In-house venture funds at Amazon and Google are leading the charge into the voice-first revolution and pouring millions of dollars into startups

Paul Bernard

Amazon and Google have been at the forefront of voice computing technology through smart devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The companies have created corporate venture funds like Alexa Fund to invest exclusively in voice-first startups to bolster the capabilities of smart assistants like Alexa.
Paul Bernard, director of Amazon’s Alexa Fund, told Business Insider that corporate venture funds have been more active investors in voice tech than traditional venture firms. That is partly driven by self-interest in furthering the technology, he said, but also so that voice computing can become as widespread as mobile computing.
Corporate venture also has the benefit of a sole investor, the backing company, instead of a wider investor base that necessitates a more varied portfolio, Bernard said.
For voice computing to reach critical mass, both corporate funds and venture firms will have to partner on early and mid-stage deals to best support companies furthering the emerging technology, according to Bernard.
about the tech industry’s shift to the voice platform in BI Prime’s special report.

Amazon and Google have pioneered the shift to consumer-facing voice technology through smart devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, but the tech giants are also putting their weight behind some of the most promising startups helping advance the next wave of personal computing.

Through corporate venture funds, Amazon and Google have poured millions of dollars into young startups based on voice technology. Amazon’s Alexa Fund, named for its smart assistant Alexa, has invested in more than 70 companies itself, and has expanded to include an accelerator and university-focused program.

“At the time, Amazon didn’t have a venture fund and this seemed like a good way to bring a focused effort to accomplish a few things at once,” Alexa Fund director Paul Bernard told Business Insider. “We could support companies that are pushing what’s possible in voice and Alexa, and also create a vehicle that allowed us to work with the venture community in a way our corporate partnership just didn’t allow us to do.”

As voice computing continues to gain traction, Alexa Fund is positioned to lead the way in dollars invested and range of companies among its portfolio, Bernard said. As director of the Alexa Fund, Bernard oversees Amazon’s investment in companies like Drivetime, a car-based interactive audio entertainment startup, and Bamboo Learning, an educational startup that works exclusively with Alexa.

As with other corporate venture funds, Alexa Fund has the benefit of a sole backer in Amazon. Unlike traditional venture firms that have multiple investors and a necessarily varied portfolio of investments, corporate venture firms are able to invest in companies that take longer to provide a return. So it’s no surprise that corporate funds are driving investment activity in voice computing startups, Bernard said.

“No one has a singular view of how to represent the interest of startups and how to make them successful,” Bernard said.

Google, meanwhile, launched the Google Assistant Investments program in May 2018. The fund …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Finance


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