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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Voicemod, the startup shaping the digital voice of people in 190 countries

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Five years ago, Voicemod was preparing for closure. Some of its mobile applications, focused on real-time voice modification, had hundreds of thousands of users but failed to generate enough revenue. Months earlier, an exclusive service contract for Yahoo seemed to solve the problem: in December, the money would run out and after passing accelerators like Wayra or Demium, after several rounds of investments, the tarnishing Valencian would stay in mute. The tech giant bought AOL, their teams started merging and that lifeline collapsed: “We went on vacation because we knew that either we’d come up with something in September or our adventure would eventually become a story Networking“. This is how Jaime Bosch (39 years old) remembers for EL PAÍS, the youngest of the three brothers (Fer, 47; Juan, 44) who brought together their two passions, music and computers, in 2009. Their story is one of rock, code and innovation, “because what our developments are used for today was unimaginable when we asked for our first credit. If it weren’t for the company’s focus on innovation, we would have closed each of the five times we came close.”

This August, the Bosch brothers go on vacation with very different feelings than that month of 2017 (and an active rock group, Bosque). Voicemod is a benchmark for creating a vocal identity in video games on-line and the future that is reaching us: the Metaverse. “We noticed something we didn’t give enough attention to: people were using voices from the PC.” In the late ’90s, the elders of this trio formed a company dedicated to custom technological development. After many years of websites and other less fun solutions, the purchase of an iPhone 3GS signaled that mobile software would have a relevant weight in the next decade. “We were obsessed with that storesrising up applications, and just before it disappeared, we realized that direct traffic to our site was uncharacteristic. What if all these innovations, these technologies that we focused on modifying voices in mobile games and calls, were used more productively in online interactions, in video games or networks?

Voicemod is now a standard when creating calls skins Audio; a sound identity that works in real time, like an Instagram filter, but with the voice. Users can create their own or – the most common – use ready-made ones and change them according to the situations and dynamics of a game. So they can scare someone live with ogre seriousness, impersonate an old man, a confused teenager, a smurf, a squirrel, or get all their words right (unlimited autotune). “The social turn of video games, the massive emergence of squads (Groups of players completing missions in a gang that constantly communicate with each other) and finally the explosion of the electricity They have allowed us to grow exponentially.” As planned, the liquid funds ran out at the end of 2017 and the founders fired themselves and their other four employees: “We left the business model we had started, reduced the company to an intuition. And not only did it exceed the number of users needed in the first month, but the conversion rate (those paying to have access to all sorts of voices and mods) went from a hypothetical 1% to 4%. By spring we had already re-hired the team.” Today, they continue to work with them, among the company’s more than 150 employees.

Half of its business (11 million euros turnover in 2021) takes place in the United States. In addition, it is other Anglo-Saxon countries that cover the largest share of their market: Great Britain, Canada, Australia … For this reason, in 2020 they started working in English as their mother tongue, although their headquarters remain in Valencia and they have collaborators in several countries and a model of total teleworking. Currently, Fer and Juan are responsible for the innovation area, where they say: “The main influence continues to be a department dedicated to the task of listening to user suggestions. Our improvements and successes are always due to the fact that we didn’t make the product up, but listened to the real needs of our customers.” Jaime is still wearing the manager’s suit (albeit with a t-shirt and jeans): “In these Years of expansion, the challenge has been to avoid imposter syndrome and, while attracting the best talent in the world, to reposition yourself to own your own company and embrace humility as your role”. Music helps all of this, as it did in the beginning, because as they prepare to a player more in the artificial voice revolution, it’s easy to find them guitar in hand, as if still playing with their other seven brothers at the family home, where computers and rock already took a good chunk of their dreams.

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Source elpais.com

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