Dublin’s SoapBox Labs raises €5.8m in Series A funding

21 Apr 2020

A man teaching a child how to read. Image: © edward_indy

SoapBox Labs plans to capitalise on global market opportunities for its speech recognition technology.

Dublin-based SoapBox Labs has announced that it raised €5.8m in Series A funding, bringing the total raised by the start-up to €10.2m.

The round was led by Elkstone Capital and Astia, with additional backing from private investors and the Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.

Founded by former Bell Labs researcher Dr Patricia Scanlon, the speech recognition technology company will use the investment to scale the systems it has been developing for children over the last seven years.

The funding

“SoapBox is at the nexus of some big trends right now – remote learning, voice, kidtech and data privacy,” Scanlon said. “We’ve invested deeply over the last seven years in our people and our technology.

“With this funding, we’re poised to capitalise on our strengths and the global market opportunities opening up to us in literacy, language learning and toys.”

The company said its plans to continue working with its “proprietary, high-accuracy speech recognition technology”, which “caters to the idiosyncrasies and unique speech patterns of children that traditional speech technology is unable to decode”. This tech can be used to power third-party digital games, literacy and English language learning offerings for children.

Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia, said: “We’re pleased to participate in this new funding round that positions the company for international growth and we’re excited to be part of the SoapBox Labs family and story.”

Astia primarily invests in women-led, high-growth ventures. Other companies in Astia’s portfolio include beauty data start-up Poshly, ‘ugly fruit’ company Full Harvest and nVision, which was acquired by Boston Scientific in 2018.

Alan Merriman, principal at Elkstone Capital, added: “SoapBox Labs are truly at the leading edge globally of voice technology for kids – and with voice-enabled tech becoming so pivotal, and huge multi-market growth predicted, it’s an Irish company we’ll be hearing a lot more about.

“A stellar deep tech team with a real edge and global ambitions, I’ve no doubt SoapBox Labs has the ability to really scale as evidenced by the number of top tier collaborations they already have with leading global players in numerous verticals.”

Voice tech

Since the start-up was founded in 2013, SoapBox Labs has already racked up major deals with Microsoft and US education institutes, as well as being named one of Europe’s hottest start-ups in 2019 by Wired UK.

Last month, the company announced its latest product, Fluency, which enables teachers to assess children’s reading fluency using voice recognition technology.

The start-up said that the integration of voice technology into existing formative and summative assessments can offer educators and parents immediate feedback about a child’s progress.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic