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VocalIQ value creators interview

VocalIQ, with Hermann Hauser and Blaise Thomson

Even Hermann Hauser didn’t expect this Cambridge University spin-out to spin quite this fast.

Within a year of Amadeus’ seed investment, VocalIQ had been acquired in a trade deal that provided its venture backers with 10 times money.

This is a story about great positioning, good timing, and the power of voice.

In this podcast transcript, we delve into the remarkable journey of VocalIQ, a Cambridge University spin-out, which saw a 10X return on investment within a year of Amadeus Capital Partners’ seed investment. This extraordinary tale unfolds through the insights of Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners, and Blaze Thompson, former CEO of Vocal IQ before its acquisition by Apple in 2015.

Vocal IQ’s Genesis (0:36-2:56)
Blaze Thompson recounts the origins of VocalIQ, which emerged from Cambridge University’s engineering department in 2006. Their pioneering ideas focused on optimizing conversations with machine agents, even before Siri was launched in 2011. They honed techniques to track conversation uncertainty and optimize the questions posed by AI agents, treating the conversation as a strategic game.

Founding VocalIQ (2:57-3:39)
In 2011, Steve Young, Blaze Thompson, and Kai decided to establish VocalIQ. Initially, it was an experimental venture, exploring concepts with potential business impact and grants applications.

Early Years and Pre-Amadeus Funding (3:40-4:51)
VocalIQ saw limited action until the end of 2014. Blaze recalls that, at the time, they were engaging with multiple venture capitalists, including Hermann Hauser. Their product development and revenue generation were nascent.

Hermann’s Interest (4:52-6:45)
Hermann Hauser, a well-known figure in Cambridge’s tech ecosystem, had a longstanding interest in voice technology. His previous successful collaborations with Steve Young made investing in VocalIQ an easy decision. Despite early skepticism about voice tech, Hermann saw its potential.

Investment and Early Growth (6:46-9:54)
Amadeus Capital Partners led the investment round, with Cambridge Enterprise also participating. The funds primarily fueled product and technology development rather than immediate sales and marketing efforts. Blaze acknowledges that they managed to meet their early business plan, which was a pleasant surprise.

Apple’s Entry (9:55-11:47)
Blaze and Hermann discuss the unexpected entry of Apple into the picture. Apple’s interest in VocalIQ emerged when the company was preparing for its next investment round. The impending acquisition by Apple created a sense of urgency.

Apple’s Approach and Acquihire (11:48-13:52)
Blaze explains that their prior engagements with major companies laid the groundwork for Apple’s interest. Once the opportunity presented itself, the acquisition moved swiftly, focusing on acquiring VocalIQ’s technology and talent pool.

Embracing Complexity (13:53-15:25)
Blaze emphasizes that voice technology’s complexity offers vast opportunities. While current voice interfaces serve many, there’s immense untapped potential. Voice technology involves multiple tasks, from speech recognition to natural language processing and dialogue management.

Startup Advantage (15:26-16:36)
The complexity of voice technology makes it a suitable space for startups. Small companies can bring creative solutions to the table, especially when addressing intricate problems. However, access to data remains a challenge.

Impact of Data (16:37-17:44)
Blaze shares his recent interest in privacy-preserving machine learning, aiming to enable companies to share data while protecting privacy. Data access can empower smaller groups with access to valuable resources.

Amadeus’s Role in the Voice Ecosystem (17:45-18:54)
Hermann highlights that there’s still ample room for innovation in the voice technology field. Amadeus Capital Partners continues to invest in voice-related companies, such as PolyAI, contributing to the ongoing development of voice interfaces.

Conclusion (18:55-End)
In conclusion, the journey of VocalIQ serves as a testament to the power of innovation and timing in the tech world. As voice technology evolves, it offers new horizons for startups and established players alike, promising transformative changes in how we interact with AI-driven systems.

Value Creator Interview OPOS

Optos, with Douglas Anderson and Anne Glover

Anne Glover is CEO of Amadeus Capital Partners. This is the story of how she saw the potential in Douglas Anderson’s break through optical medical device concept to create a world leading business from scratch. Optos has since saved the sight of, perhaps, millions of people.

A lot is written about how venture capital works, but this very human story conveys so well the uncertainty and challenges, as well as the judgement and persistence that it takes, to build a truly valuable company from scratch.

Anne Glover is the CEO of Amadeus Capital Partners, and her journey with Douglas Anderson’s breakthrough optical medical device concept is a testament to the unpredictable nature of venture capital, as well as the determination and foresight required to transform an innovative idea into a global success story.

This narrative begins with Anne Glover recognizing the immense potential in Douglas Anderson’s groundbreaking optical medical device concept.

At its inception, this technology held the promise of revolutionizing eye care and, in the process, potentially saving the sight of countless individuals.

This was more than just a business opportunity; it was a chance to make a significant and lasting impact on people’s lives.

The journey was far from straightforward, filled with uncertainties and challenges that are inherent to the world of venture capital.

Anne Glover and her team at Amadeus Capital Partners embarked on a remarkable endeavor to turn this concept into a thriving business.

This endeavor demanded not only financial investment but also the strategic acumen to navigate the complex landscape of healthcare technology and innovation.

Through moments of doubt and setbacks, Anne’s judgment and persistence played a pivotal role in shaping the future of this venture.

She had the foresight to see beyond the initial hurdles and recognize the long-term potential of the optical medical device.

Her unwavering commitment to the project, coupled with her ability to rally resources and expertise, allowed the concept to evolve into a world-leading enterprise.

The resulting company, known as Optos, stands as a testament to Anne Glover’s vision and dedication.

With its groundbreaking technology, Optos has indeed saved the sight of potentially millions of people around the world.

The story of Anne Glover, Douglas Anderson, and Optos is a powerful reminder that behind every successful venture capital endeavor, there is a human story filled with determination, resilience, and the pursuit of making a positive impact on society.

It illustrates that building a truly valuable company from scratch is not just about financial gains but also about transforming lives and leaving a lasting legacy.

Hans Lovrek: private equity’s precedent

Private equity’s approach to investment is much older than you think. Hans Lovrek sheds light on how the limited partnership has borrowed the essential features from some timeless approaches to managing risk amid uncertainty, asymmetry and opportunity.