I plan on introducing the blockchain technology to companies in Jordan. I have been studying blockchain for a while now; however, I am no expert when it comes to implementing such technology. I believe there is a great potential for its use and adaptation in Jordan. I need people with good experience that can implement blockchain in various industries such as banks, hospitals, governmental institutions. If interested please let me know.
John Flynn comes from the world of film, having worked in the editing pipeline of Hollywood blockbusters like the Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight, and Bohemian Rhapsody.
Zeena Qureshi has years of sales experience at tech startups. She also had a background in teaching speech and language therapy to children with Autism which gave me a different perspective of speech expertise. The duo became good friends during their stint at Talent investor Entrepreneur First.
“At Entrepreneur First, John and I were friends first, but as the programme drew to a close, John showed me this incredible demo of an artificial voice that sounded perfect. You could even hear the breath, I couldn’t believe it,” Qureshi mentions in an official blog post.
“We knew that current text-to-speech solutions sounded robotic, lacking natural performance and quality. We also knew that speech synthesis was very subjective, unlike speech recognition, which is more objective. So we set out to fix this problem,” she adds.
Equipped with Flynn’s technical acumen and Qureshi’s business savviness, the duo founded Sonantic in 2018.
Yesterday, the UK-based startup launched the first AI-powered speech technology with true emotional depth, conveying complex human emotions from fear and sadness to joy and surprise.
Capturing the nuances of the human voice
According to the company, its approach is built upon the existing framework of text-to-speech, thereby differentiating a standard robotic voice from one that sounds genuinely human. “Creating that “believability” factor is at the core of Sonantic’s voice platform, which captures the nuances of the human voice,” Sonantic mentions in a press release.
Sonantic partners with experienced actors to create voice models. Clients can choose from existing voice models or work with Sonantic to build custom voices for unique characters. Project scripts are then uploaded to Sonantic’s platform, where a client’s audio team can choose from a variety of high fidelity speech synthesis options, including pitch, pacing, projection and an array of emotions, claims the company.
Notably, the actors receive a profit share every time their voice model is used in a project.
Sonantic has also partnered with Obsidian, a AAA gaming studio and subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios, to test this tech. It has also released a demo video highlighting this partnership in order to demonstrate its voice-on-demand technology.
“Working in game development, we could send a script through Sonantic’s API — and what we would get back is no longer just robotic dialogue: it is human conversation. This technology can empower our creative process and ultimately help us to tell our story,” says Obsidian Entertainment Audio Director Justin E. Bell. The company claims that the gaming studio’s production timelines and associated costs would be slashed through this new capability.
The company’s official launch follows the last year’s beta release, which was captured in a video entitled “Faith: The First AI That Can Cry.”
Both the co-founders agree that hearing that cry was an incredible moment for their team last year. The duo believes that the launch of the full spectrum of human emotion is an exciting milestone not just for them, but for the entertainment industry. “The possibilities for studios are endless. With a technology this comprehensive, it frees them up to experiment with scripts and produce work in an unprecedented timeframe, converting months of work down to minutes,” the co-founders mention in a joint statement.
The company’s ultimate mission is to work with both studios and professional actors to build the entertainment products of the future.
Building a company in six weeks
According to Qureshi, while setting up Sonantic, time was of the essence. “The program ( Entrepreneur First) lasts six months, and the first two are all about finding your teammate. John and I were up against the clock because we met on the last day of team building and had a month to prove our business before going in front of the investment committee. The timing was difficult as Christmas was right in the middle, but we used that to our advantage.”
“John built a live demo that I could share with both customers and investors. Within six weeks, we managed to found a company, build a prototype, and most importantly, get several AAA pilot customers onboard,” she adds.
Talking about the company’s algorithm, Qureshi tells Silicon Canals, “We’ve developed our algorithms to focus on the nuances and subtleties of the human voice that most algorithms miss. The devil is in the details, so we’ve done a lot of work to make sure that small things are mapped and calculated, like a voice quiver for sadness, exertion for anger and varied pitch patterns (to name a few).”
She continues, “Even a casual listener is very sensitive to small changes in voice quality. That’s what makes us know if someone is being slightly sarcastic or deadly serious, so modelling microscopic details is key to doing a great actor’s voice, justice.”
The data sources for training the algorithm come from actors through a voice engine that helps actors train their own models. Notably, the company claims to ensure that its algorithms are never trained on publicly available data without the voice owner’s permission.
So, what is the algorithm learning as it encounters data?
“The algorithms first learn how to speak generally; for example, making roughly the correct vowel and consonant sounds. Then as training progresses, the models learn to pronounce better; for example, t’s and d’s start to get sharper. Up to this point, it’s similar to the way a child learns. From here, more subtle things like pitch inflections, emotional elements are modelled,” explains Qureshi.
“At this later stage, the models start to sound exactly like the actor on which the model was based. We work with fantastic actors who are very talented performers; they form the base of every model,” she further explains.
Somatic has filed for three patents for its technology.
Sonantic’s business model
The company has a B2B enterprise Saas (Software-as-a-Service) model. Sonantic licenses its technology strictly to entertainment studios only. Depending on the volume of text to be rendered, the platform provides different tiers for licensing.
In addition, Sonantic’s other revenue stream is creating custom voice models for its clients. The company claims to have over 1000 companies on its waitlist.
Qureshi tells SC, “We will continue to build out more voices, features with controls, and languages as the possibilities of dialogue are endless.”
The company has plans to start building the next generation of voice with its studio partners to go beyond what’s possible now, like runtime generation of content on the fly.
For instance, if a character is running in a game, they should sound out of breath and react like a human would to their state of being and environment.
Sonantic looking for talents
The company has 12 employees, including Flynn as co-founder & CTO, and Qureshi as co-founder & CEO. The team comprises three deep learning speech researchers; three engineers; one full-time actress, one casting & performance director; one VP of customers; and one operations associate. Flynn manages the tech team, including research, acting, and engineering, while Qureshi works with the business team on customers, strategy, marketing, and sales.
The company is currently hiring talented speech researchers and engineers, particularly those with experience in this niche technology.
Back in March 2020, the company had secured €2.3M in a funding round led by EQT Ventures along with participation from existing backers such as Entrepreneur First, AME Cloud Ventures and Bart Swanson of Horizon Ventures.
In recent years startups have disrupted the landscape of some of the most traditional sectors: banking and financial services. Currently there are over 60 unicorns, which highlights the hype around the fintech sector. These companies have triggered a revolution in customer experience: we now open an account or get a loan in a matter of…
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When merchants launch their e-commerce businesses, they can easily manage the end-to-end operations in the early stages. But as they begin to grow, managing their own operations, from warehousing and logistics to delivery and cash collection, can become difficult. This can prevent them from scaling effectively despite having a steady inflow of demand.
Now, there’s a need to offload some of this workload. This is where e-commerce fulfillment services come in handy.
Today, Flextock, one such company providing this service to businesses and consumers in Egypt, is announcing that it is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch. Founded by Mohamed Mossaad and Enas Siam in September 2020, the Egyptian company launched in stealth this January.
According to COO Siam, the founders noticed that as e-commerce activities in the Middle East and North African regions accelerated due to the pandemic, merchants were left overwhelmed with the volume of orders they received.
“We saw it as an opportunity to build a tech-enabled platform to be able to help anyone that wanted to grow their own independent brand or store,” she told TechCrunch. “We wanted them to focus on their products and marketing while leaving the supply chain and logistics bit to us, which we do through our end-to-end proprietary software.”
Mossaad, the company’s CEO, describes Flextock as a tech-enabled fulfillment provider. When merchants sign up to the platform, they send their products to one of the company’s fulfillment centers. Flextock takes the whole catalog and tags the products for tracking purposes. Then, integration is made between Flextock and any online store they use, be it Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Odoo, among others.
As orders are made, Flextock packages and ships the products from the fulfillment center to the customers. Flextock doesn’t own any delivery vehicles, so to achieve this, the company partners with existing logistics companies in Egypt. This model has helped the startup to create a marketplace for different last-mile delivery companies in the country.
Image Credits: Flextock
There’s also a dashboard for these merchants to track each order, get more visibility into their shipping process and know how well their products sell.
Flextock makes money on a per-order basis. That means the merchants on the platform pay a flat fee that changes with respect to the volume of products moved.
Mossaad says that since the company beta launched in January with more than 20 businesses, it has been growing 50% week-on-week across 28 cities in the country.
According to the CEO, Flextock is the first end-to-end fulfillment service in Egypt. And in a market that will likely see more competition in the next couple of years, Mossaad thinks Flextock has the opportunity to become the market leader.
Behind this rationale is that the six-month-old startup is backed by Y Combinator and has also raised $ 850,000 which is just the first part of its multi-million-dollar pre-seed round that will close sometime this year.
“We were able to very quickly get the acceptance of YC given the size of the opportunity we are focused on. We believe that commerce is expected to change in the Middle East and Africa, and Flextock is going to be at the forefront of powering this next generation of commerce,” he said.
The founders combine a wealth of corporate experience and a strong track record of scaling tech startups in the MENA region.
L-R: Mohamed Mossaad (CEO) and Enas Siam (COO)
Siam started her career managing supply operations at Nestle across the Middle East and North Africa. Later, she became the General Manager of Careem Bus, a mass-transit service and Uber subsidiary, where she helped build the product from scratch and grew it to 150,000 monthly rides in a year.
Mossaad, on the other hand, has worked on multiple turnarounds across different African countries during his time at Bain & Company. He joined Egyptian online food delivery platform, Elmenus, as Chief Strategy Officer. He helped scale the company’s revenues 5x in less than a year and was instrumental to its $ 8 million Series B round.
The CEO says Flextock has its sights on other African and Middle Eastern markets — specifically Saudi Arabia — and the plan is to provide its services to over 1 million businesses in these regions over the next decade.
“We are on a mission to enable more than 1 million merchants in Africa and the Middle East to sell online without carrying out the hassle of running their own operations. We are well-positioned to do that, and hopefully, we will be able to achieve that in a record time.”
TEL AVIV, Israel and FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Memic, a medical device company dedicated to transforming robot-assisted surgery with its proprietary technology, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted De Novo marketing authorization of its Hominis® robot-assisted surgical platform for use in single site, natural orifice laparoscopic-assisted transvaginal benign surgical procedures including benign hysterectomy.
Your successful business model might take the form of a side hustle or full-time freelance work. Perhaps you’ve decided to invest in a franchise, or you’ve created an app for today’s hot on-demand marketplace. There are lots of options, and no doubt you’ve given your choice of business and business model lots of thought. But how much thought have you given to the common denominator to all these entrepreneurial models? You!
In launching your startup enterprise, you must examine the single most important factor in your eventual success or failure (yourself!) just as thoroughly you examine your options, opportunities and risks.
I will go so far to say that your assessment of your own capabilities and limitations should be just as thorough as your evaluation of such business fundamentals as market demand, startup costs, access to financing, competitive landscape, etc.
Not only can a thorough self-assessment help you decide the type of business or business model to launch, it will contribute to your eventual success.
Here’s an example: Say you’re an idea person but you have trouble implementing your great ideas. This self-knowledge will help you plan accordingly by compensating for this tendency, for instance, by partnering with someone with strong execution skills or working with a mentor or professional coach to focus on strengthening your own implementation skills.
As a coach of both established entrepreneurs and startups, I’ve found that personality profile and assessment tools are the most efficient and effective way for my entrepreneurial clients to gain the self-awareness they need to pave the way for success.
Used skillfully, assessments help you better understand your own personality, especially those traits most likely to impact your success as an entrepreneur, such as your communication style, how you make decisions, your capacity for dealing with conflict and change, and your preferred work style.
This self-knowledge will help you:
Leverage your own strengths for the maximum benefit of your business,
Identify weaknesses and areas where you need to invest in your own growth and development, and
Determine where and when you need to tap others to complement your strengths and weaknesses.
Assessment feedback also provides a foundation for setting meaningful goals and designing effective action plans for you and your business.
Self-knowledge helps you build strong business relationships
One area where assessments can be particularly helpful for entrepreneurs is in understanding and developing their communication and relational skills.
Both skills will be critical when you set about creating partnerships, building a supply chain, developing marketing opportunities, putting together a team of employees, and more. Each of these areas depends on strong relationships, which is why so many entrepreneurs point to their relationships as the building blocks of their business success.
There are many personality profile and assessment tools on the market. Let’s take a look at two respected assessment tools that you can use to gain a clearer picture of the assets you bring to your business venture and the areas you may need to strengthen or supplement.
Myers-Briggs: Learn your personality type
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a self-report questionnaire that reveals both your personality type (there are 16 possibilities) and how you prefer to do things. With this knowledge in hand, you will learn to recognize patterns, gain confidence and learn how best to present your ideas.
Here’s an example: Your Myers-Briggs type might indicate that you like to talk to others when gathering information, that you love to do research, that you tend to make decisions based on gut instinct or feelings, and that you are most comfortable when things have been decided or resolved, rather than left up in the air.
These traits suggest that you might be someone who doesn’t know when to stop researching and as a consequence has trouble setting realistic timelines or meeting the timelines you quote to your customers. Unresolved, these are both issues that will harm your customer service, your reputation and ultimately the success of your business venture. However, if you are aware of these characteristics, you can make adjustments so they don’t negatively impact your business.
DISC: Understand your behavioral style
The DISC assessment will give you detailed feedback about your natural and adapted ways of behaving in work and life situations. DISC identifies four behavioral styles: dominance (how you see the picture and your level of drive); influence (how you engage with people); steadiness (your pace and consistency of engagement); and conscientiousness (how you approach action).
