Less than a year after its inception in August 2021, accent translation technology startup Sanas has raised $32 million in a Series A funding round, led by Insight Partners. TechCrunch reported post-money valuation at 150 million USD.
GV, Assurant Ventures and angel investor Gokul Rajaram also participated, as did existing investors Human Capital, General Catalyst, Quiet Capital and DN Capital.
BPO heavyweight Alorica is also entering into a strategic partnership with Sanas to bring the technology to Alorica’s 100,000 employees and 250 enterprise customers (including Assurant).
The Palo Alto-headquartered company is the brainchild of three students at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL).
Maxim Serebryakov, Shawn Zhang and Andrés Pérez Soderi, all first-generation immigrants to the United States themselves, were inspired by the struggles of a friend who worked in a call center in his home country of Nicaragua, while on leave from Stanford. Despite his fluency in English, the friend suffered abuse from American customers who disliked his accent.
The platform, which is already in use in China, Japan and South Korea, allows users to select the accent they want to use in real time. Serebryakov, CEO of Sanas, was cited as comparing the technology to social media avatars for user appearances, but applied to a user’s voice instead. Sanas would be compatible with more than 800 applications related to communication.
To avoid potential abuse, customers do not use a cloud-based version of the technology, which is on-premises. Customers control their own data, which passes through and is generated by Sanas. The software can only be used by individual speakers, who in turn can only control their voice.
Sanas is currently in the process of patenting his technology and process, which involves feeding thousands of hours of speech with different accents into an algorithm and matching phonemes with other sounds.
No voice translation
The Sanas platform works for any language. Although the company advertises itself as offering “real-time translation without the latency of text-to-speech”, Sanas’ “accent translation” does not allow a user to speak another language. Rather, it changes a user’s pronunciation of a given word in the spoken language.
Thus, “accent translation” is very different from speech translation, in which both Apple and Facebook have invested heavily. What Sanas is doing seems to be closer to voice cloning, one of the steps that can be used in AI dubbing.
The 80% immigrant Sanas team envisions its initial target users as customer service agents in offshore call centers, whose challenges mirror those of the founders’ friend.
Their work also allows for a simplified use case, as agents need to be able to communicate clearly with customers, but not necessarily convey a wide range of emotions during those interactions.
In addition to opening an office in India – an ideal location based on the numerous call centers located in the Asia-Pacific region – the team plans to use the Series A funds to recruit more R&D experts. , AI and technology.
Sharath Keshava Narayanaion, formerly of Observe.AI, joined Sanas as co-founder and COO in May 2022. Managing Director of Insight Partners, Ganesh belland Aryaka Networks Chairman of the Board, Ram Guptawill join the board of directors of Sanas.