British voicemail-to-text (VTT) conversion provider SpinVox announced yesterday it has received almost $200 million in funding from investors such as Goldman Sachs, GLG Partners, BlueMountain, and Toscafund Asset Management.

The company, which began as a two-person operation in 2003, has blossomed into a 300-employee organization with 6 million registered users. Branded as a youthful, fun company, SpinVox made headway when it launched its speech-to-text (STT) microblogging services, but created a splash within the mobile space when its VTT products rolled out. The new round of funding will go almost entirely into broadening the company's global reach and enhancing its speech technologies, particularly automatic speech recognition (ASR).

SpinVox provides VTT services for 12 mobile carriers throughout the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, and Australia. With the funding, the company plans to double its number of mobile partners and provide conversion services for Portuguese, Italian, and Arabic. Of course, adding more languages to its roster means the company must expand its speech technology staff. According to Jonathan Simnett, SpinVox's director of global communications, the company is investing heavily in a new department: the Advanced Speech Group (ASG). The ASG will be located in Cambridge, England.

"We're going from being a development company where we take the best technologies and techniques available," Simnett says. "Now that system is so advanced we'll be a research-and-development company. We're absolutely pushing the edge with what we're doing now."

Leading the ASG is Tony Robinson, a speech technology developer who now also works as an entrepreneur. The company's existing speech consultant, Phil Woodland, will stay on and remain active within the ASG.

"We have strong differentiators from competitors who can only give you the gist [of a voicemail message]," Simnett states. "We deal with the English language all over the world. We've got the world's most advanced system. We're committed to that system, and that's why we've formed the ASG. That's why we literally have the world's best brain on this subject [Robinson]."

While the company currently holds contracts with major mobile carriers like Alltel, Vodafone, and Rogers Mobile, Simnett says the new round of funding will give way to partnerships with more "tier-one" mobile service providers. In addition to mobile carriers, the company has also formed a partnership with the low-cost Internet phone service provider Skype.

While the company plans to expand with the funding, Simnett says a buyout or IPO is not in the works. "[We're] keeping all the options open, simply because we know that we have a world-beating system here," Simnett states. "That we've been able to get a hundred million dollars in the market is testament that we've got something pretty unique and we want to carry on building the firm. Lots are interested in it, but we're interested in growing the company."

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