Dublin-based SoapBox Labs expands into the US

18 Mar 2021

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The Irish edtech company has promoted three employees to its leadership team as part of the expansion.

The edtech market is growing at a rate of more than 16pc per year and is forecast to more than double in size by 2025, reaching $404bn in total global expenditure.

Dublin-based company SoapBox Labs is capitalising on this growth, announcing its expansion into the US.

The company develops voice technology for kids. It creates, builds and innovates around children’s speech, designing algorithms and using deep learning to develop accurate and safe solutions for kids as young as three.

Founded in 2013 by former Bell Labs researcher Dr Patricia Scanlon, 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.

In the last year, SoapBox Labs welcomed 10 new team members, the majority of which were speech engineers and scientists. The company also raised €5.8m in Series A funding.

Most recently, US-based Amplify adopted SoapBox Labs’ voice technology to enable the remote evaluation of students’ reading fluency, accuracy and comprehension.

Scanlon said brands and companies are starting to realise what she already knew to be true. “Voice technology built using adult voices does not work for children,” she said.

“In order to meet the increasing need for voice-enabled solutions that actually work in kids’ play and learning, we’re now scaling our diverse, committed and world-class team at home and abroad,” she said.

Three new VPs

As part of its expansion, SoapBox Labs has promoted three employees to leadership positions based in Ireland and the US.

Jonathan Hume is now the vice-president of global edtech sales, having spent the last 16 years in business development roles at a variety of tech companies.

Dr Amelia Kelly has been promoted to vice-president of speech technology, with more than a decade of experience in speech signal processing, natural language processing, machine learning and AI.

And Robert O’Regan is now vice-president of engineering, with a background in development in both start-ups and enterprise-level companies spanning more than 20 years.

Dr Martyn Farrows, COO of SoapBox Labs, said the promotions are great news for the company and “a statement of intent” about its leadership in voice tech for kids, in the US and worldwide.

“We’ve been following [Hume’s] career over the years and he has kept in touch with our progress too, so welcoming him now as our VP of global edtech sales based in the US is a real milestone achievement for us,” he said.

“Rob O’Regan and Dr Amelia Kelly have been with the company since 2015 and together have been responsible, along with their teams, for a lot of the innovation and under-the-hood success of our voice for kids engine.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic