Learn Language Through Song with Univoice

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Univoice has been selected as a “Deal to Watch” by KingsCrowd. This distinction is reserved for deals selected into the top 10%-20% of our due diligence funnel. If you have questions regarding our deal diligence and selection methodology, please reach out to hello@kingscrowd.com.

The Univoice founder is part of traditionally underrepresented groups in startup investing.


Learning new languages is an eternal goal for many, whether for business purposes or simply for fun and travel. In fact, at least 1.2 billion people worldwide are learning a language at any given time. However, learning a new language is notoriously difficult. While children can more easily pick up grammar and vocabulary and build fluency in one or more new languages, adults’ evolved learning styles mean it’s more difficult to make a new language stick.

Most people are in need of more effective language retention techniques. Music might be a prime candidate. There is some evidence that music helps to retain learned information. According to scholars at Johns Hopkins University, “music creates a soundtrack for a learning activity… when information is put to rhythm and rhyme these musical elements will provide a hook for recall.”

Apps like Duolingo dominate the language-learning market right now. But it’s unclear how effective they are at actually teaching sustained language skills. Is there an opportunity to blend language-learning with music for better results?


Univoice is an app that teaches languages through music. Users pick a language to learn along with a music genre and song to learn to. Then they sing along in a new language, receiving instant feedback on pronunciation while reading along with translations in their native language. 

Univoice partners with major record labels to license song catalogs in several languages. The company is wrapping up a long negotiation cycle with a Top 50 record label to acquire songs from Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and more. Univoice is also in talks with Sony Music to develop a custom catalogue agreement which would grant Univoice access to Billboard hits across supported languages. 

Univoice was incorporated in September 2018 and soft-launched in March 2019. Since then, the product has been slowly gaining a user base in advance of a hard launch in Q4 2020. The app has been downloaded 2,500 times and boasts 750 monthly active users with 3,400 monthly sessions. These users spend an average of 6.4 minutes on the app. 

Univoice is in the midst of raising a seed round with 60% of financing already raised from seven angel investors. The company has not yet generated any revenue, as all existing users are presumably on freemium plans. In 2019, the company recorded a net loss of $170,000.

The Team

Univoice was founded by Sami Halabi, a language and music enthusiast with sales and marketing experience. Halabi graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in International Relations and Global Studies. He spent several years working in sales for an international youth talent staffing organization, and currently serves as a Digital Marketing Manager for Oracle. Outside of these professional pursuits, Halabi is fluent in four languages and conversational in a fifth, and he reportedly performs music as often as possible. 

Halabi hired two more senior executives to bring Univoice to life. Bryan Riester, the company’s CPO and COO, is an entrepreneur and software developer with previous business development and founding experience. Head of User Acquisition Greg Nicholson has significant experience in sales and business development for Microsoft, Vantage Media, Oracle, and more.

Growth Plan

Univoice is planning for a hard launch in Q4 2020 with a multichannel user acquisition plan. This go-to-market strategy includes content marketing, paid advertisements, organic and paid influencer and affiliate marketing, and optimization strategies to boost discoverability in the App Store and Google Play. 

Concurrently, Univoice will begin to monetize the app. Users will be able to learn for 30 minutes per month on a free plan. However if they want to access the full catalog of languages and songs, they will need to upgrade to a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or biannual subscription ranging from $2.99 to $35.99. Univoice will also generate a smaller stream of revenue from in-app advertisements targeted at free users. 

In the longer term, Univoice also plans to generate revenue by licensing a proprietary audio content management and transcription software that streamlines the translation and synchronization of songs.

Why We Like it

  • Unique language-learning approach: Univoice is first to market with a music-based language learning app. This provides significant differentiation from mainstream leaders like Duolingo. Moreover, the app is enabled by proprietary software that translates and transcribes songs into different languages, meaning that a language incumbent like Duolingo must cross a moat to compete within this niche. Given that music-enabled learning is a proven approach for long-term retention, Univoice occupies a unique and compelling corner of the language-learning market.
  • Support from senior executives and angel investors: Univoice was soft launched at the home of SXSW founder Louis Black. This impressive network of connections led the company to gain investment from several Silicon Valley angel investors. CEO Sami Halabi, who is relatively junior in his career, is also supported by two more senior executives with entrepreneurship and sales/marketing experience. Halabi’s ability to form meaningful connections with industry leaders — including teams at top record labels like Sony — is a strong signal that Univoice’s broader network of advisors and team members will be a significant asset toward growth.


Univoice is a unique concept for language learning that is far more intriguing and compelling than memorizing the same old flashcards on an app like Duolingo. Clearly others agree, as the startup has been funded by and employs senior executives from a wide variety of industries. These facts — combined with the app’s early engagement rates from its soft launch — indicate that the full launch later this year could be a strong success. 

However, it is important for prospective investors to note that Univoice is still very early stage. Only 2,500 users have piloted the app so far. Also, the company has not successfully monetized the concept. While the Univoice team has clearly planned the app’s hard launch in Q4 2020 extensively, it remains to be seen whether language-learning via music will be compelling for a large population of users. The company will live or die by the success of that launch, which is a major question mark. 

If Univoice’s launch is successful and the company earns a place alongside other major language learning apps, there are several paths for acquisition. Univoice already has relationships with executives at top record labels like Sony. While unlikely, a music distribution company might be willing to purchase Univoice for its community and song translation capabilities before launching a branded language-learning app. More likely, though, Univoice could become a target for acquisition by Duolingo or Babbel, the leading language-learning players. Babbel reported garnering 1 million subscriptions in 2019 and bought a smaller language startup that same year. The company is clearly interested in diversifying language-learning methods, and a music-based app like Univoice may be a promising addition to the product family. 

While Univoice is largely an unproven concept, early signals indicate that the app may fill a niche in the language-learning market and win the interest of larger incumbents like Babbel or Duolingo. The app’s differentiated approach to language acquisition and support from senior executives and investors are strong signals that Univoice has what it takes to succeed. Therefore, this is a Deal to Watch.

About: Katy Dolan

Katy is a marketing and research consultant to startups (including VC-backed companies, small businesses, and advocacy movements). With experience in tech, venture capital, politics, and non-profits, Katy partners with clients to strategize and execute compelling campaigns focused on user experience and empathetic narrative. Katy graduated cum laude from Harvard College with an AB in Sociology.

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