founder

SapientX Founder David Colleen Discusses the Importance of Listening

Introduction

Busy people are increasingly relying on voice assistants for sending texts, setting reminders, and more – but today’s voice assistant reminders often fall short. Using current voice assistant options can feel clunky and pointless for users due to delays and limited integration options. 

SapientX serves as a digital brain that allows voice assistants to understand and respond to the natural cadence and tone of human voices. SapientX has high conversation accuracy at 99%, runs offline, and doesn’t sell sensitive information to private parties. We reached out to co-founder and CEO David Colleen to hear more about how his team got together and some of the company’s plans.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Carolyn Price

In your own words, how would you describe SapientX?

David Colleen

We make and license artificial intelligence (AI) software that adds a voice and intelligence to our customers’ products.

Carolyn Price

What are you most focused on in 2022?

David Colleen

We are razer-focused on shipping our software in our customers’ products.

Carolyn Price

What inspired you to take the leap and start SapientX?

David Colleen

Back in 2008, we were developing navigation systems for the auto and handheld markets. We were frustrated with the lack of accuracy in the voice systems available to us then, and these systems required people to learn commands. We decided that we needed to design a more accurate type of voice system that could understand people as they spoke conversationally so that they would never have to learn commands.

Carolyn Price

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

David Colleen

SapientX was co-founded with my long-time friends Bruce Wilcox and Maclen Marvit. Bruce had headed AI at several large game companies, and then he became the chief architect of what was to become SapientX. Maclen was an early virtual reality CTO and then headed engineering teams at Fujitsu and the Blue Origin rocket company.

Carolyn Price

How is SapientX transforming the AI industry?

David Colleen

JD Powers did a study showing that the voice assistants shipping in American cars only understand, on average, 37% of user commands. Due to this poor accuracy, only one in 10 drivers bother to use these systems. Newer systems from Google and Amazon have improved accuracy (88% and 72.5%), but they need the internet to run, and they harvest user data and sell it to third parties. All of these systems are poor solutions for cars.

SapientX is able to achieve up to 99% accuracy. It’s white label, speaks 40 languages, does not collect sensitive user data, works with or without the internet, and optionally supports the use of avatars.

Carolyn Price

Are you moving forward with your automobile AI assistant business line? Is this a focus?

David Colleen

We are still working hard on shipping our assistants in your next family car, but this has been delayed by COVID and the computer chip shortage. To replace this business, we added some new markets that had shorter time-to-market periods and that remained active in spite of COVID, such as vending machines, appliances, and digital signage. We had early prototyping wins in these new markets, with COVID supply vending machines for Amazon and with Haier, the largest appliance maker in the world. We also have prototype contracts with large auto parts makers Visteon and Murakami. We recently launched Sage, our digital signage solution, resulting in early interest in the retail and transportation sectors.

Carolyn Price

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

David Colleen

Cerence is the status quo in the auto market. They do not support the full set of needs of their customers and their users. In contrast, we listen carefully to our customers and supply software that meets all of their needs with higher accuracy and better user satisfaction while protecting sensitive user data.

Carolyn Price

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

David Colleen

SapientX is ready for market, so the funds will primarily be used to market, sell, and integrate what we have into our customers’ products.

Carolyn Price

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

David Colleen

We listen. We listen to our customers to make better products. We listen to our investors to make a better company. I keep our investors informed, I follow leads that they generate, and I personally respond to all of their emails.

Carolyn Price

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

David Colleen

While our main focus is in making SapientX a market-leading company, it has not escaped our notice that many of our peers have been acquired. ​We track 35 of these peers, 27 of whom have had large exits. We think that to bring our software to the most users, it makes sense that we should eventually become part of a larger company. 

We are also open to an initial public offering (IPO), but according to Crunchbase, IPOs only deliver about half of the returns to investors as acquisitions do. By the way, my co-founder Bruce Wilcox’s last company (Outfit 7) had a $1 billion exit running an earlier version of our software!

We look forward to seeing where David and his team take the company. SapientX is currently raising on StartEngine.

1
About: Carolyn Price

Carolyn is passionate about mission investing within the startup ecosystem. Prior to KingsCrowd, she was a founding team member at Rentearn, a proptech startup that makes real estate investing more efficient and equitable for inexperienced investors. Carolyn also co-founded a fintech startup, which was accepted to and funded in MIT Sloan’s accelerator program, that makes long term investing simple for university students. Carolyn holds a degree in Economics and Political Science from Wellesley College. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga, stand up comedy, and surfing.

View Carolyn Price's founders