Techstars Alexa Startups Address Settings Where Voice Is ‘Most Natural’

Smart speakers are becoming increasingly common in our homes. Users can instruct these devices to order takeout, give the weather forecast, or turn on or off various Internet-connected devices.

The Consumer Technology Association estimates that nearly 44 million voice-enabled assistants will be sold this year in the United States. Unit sales rose 279 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the association. “We have entered the era of voice,” Jim Harris, a management consultant writes on the CTA’s website.

Aviel Ginzburg, who is managing director of the Techstars Alexa Accelerator, says he agrees. Ginzburg says the role allows him to get a sneak preview of how this emerging technology could affect how we live, work, and play. “It’s more than asking questions to control things in your home,” he says. “It’s saving time.”

The Alexa program was founded in 2017 and is part of the Alexa Fund created by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to invest in young companies innovating around voice technologies. In 2015, Amazon committed to invest up to $100 million through the Alexa Fund, then committed another $100 million next year to take the fund global.

Techstars invests $20,000 in each company, with the potential for an additional investment of $100,000 in the form of a convertible note, in exchange for 6 percent equity. The accelerator is now looking to connect with entrepreneurs overseas with a London program with three startups and efforts to make the Alexa APIs available in France.

When he was tapped to lead the Techstars Alexa accelerator, Ginzburg had been a Techstars mentor and also the founder of Simply Measured, a Seattle social media analytics startup, which was sold to Chicago-based Sprout Social in December for an undisclosed sum.

Ginzburg recently spoke with Xconomy by phone and shared more about the technologies the Alexa accelerator was working with, the development of “ambient computing,” and other topics. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Xconomy: Give me the background on how the Alexa accelerator came to be and its mission.

Aviel Ginzburg: Amazon wanted to bring in early stage startups to target those markets, those that are doing something interesting and unique with [the] voice and … Next Page »

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