A Q&A with Beyond Verbal CEO Yuval Mor. The Tel Aviv-based company, which has developed emotion-sensing voice recognition technology, raised $2.8 million in Seed funding in mid-May from Genesis Angels. It was founded in 2012.
SUB: Please describe Beyond Verbal and your primary innovation.
Mor: Beyond Verbal Communication, Ltd. commercializes patented technology that extracts individuals’ full set of emotions and character traits, using their raw voice in real-time, as they speak.
Extracting, decoding, and measuring human moods, attitudes, and decision-making characteristics introduces a whole new dimension of emotional understanding—what we call ‘Emotions Analytics’—and transforms the way we interact with machines and with each other.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Mor: With established experience in the service center arena, Beyond Verbal now opens its core technology through an over-the-Cloud API to partnerships in the fields of consumer applications, mobile devices, and appliances. Deploying this paradigm means we focus on perfecting our Emotions Analytics engine and availing it over-the-Cloud to our partners who focus on creating emotionally powered apps, devices and solutions. Our goal is to work with our partners to introduce Emotions Analytics capabilities in practically any voice-powered device, system or application out there.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Mor: There are many companies trying to understand our moods, attitudes and character. Most do it by crawlers that gather and analyze text in order to try and figure out if what we say is really what we mean. Others try to put a different spin on it by transcribing spoken words. All are severely impacted by our own human cognition—words are poor as emotional yardsticks—and are inundated by massive rule processing, language, and cultural relevancy. Others try to analyze facial expressions with limited results due to technology barriers. Yet others use human crowdsourcing, which is great if time, money, and flow are non-issues.
SUB: What differentiates Beyond Verbal from the competition?
Mor: To our best judgment, and patents, Beyond Verbal stands apart as the only technology capable of providing real-time, full spectrum emotional analysis out of raw, language agnostic, vocal intonations.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Mor: Beyond Verbal was founded in early-2012 by a group of veteran entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and experience in taking early-stage companies to market success. It was founded on the basis of acquiring a technology that was developed by our team of scientists since 1995. Therefore, the company had to start doing a few things in parallel, including due diligence to the technology and business prospects; securing the initial funding to be used for acquiring the technology and starting the operations of the company; putting together the business and operational plan for the first 12 months of operations; and recruiting the initial team to set the plan in motion.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Beyond Verbal? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Mor: Dr. Yoram Levanon, our chief scientist, started out with trying to understand how babies, who do not understand a single word, manage to know exactly what their caretakers feel towards them. Being a physicist by training, as well as having degrees in statistics and operation research, Yoram went to look into the physical modulations of air pressures that carry the sounds around us to look for the answer. Together with his colleague, Dr. Lan Lossos, neuropsychologist from Harvard, they started out on an 18-year journey of breakthrough physical, neuropsychological, and decision-making research that has included more than 60,000 test subjects speaking 26 different languages. This research led to 18 scientific discoveries—protected by a portfolio of patents—that today enable us to automatically extract human moods, attitudes and emotional characteristics from human voice intonations in real-time, as people speak.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Mor: Since we look beyond the verbal to understand the dimension of emotions in peoples’ communications, naming the company Beyond Verbal, or in its full name: Beyond Verbal Communication, Ltd., sounded like the natural thing to do.
SUB: You recently raised $2.8 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Mor: Our timing was good in the sense that we have not encountered any specific issues originating from the overall situation of the world economy and the condition of the financial markets. Never-the-less, pitching a truly revolutionary idea to investors is always a challenge—regardless of timing. We feel ourselves very fortunate to be backed by such a team of committed, visionary and passionate investors.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise more venture funding in the near future?
Mor: Following our announcement of the fund completion we are constantly approached by investment organizations from around the world. While we are highly grateful and appreciative of their support, we are—never-the-less—100 percent focused on developing our business and delivering our targets. We believe that meeting and exceeding our goals are the best way to create market traction and ultimately, the best judge in regard to any future round.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Mor: Leading a new field is never easy. We chose Emotions Analytics because we believe that introducing emotions into every aspect of our lives could help us understand better and achieve more in practically everything we do. Being a trailblazer, however, is anything but trivial. Threading the road less traveled requires us to think differently and put a lot of emphasis in both spreading the gospel as well as in choosing the right innovative companions.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Mor: In opening our technology through an API over the Cloud, we look for partners that speak the same language and are on the same wavelength. Working through a managed service business model and deploying Emotions Analytics far and wide, we have started marketing Emotions Analytics usage packages to independent developers, established solution integrators, and device manufacturers.
SUB: What are your goals for Beyond Verbal over the next year or so?
Mor: Our goals are to introduce emotions understanding into practically everything we do. Having closed our Seed round, our goal for the coming year is to bring market traction through a string of Cloud-based partnerships, expand our Emotions Analytics engine capabilities, and spread the gospel—driving through the understanding that vocal intonation holds the key to capitalize on this blue ocean of opportunity. Because after all, it’s not what you say but how you say it.
Beyond Verbal – www.beyondverbal.com