Univoice

Early Stage

1st mobile app that teaches languages through music; no singing skills required!

Analytics

Raised to Date: Raised: $59,511

Aggregate Commitments $

Platform

Wefunder

Start Date

06/02/2021

Close Date

04/30/2022

Min. Goal

$50,000

Max. Goal

$250,000

Min. Investment

$200

Security Type

Equity - Preferred

Funding Type

RegCF

Series

Series A

Pre-Money Valuation

$5,006,645

Rolling Commitments $

Status

Active

Reporting Date

09/26/2021

Days Remaining

216

% of Min. Goal

119%

% of Max. Goal

24%

Likelihood of Max
unlikely
Avg. Daily Raise

$513

Momentum
cold
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Location

Austin, Texas

Industry

Education, Training, & Coaching

Tech Sector

EdTech

Distribution Model

B2C

Margin

High

Capital Intensity

Low

Business Type

Growth

Univoice, with a pre-money valuation of $5.01 million, is raising funds on Wefunder. The mobile app teaches a variety of languages through music and singing. Univoice teaches a language as it is spoken in the real world, including informal words and slang speech. The users select the language and genre of singing, start singing along, and receive feedback on pronunciation of words. Sami Halabi founded Univoice in September 2018. The current round of crowdfunding has a minimum goal of $50,000 and a maximum goal of $250,000. The funds will be used for marketing and advertising, hiring, and operations. Univoice is rated 4.6 on Apple Store and 4.7 on Play Store and has been awarded the Top 50 Tech Innovators & Influencers award at InterCon 2020.

Summary Profit and Loss Statement

Most Recent Year Prior Year

Revenue

$1,000

$43

COGS

$0

$0

Tax

$1,145

$500

 

 

Net Income

$-185,284

$-439,019

Summary Balance Sheet

Most Recent Year Prior Year

Cash

$19,758

$3,643

Accounts Receivable

$0

$0

Total Assets

$20,691

$4,606

Short-Term Debt

$45,350

$33,590

Long-Term Debt

$101,562

$80,805

Total Liabilities

$146,912

$114,395

Financials as of: 06/02/2021
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Raise History

Offering Name Close Date Platform Valuation/Cap Total Raised Security Type Status Reg Type
Univoice 04/30/2022 Wefunder $5,006,645 $59,511 Equity - Preferred Active RegCF
Univoice 12/02/2020 Wefunder $4,960,000 $132,317 Equity - Preferred Funded RegCF
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Ratings

Analyst Report

Synopsis

In today’s globally interconnected world, more people are looking to learn a second or third language. In fact, roughly 1.2 billion people worldwide are attempting to learn a new language at any given time. The issue is that becoming fluent in a new language is extremely difficult. While children are “linguistic geniuses” until the age of seven, adults’ reduced neuroplasticity makes it hard to absorb a new language. That doesn’t stop people from trying. Duolingo — one of the most popular language-learning apps — reports 500 million total users and 40 million monthly active users that represent every country around the world. Despite the popularity of these apps, it’s not yet clear that their approach to language acquisition actually works

That’s why Univoice aims to reinvent language learning. Univoice allows users to pick up a new language through songs. Simply download the Univoice app, pick a song, and begin singing along to the lyrics in a different language. As they sing, users receive instant feedback on pronunciation. Univoice is a very early-stage company. The first paid version of the app was only released in February, and fewer than 5,000 users have downloaded the app so far. 

Univoice’s current Wefunder raise has been rated a Neutral Deal by the KingsCrowd investment team. 

Price

Univoice is offering equity at a $5.01 million valuation. That valuation is up roughly $100,000 over Univoice’s last crowdfunding raise at the end of 2020, a reasonable increase given that Univoice hasn’t made much progress since the last raise. Despite the measured valuation increase, this is still a bit too high of a price for Univoice’s current stage. The company is basically pre-revenue with less than six months of traction on its paid app and few results to report. Many of the opportunities touted in Univoice’s first funding round, like signing exclusive deals with record labels to acquire catalogues of popular music, have disappeared from this current pitch. It seems that Univoice may have encountered some obstacles in the last six months. A $5 million valuation seems a bit too high for this early-stage company, so Univoice’s price rating is relatively low. 

