Tech

Verbit raises $60 million to improve enterprise-focused transcription software

Verbit today announced the close of a $60 million series C round ($10 million of which is debt) that the company says will bolster its product R&D efforts. Verbit CEO Tom Livne, speaking to VentureBeat via email, said the infusion will also lay the groundwork for merger and acquisition opportunities as Verbit pursues new verticals, increases the number of languages its platform supports, and hires employees to expand its international reach.

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 Tel Aviv- and New York-based startup (which also has offices in Kyiv, Ukraine and Palo Alto, California) will contribute substantially to the voice transcription segment’s rise. 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 detailed transcriptions with a claimed over 99.9% accuracy.

What sets Verbit apart is its reliance on “cutting-edge” advances in machine learning and natural language understanding, according to Livne. Three algorithms — acoustic, linguistic, and contextual — power Verbit’s captioning. They filter out background noise and echoes and identify speakers regardless of accent, detecting domain-specific terms while incorporating current events and updates. Clients first upload audio or video files to a cloud dashboard for processing. Then a team of over 22,000 human freelancers in over 120 countries edits and reviews the material, taking into account customer-supplied notes and guidelines.

“Verbit stays up to date with competitors’ rates to ensure that its transcribers are compensated fairly. Currently, the company’s transcribers can choose if they wish to work according to time spent or a flat pay-per-AM,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. “Verbit frequently conducts roundtable discussions to hear from its transcribers first-hand to get their feedback. The company’s transcribers have a support system that constantly relays feedback to Verbit management, and it has a bonus program to ensure proper compensation for its top performers.”

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 add inline comments, request reviews, or view usage reports. A feature called Verbit Express allows them to drag files in need of transcription to a folder on a desktop PC, where they’re automatically uploaded and processed.

The transcriber side of the equation is self-serve and on-demand. Verbit transcribers can choose the files they’d like to work on (the platform doesn’t assign them manually) and take advantage of built-in dictionary and research tools, keyboard shortcuts, speed control, a highlighter, and spell check. Those who consistently produce exceptional work and achieve high quality scores are offered the chance to become reviewers, responsible for proofreading — and editing, if necessary — transcribers’ work.

Livne claims its suite can reduce operating costs by up to 50% and deliver results 10 times faster than the competition. In any case, it was enough to woo 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, Fashion Institute of Technology, Stanford, Coursera, Udacity, and more than 400 others. Revenue has grown fivefold since 2017.

Customer have to make a minimum commitment of $10,000, a pricing structure that apparently paid dividends. Verbit.ai isn’t disclosing exact revenue but says it’s in the “millions” and that the company is cash flow positive. Despite pandemic-related headwinds, revenue run-rate has grown fivefold since 2019, according to Livne.

Verbit plans to 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. It also launched Live Room, a desktop app for live, interactive transcripts and captions within Zoom featuring highlighting and note-taking, options to download the transcript, abilities to delay or speed up the transcript, and direct sharing of notes with peers and clients. And Verbit 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 from existing investors Vertex Ventures, Stripes, HV Ventures, ClalTech, and new investor Vertex Growth. It brings the 3.5-year-old, 120-plus-employee company’s total capital raised to more than $100 million.

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