The company behind smartphone application Vxt which automatically converts voicemail messages to text is looking to raise $400,000 to take its business overseas.
Vxt, founded by two University of Canterbury students two years ago, uses artificial technology - speech recognition "trained on a Kiwi accent" - to transcribe voice messages which can then be sent as a text or emailed to a user.
The subscription service, which costs $5.99 per month, is said to be 90 per cent accurate, limited due to audio quality over the cellphone network.
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The Christchurch-based start-up transcribes an average of 1000 voicemail messages per day and has until now converted about 73,000 messages.
Co-founders Luke Campbell, 23, and Lucy Turner, 22, began working on the business as part of a 10-week university project during their third year of study. It became serious after seeing the potential for the service, and has now been in development for more than two years. The first version of the app launched in August last year.
Campbell, who describes the service as "kind of like [Facebook] Messenger but for your voicemail", said Vxt was already making money and had about 2500 active app users and 200 paying subscribers.
Its revenue comes from monthly subscription fees and advertisements displayed on the free version of the app.
He said there was ample opportunity for the business as about two million voicemail messages were left each day in New Zealand.
Until now, Vxt has raised more than $150,000, mostly through competition prize money. It has been accepted into the Google Cloud Platform for Startups, where up to $150,000 of its costs are covered, and was more recently chosen as one of five start-ups to be put through Vodafone's Xone accelerator programme partner series in association with BNZ.
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The company this month launched a seed fund capital raise and is seeking to raise $400,000 in the next six weeks.
With that capital, Campbell said the six-person company planned to develop the app further, and expand into the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada - by November.
"We want to grow as fast as possible. The reason why we've picked those markets is not only because of the populations but because of the language and the competitive landscapes," Campbell told the Herald.
Longer term, Vxt hopes to "secure some kind of exit" to sell the business on: "We want to grow hundreds of thousands of users all around the world and sell the business."
Campbell, who is finishing up a joint bachelor degree in physics and economics, said he was inspired to start Vxt through his own dislike for voicemail messages.
"I hated the experience of getting voicemails, I'd say most people can probably relate to that, and it got me thinking along the lines of how can we make this better. That was in November 2018 when I was first thinking about it and I managed to rope in Lucy Turner."
Turner, who was working towards a computer science degree in honours at the time of inception, had the technical skills to bring the idea to fruition, he said.
Timeline of events
• Work on Vxt started in November 2018 as part of the University of Canterbury's summer start-up programme - Luke and Lucy worked on the business fulltime for about 10 weeks over the summer of 2018/19.
• Work continued on a part-time basis during first-half of 2019 while Luke and Lucy were fulltime students.
• In early 2019 Vxt was accepted into the Google Cloud Platform for Startups, where up to $150,000 of their costs are covered.
• In June Vxt raised $10,000 to hire three additional students.
• The team of five launched the first version of their app in August.
• In October Vxt was announced as a Grand Winner of the Annual $85k Startup Challenge run by Entre at the University of Canterbury.
• In December the business was accepted into Vodafone's Xone accelerator programme.
• Now - seeking expressions of interest to participate in its seed fundraising round.