Market

The global digital language learning market was estimated at $5.69 billion in 2019 and was projected to grow at a strong CAGR of 13.4% through 2027 to reach $17.18 billion. The US typically accounts for roughly a quarter of global market size, but there’s reason to believe that the American market share is less in this industry. The US is far behind the rest of the world in language-learning, and English is the most popular language to learn on Duolingo. Therefore, the US market size for digital language learning can be estimated somewhere around $2 billion by 2027. 

That’s a pretty small market, particularly in an industry that is already dominated by brand-name players and a host of other competitors. While jockeying with Duolingo, Babbel, and hundreds of smaller apps, Univoice can only hope to achieve a very narrow slice of a small pie (which will remain small for the foreseeable future, despite a decent CAGR). That’s why Univoice’s market rating is quite low. 

Team

Univoice was founded by Sami Halabi, a sales and marketing professional with a passion for languages and music. Halabi holds a BA in international relations and global studies from UT Austin. After graduation, he spent several years in sales for an international youth talent staffing organization before moving to Oracle, where he spent five years in sales and digital marketing. It appears that Halabi only recently went full-time on Univoice, having left Oracle in March of 2021. Outside of his day job, Halabi is an avid language learner. He reports knowing five languages and is aiming for seven by age 30. 

The Univoice team also includes Head of Product and Operations Bryan Riester and Head of Engineering Enrique Ortiz. Both appear to work part-time for Univoice. Riester has about 15 years of experience in various professional roles, ranging from process design to business development. He is also the founder of his own service-on-demand startup. Ortiz is a seasoned engineer and published author. He spent time at Dell and Amazon and currently serves as the director of engineering for QMC HealthID. 

Founder Halabi clearly has a passion for this space, and he’s forged relationships with more senior professionals to assist with execution. Nonetheless, the Univoice team isn’t deeply experienced in entrepreneurship, app development, or the science of language learning (particularly given that Riester and Ortiz work only part-time). As a result, Univoice’s team score is below average.

Differentiators

Univoice pitches differentiation from mainstream language learning apps as one of its key selling points. It’s true that most language learning software focuses on more traditional learning exercises like word matching or translation, and Univoice’s approach of song-based learning is distinctive. However, these “traditional” apps are very popular. Duolingo commands the digital language learning market with 500 million total users worldwide. The sheer ubiquitousness of Duolingo lends that company’s language-learning method an air of credibility, which Univoice simply can’t compete with at this time. Univoice doesn’t offer any scientific research or user results to indicate that its app can actually teach people a new language through music. 

Moreover, Univoice doesn’t seem to have any particular competitive advantages or defensible moats as a company. In its prior fundraise late last year, Univoice was pitching the potential of major deals with top record labels to secure the rights to Billboard hit songs (which would be a core advantage). However, there’s no mention of these deals on Univoice’s current raise page, which seems to indicate that they fell through. That potentially leaves Univoice more vulnerable to being crushed by the competition, including Lirica, a well-established app with the exact same song-based approach to language learning.  

At this point, there’s very little evidence that Univoice can actually compete in the crowded digital language learning space. It’s “proprietary” method of song-based language learning is actually being replicated by other apps, and it’s not clear yet whether that method is even effective. Thus, Univoice’s differentiation rating is its lowest across all five metrics. 

Performance

Univoice is a very early-stage company with little traction to demonstrate. The app soft-launched in March 2019, and Univoice had reported 2,500 downloads when it launched its prior crowdfunding campaign in late 2020. That many downloads in more than a year isn’t very impressive, and growth since late 2020 hasn’t been stellar either. Despite launching the full (paid) version of the app in February 2021, Univoice still boasts just 3,200 downloads. The company touts 100% monthly new user growth and 74% active user growth, but it’s a bit murky how those figures fit into the overall fact of relatively few downloads. 

