Founder Profile: Creating The Open Source Voice Assistant With Joshua Montgomery of Mycroft AI
- Sep 04, 2018
Key Deal Stats:
Raising Platform: StartEngine
Valuation: $19.9M Pre-Money
Security Type: Common shares
Amount Raised Prior To Current Round: $2.5M
As of September 4th, Mycroft AI had raised $490.5K of the current round
I still remember in 2014 when Amazon Alexa was introduced to the world in a promotional video and most people thought it was a literal joke. The idea of having this home device you chat with integrated into your home was so radical that most people struggled to conceptualize it as normal.
Fast forward 4 years and smart speakers have become ubiquitous with the All American home. But one major concern raised by millions of Americans is the fact that the smart speaker revolution is owned by Apple, Amazon and Google, three of the largest companies in the world. The idea that these companies could listen into every one of your conversations and utilize it to sell your products and services is too overbearing for many.
That is where Josh Montgomery of Mycroft AI sees an opportunity. Perhaps creating an open source AI assistant not owned by any major entity and with a focus on privacy could play a major role in empowering millions of more Americans to adopt smart device tech. Want to know more about the fascinating organization now raising on StartEngine? Check out our discussion with Josh below...
Joshua, can you provide us with a bit of background on the Mycroft AI origin story?
Joshua: We wanted to build JARVIS from Iron Man into our makerspace. At the time Echo, Home, Homepod, etc. didn’t exist so we set out to build our own voice assistant. After a Kickstarter a couple of business accelerators and a couple rounds of venture funding we find ourselves inhabiting the open segment of a multi-billion dollar market.
Can you explain what open source AI means and why it’s a better way of building voice assistants?
Joshua: Hard technology problems can be solved two ways. Throw money at it, or build a strong community around it. We chose the latter, Big Tech chose the former. Looking back on other ground breaking technologies like x86 servers, dynamic web content, mobile devices and big data, it is clear to us that the open approach can and does lead to success.
What are the key differentiators of Mycroft over other personal assistants from the likes of Amazon and Google and how do you compete with those deep wallet competitors?
Joshua: We are focused on building technology that is useful, intuitive, secure and private. Big Tech only cares about the first three. Big Tech already monitors everything people do online, they track every click, every scroll and every action people take.
When it comes to having a device that listens in your home 24/7 many people have decided enough is enough and are avoiding voice technology. We are working to bring those people a great experience while preserving their privacy. We’re not there yet (our user experience sprint kicks off tomorrow with the release of 18.08b) but we are getting very close.
How will Mycroft products price in comparison to Google and Amazon products?
Joshua: For consumer devices we’re competitive. On the server side we offer something they don’t - the ability to deploy a voice assistant inside your home or within your corporate perimeter that can be customized and branded for the partner.
On the B2B side of the business what is the monetization model? Is it a SaaS pricing model or a hardware 1 time fee model or a combination of both?
Joshua: We charge a license for each server deployed.( $1,500/mo ). Each server can service 5,000 consumer accounts.
The estimated timeline is that by Black Friday of 2019 you will have a full product line in-stores. What products will be available to consumers?
Joshua: We plan to have our full line in stores by the end of November 2019. They will be priced similar to Big Tech’s products with similar features.
Is Mycroft AI also in the business of hardware manufacturing or will you look to partner with manufacturers of speakers, etc. to install your software?
Joshua: We are working with a contract manufacturer to fulfill hardware orders. We designed them here in the US, but have to manufacture them overseas to provide competitive pricing.
Who are your target customers on the B2C side?
Joshua: People who want to deploy voice technology but are uncomfortable giving Big Tech 24/7 access to their home.
In terms of the B2B strategy, what channels have you seen have interest in your product offering and why?
Joshua: Almost every industry out there. Insurance companies, car makers, consumer products, boat manufacturers, leasure - you name it and they are interested in voice. Generally they contact us after they’ve tried a Big Tech solution and found out that they can’t customize it the way they want to. We also get a log of incoming interest from people who view Big Tech as a potential competitor and don’t want to hand over their customers to them.
Being that this is an open sourced project what is the long term liquidity strategy? Do you want to remain private, be acquired or remain independent to maintain your mission?
Joshua: We are in it for the long haul. We are building an AI that runs anywhere and interacts exactly like a person. We are already selling shares to the public at StartEngine and will most likely provide liquidity in the future by listing on an exchange.
Why did the team decide to pursue an equity crowdfunding round and how do you plan to deploy the capital?
Joshua: We wanted to expand our investor pool to include our community and our customers. We know that having all these investors on our cap table means a lot more than just money. It means we now have ambassadors around the world spreading the word of Mycroft and help make the technology better everyday. We are deploying the capital to fund operations as well as R&D.
What additional capital will you need to raise in order to get to a point where you can commercialize this product in time for Black Friday 2019?
Joshua: We are in the process of raising a Series A. We don’t have firm numbers yet, but are working to evaluate our milestones and will share more when we have some certainty.
Open source technology has been a powerful force in the world of tech for the past 20 years. Be it Wordpress, mongoDB or Redhat all of which are billion dollar plus entities, open source brings significant value that major corporations could never deliver.
The opportunity to bring an open source solution to the voice assistant market, which is growing at an exorbitant pace is setting this team up for a major opportunity.
Be sure to invest HERE.