Speaking is the most natural way to communicate, but until recently there was a major gap between the human voice and technology. With all too many #SiriFails and Amazon Alexa shopping sprees, the process of talking with technology – whether in the home, car or on mobile devices – was broken.
Everyone understood the problem, but no one had fundamentally solved it. In the last couple of years, several companies have attempted to improve voice interactions with products and services, creating a noisy market of Siri-like developer tools. Yet none had a clear point of differentiation for not only the developers building the products, but also for the consumers who relied on them.
To set itself apart from the plethora of voice-tech developer products, Api.ai selected VSC to achieve three strategic goals: 1) differentiate from competitors, 2) drive developer signups, and 3) draw media attention for new products that appealed to developers.
Our Strategy – Win on Speed
VSC’s recommendation was to beat the Big Four to the punch with developer-centric innovations that demonstrated agility and ease with giving voice to nearly any product or service.
We analyzed the market in terms of what already existed and what areas were ripe for innovation. It became clear that developers faced a fragmented ecosystem, one where Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple, made it way too hard to make conversational interfaces worth using. Thus, we focused on a developer-first message that worked for innovation and maximum benefit for consumers.
What We Recommended and How We Made it Happen
- Product: Launch products exclusively for wearables, bots, automobiles, apps and the IoT.
- Messaging: Talk about the speed at which Api.ai could deploy its AI-powered voice solutions and how easy it was to integrate with any IoT device.
- Pedigree: Leverage Api.ai’s platform, which was backed by data from over 2 billion voice commands – making it the largest open natural language and intent response platform available.
- Media: Set up interactive demos, ensuring key journalists could try out the new voice-enabled solutions.
A Voice Technology You Actually Want to Talk To
With speed and developer signs-up at the forefront, we proposed Api.ai launch several solutions aimed at giving what current and potential customers needed. To that end, we launched Api.ai for Slack, Api.ai for Auto, Api.ai for IoT and API.ai for Twilio.
It’s rare for companies of Api.ai’s size to be up for the new products we proposed, making it even more satisfying when they launch and the feature stories rolled in. Through exclusive product innovation news placements in top media, myriad briefings with thought leaders and journalists, proactive commentary on issues around diversity and guest posts in elite tech publications, our strategies led to a fast-paced rhythm of coverage in top tier media.
Beyond developer-focused media, VSC specializes in up-leveling B2B companies to get mainstream media coverage in unique ways. For example, we tapped into Api.ai’s own data to conduct a pop culture survey on the role of voice assistants called “Virtual Assistant Report” which focused on how consumers use and feel about digital assistants. By polling 12,000 customers, we uncovered that 39% would fall for a voice assistant if it it loved them back. We then worked with major media to cover the news including placements in the Huffington Post, Fusion and iDigital Times.
We exceeded brand, product and PR goals, and quickly reached developers. This led to signups and momentum, investment and eventual acquisition by Google in 2016.
Here are a handful of the significant features throughout our time with Api.ai:
Inc: Meet the Startup That’s Not Afraid to Compete With Apple, Google — and Now, Facebook
“What do you do if you launch a new product, only to have Apple introduce its own version six months later? You don’t let fear get the better of you. You stay the course, and work to make the best product you can. And you start looking for areas of the market that the big boys aren’t serving. That’s the strategy that worked for Api.ai.” – Inc
Forbes: Adding Insight To Communications, api.ai Integrates With Twilio To Create Siri-Like Automation
“By developing a conversational interface, and making it seamless for organizations to leverage that platform within their own real-time conversational tools, API.AI will bring a heightened level of customer service and efficiency to the service function within organizations.” – Forbes
Programmable Web: api.ai Launches Platform Agnostic Voice Interface for Connected Cars
“The voice interface is highly customizable and capable of working with any head unit operating system. The platform includes pre-built voice interface capabilities and allows developers to build custom voice-enabled applications. api.ai has been working with automotive manufacturers as well as OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to enable intelligent voice assistant capabilities in connected car platforms and applications. The company has also been talking with several automotive OEMs that provide open platforms and APIs for developers. The idea being to voice-enable open automotive platforms providing APIs that developers can use to build head unit applications. – Programmable Web
TechCrunch: Api.ai Raises $3M For Its Siri-Like Conversational UI, Makes Developer Usage Free
“The round is being led by SAIC Capital, the U.S.-based venture capital arm of China’s largest automaker, SAIC Motor. That’s noteworthy given that SAIC Capital is another backer with ties to the automotive industry, where voice driven interfaces make a lot of sense. Previous investors Intel Capital, and Alpine Technology Fund also participated, along with Motorola Solutions Venture Capital. However, the biggest news is perhaps that the additional investment is allowing api.ai to drop the fees for developers using its API, as the company switches to a business model based on large enterprise consulting and support, customisation and on-premise or private cloud installation and licensing.” – TechCrunch
Huffington Post: Almost Half Of Us Say We Could Fall In Love With Siri
“Siri can tell you what the weather is going to be, it can even help you plan your day but could it eventually be the one you want to spend the rest of your life with? According to research by Api.ai nearly half of us admitted that we could end up falling in love with an AI if it loved us back.” – Huffington Post
iDigital Times: Can Artificial Intelligence Give You The Best Wakeup Call
“A new Android only alarm clock app wants to ease the suffering. The alarm clock app – fittingly called Assistant – could change how you wake up and how you process information. Instead of an assistant, you have an app. Instead of a briefing, you peruse info during your morning routine. It streamlines your morning through artificial intelligence and machine learning to give you a curated experience based upon all the information you need for the day.” – iDigital Times
International Business Times: Tech Diversity: These Startups Are Breaking the Brogrammer Mold
“Api.ai, which makes conversational voice interface software that third-party developers can integrate into their apps, is one of the startups that has a Rooney Rule-like policy in place. Every time api.ai has an opening, the company includes female and ethnically diverse individuals in its pool of candidates. This is accomplished by giving serious consideration to candidates from schools that don’t typically feed into Silicon Valley. Additionally, api.ai works with TenXList, an organization that identifies top female software engineers and recommends them to tech companies when they are hiring.” – IBTimes
re/Code: Siri and Alexa Were Never Cut Out to Be Homemakers
“Viva la voice-enabled home! Well, not so fast. As reviews of voice-enabled technology surface, from first-party products like the Echo to third-party products integrated with HomeKit, a central point resounds: That voice enabled tech is, in fact, “quite stupid.” — original bylined article in re/Code