Your score in each area will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses in business and even predict how you will behave in given scenarios. For instance, if you score low in conscientiousness, you may be more comfortable with the brainstorming stage of developing your business plan than with the implementation stage. That’s important information that you will need if your business venture is to succeed.
Of course, self-knowledge only gets you partway to where you need to be. You may need or want to partner with a mentor or a professional coach to assist you in leveraging the information gained from an assessment to benefit you and your startup business.
I urge you to take advantage of these powerful tools. Time and again, I have seen profile and assessment tools make an outsized impact on my clients’ professional and business success. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of self-knowledge in your startup success.
The landscape of entrepreneurship is littered with examples of amazing business startup ideas that failed simply because the entrepreneur behind them overlooked this critical step. Having a clear picture of your strengths, weaknesses and areas where you need to grow will help you avoid this fate.
Remember, you are the common denominator in your entrepreneurial venture. Be sure that you know you just as well as you know your business!
Israel-based Rewire, a fintech startup that develops cross-border online banking services, has raised $ 20M (approx €16.5M) in its Series B round of funding and has also received a significant line of credit from a leading bank.
Investors in this round
The Series B was led by OurCrowd, and included new key investors Renegade Partners, Glilot Capital Partners (via their early growth fund Glilot+), and Jerry Yang, former Yahoo! CEO and director at Alibaba, through AME Cloud Ventures.
Current investors include Viola Fintech, BNP Paribas via Opera Tech Ventures, Moneta Capital, and private angel investors.
The current round of funding will enable the fintech startup to continue enhancing its product portfolio and services, as well as its strategic partnerships in the migrant’s country of origin and the country in which they currently reside.
How does Rewire solve the cross-border needs of migrants?
Rewire is the first neobank for migrants worldwide. It was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Guy Kashtan (CEO), Adi Ben Dayan (VP R&D), Saar Yahalom (CTO), and Or Benoz.
To answer the unique cross-border needs of migrants, Rewire uses its technology and develops strategic partnerships with leading financial institutions in the migrant’s country of origin and in their new home. The fintech is able to provide the accessibility of financial services to migrants, including the transfer of money and payment accounts to upcoming advanced financial services such as bill payments, savings, and mortgage loans.
Rewire’s customer base includes migrated immigrants from Europe from over 20 countries in Asia and Africa such as the Philippines, Nigeria, India, Thailand, and China. With the help of technology, strategic partnerships, and values of equality, inclusivity, and social good, Rewire is able to provide financial services to make immigrants feel at home.
Rewire partners with leading financial investors and banks such as BNP Group and Standard Bank of South Africa (SBSA), one of the largest banks in Africa. Rewire integrates banking services into its platform and provides global accounts to its customers.
Rewire is expanding to serve customers from additional countries in Asia and Africa in the near future.
Licences are major steps towards fulfilling Rewire’s vision?
Rewire has recently secured its EU Electronic Money Institution licence (EMI), granted by the Dutch Central Bank, which allows the fintech startup to (a) issue electronic money, (b) provide payment services, and (c) engage in money remittance.
The fintech was also granted an expanded Israeli Financial Asset Service Provider. By acquiring these licenses, Rewire believes it is in the right direction to provide secure and accessible financial services for migrant workers worldwide.
Rewire CEO, Guy Kashtan says, “At our core, we aim to create financial inclusion. Everything that we do at Rewire is aimed to help migrants to build a more financially secure future for themselves and their families. To do so, we aim to provide services that go beyond traditional banking services such as insurance payments in the migrant’s home country and savings accounts. This investment and licenses are major steps towards fulfilling our company’s vision and will be used for additional expansion of geographies and products.”
To boost its cross-border solution, besides offering remittance services, payment account, and debit card, Rewire plans to add new value-added services to its platform such as bill payments and insurance, in addition to credit and loan services, investments, and savings. With these services, Rewire is able to make its first-rate financial services more accessible to migrants and, thus, include them in the financial systems.
Growth during the pandemic
In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Rewire saw success. With $ 500M (approx €413.27M) processes through its systems, the company claims to have tripled its customer base in 2020 and will soon reach 0.5M registered users, with 40 per cent attributed to organic growth.
Rewire has penetrated new markets in Europe and the UK and introduced new cross-border bill payments. It has established solid partnerships with prominent financial institutions in multiple countries such as UkrSibbank in Ukraine and mobile wallet enablers in Nigeria and the Philippines.
Serving dozens of nationalities, Rewire offers its cross-border solution in 8 different languages and a localised app.