As a result of limited user adoption, Univoice has seen very little revenue thus far. According to the company’s Form C, total revenue in 2019 was just $43. That amount grew to $1,000 in 2020, and Univoice saw a net loss of just over $185,000 that year. Total debt for the company is nearly $147,000, most of that held in long-term liabilities. One area where the company has performed well is prior fundraising. Univoice has raised almost $600,000 in the past. The company’s monthly burn rate is also quite low at around $15,000.

Univoice does have a fully developed product and has a seasoned lineup of part-time talent and advisors. Still, in terms of actual metrics, the company hasn’t performed well yet. Univoice’s performance rating is its highest — due to its growing revenue — but this should be read in the context of the company’s infancy. 

Risks

Univoice is a fairly risky investment in that it is a very early-stage company with virtually no revenue traction. As such, financials are the biggest source of risk. Thus far, Univoice has generated very little revenue while still seeing significant risk. The company has very little cash on hand, so the company’s well-being could be dependent on the outcome of this raise. There’s also a risk that Univoice’s team is underdeveloped. The company is primarily run by founder Sami Halabi, who is still early in his career. More seasoned staff members and advisors are only part-time. Prospective investors should consider these key dimensions of risk when evaluating this opportunity. 

Bearish Outlook

Univoice is a very early-stage company that has not yet secured proof of concept or product-market fit. Only a few thousand people have downloaded Univoice in the two years since the app soft launched. The company doesn’t seem to have any data on actual language learning progress or user retention among this cohort. Even more concerning, Univoice seems to have lost some progress since its last capital raise in late 2020. For that raise, the company was touting upcoming contracts with major record labels to offer Billboard hits as language-learning songs in its app. Univoice was also promoting its underlying technology to transcribe music as a potential business-to-business (B2B) revenue stream. For this raise, the former opportunity isn’t mentioned at all (presumably indicating that Univoice failed to negotiate those deals), and the latter opportunity is barely mentioned. The loss of those competitive advantages significantly reduces Univoice’s differentiation and defensibility, another negative signal on top of sluggish user growth. It’s certainly possible that Univoice could experience a sudden turnaround, but the company doesn’t seem to have taken off yet.

Bullish Outlook

There isn’t yet any concrete proof that language-learning through music is an effective educational method. However, it is a distinctive and creative approach. Duolingo and apps like it quickly become stagnant and boring, and there is indirect evidence that music boosts learning retention. Plus, Univoice has done a great job developing a strong brand and user-friendly technology. Significant capital burned on app development hasn’t gone to waste because the app seems very marketable and catchy for channels like Instagram and TikTok.

If Univoice can successfully locate a niche market of users who are music lovers and avid language learners, the well-designed app could flourish in that small market. It doesn’t seem likely for Univoice to take on mainstream players like Duolingo and Babbel, but that doesn’t mean that Univoice has zero market opportunity. The company simply needs to double down on finding product-market fit and a loyal user base of (paying) superfans. If it does, there’s still potential for Univoice to generate a return on invested capital. 

Executive Summary

Univoice is an app focused on helping users learn a new language by singing songs. The app is well designed and has potential to take off within a niche market of language learners who are also music lovers. Founder Sami Halabi has built an impressive network of technologists and digital media executives who might be able to provide valuable expertise and connections to speed Univoice’s growth. 

On the other hand, Univoice is an extremely early-stage company with minimal user traction. There’s no evidence yet that song-based language learning is effective, and there’s also no evidence that Univoice has secured product-market fit. Even more concerning, the company no longer boasts some of the prospective competitive advantages it had touted in an earlier fundraise (namely the potential for contracts with major record labels to offer Billboard hit songs in the app). Therefore, Univoice has been rated a Neutral Deal. 

For questions regarding the KingsCrowd staff pick or ratings for this company, please reach out to support@kingscrowd.com

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