Luuk van Hoogstraten, Jason Oleana and Dylan Mattijssen from GeniusVoice

Genius Voice sees speech technology develop explosively

"It's important that you make technology that people want to use. And in the end, you need other people very badly..." Now, a year and a half after the founders of Genius Voice became acquainted with the potential possibilities of voice assistants, they are convinced of the opportunities that voice technology and voice response offer in the field of marketing, business operations, and communication between different (commercial and non-commercial) parties. "With 'Voice' you offer people a little extra convenience in their lives. And that turns out to meet a need, just look at other developments, such as an even faster internet."

Genius Voice. That's: Luuk van Hoogstraten, Jason Oleana ,and Dylan Mattijssen, fellow students at Tilburg University, who regularly met each other in the Deprez Duilding. "We studied there together," Dylan Mattijssen kicks off the conversation, "and about a year and a half ago, when we had a short break, Luuk came up with the fact that something big was happening in America... that voice assistants were really up and coming there. ‘Maybe that's very interesting to keep track of and see if there are any opportunities,’ he said. At that time, the Dutch Google Assistant was not available yet. That happened four months later. By that time we had already taken steps, had formulated our first thoughts about it and saw it as a great opportunity to spend our time on."

In search of the possibilities of voice technology

Van Hoogstraten explains his enthusiasm at the time: "Every piece of information we found actually indicated that we were dealing with an interesting development: it was about to be introduced in the Netherlands and there weren't many people working with it yet.

It's not like we said, okay, now we have a company. That's not exactly how it works. At least not with us."

"It was very important for us at that time—and actually still is—to think about what's possible with voice technology and what we want to do with it," adds Jason Oleana. "It's not that we didn't take any action at all in business terms, but the Chamber of Commerce registration, for example, took some time. That was also because it wasn't necessary at the time. We were just doing research, so we didn't have to spend any money."

High volume, low complexity

Dylan Mattijssen explains “the product”: "We work with processes, which are used within many organizations and in which (customer) interactions take place in a high volume and with low complexity. We then automate these processes and link them to Voice. In our opinion, Voice is a good idea because it gives you the most seamless experience".

Convenience is an important driver. Luuk van Hoogstraten: "That is especially true when it comes to the acceptance of the product. Soon there will be a Smartspeaker in the room and then the choice will play, either grabbing your phone to do something or talking to that speaker...

If we make it possible for a customer to 'get' something by saying something, then at some point it will be a 'step back' for that person if he has to grab a device to do so. That seems very elementary, but it turns out that such a moment causes friction. The moment you've reached that point, you've won over the customer for Voice."

Commercialization of the technology

"The ideas are endless." Dylan Mattijssen adds. "The moment you make it less difficult for people to perform a certain action with a company, it's more convenient for customer service, but also for recruitment, or in marketing campaigns and even internally within companies... Our question in the beginning was, 'Where do we start?

That is also a bit of the story where IQONIC, the Tilburg University start-up program, comes into play. Together with them, we were looking for support to make successful steps as a startup. We were confronted with questions such as: How do you focus? What do you focus on? How long are you going to focus on that? How do you conduct experiments? How are you going to talk to people? So they really tell you what they think, instead of giving you socially desirable answers."

The marketer’s view

"Big challenge was what we were going to focus on," Dylan Mattijssen continues. "Basically, our focus is on the functional impact that Voice can have in everyday life. All three of us are marketers, so it's not surprising that in practice we also mainly focused on the marketing aspects. And that certainly paid off: nowadays, we are increasingly being contacted by major Dutch consumer brands who would like to have a marketing campaign around Voice. These are often the market leaders and that quickly makes it interesting.”

According to Luuk van Hoogstraten, you can indeed see that the application of Voice is still often driven by “innovators” within companies: "People who are fans of the technology themselves want to work with it and, in this way, maintain a competitive edge. But, we also see more and more in the figures that people (and I mean consumers) want it... and then companies and institutions knock on our door for that."

The goal: interaction with the Voice app

The practice is varied, says Jason Oleana: "On the one hand, you can have someone talk to the Smart speaker: 'Talk to...' and then the name of the app. This replaces typing in the domain name. But google is also a search engine, of course. And that's actually the next step: 'search'. So: someone just says 'something' to the smartspeaker—whatever that is because of course you can say 'anything' to it—and then Google searches and finds 'something', or 'someone'. Well, you’d better make sure that's you, that you're interesting in certain terms, that Google 'thinks' that your app can best fulfil those intentions and that it leads the consumer to your app... There's a lot of value in that. And that's the game!"

"And at the beginning of that 'game', it doesn't stop," Dylan Mattijssen adds. "We make the app interactive, based on Voice: you ask, the app answers (or asks something), you answer again, and so on. So it's really a ‘backwards and forwards game', involving all sorts of things. In certain sectors, for example, special language is very important. You have to respond to that.

All those things, plus the reaction we got from the market, also made us look at certain things differently. For example, we see the needs of parties that are not met by the current large platforms because they have more of an ‘umbrella view.’ For us, however, that’s where very great opportunities lie."

What works? And... what doesn't?

The foundation of Genius Voice is based on a broad knowledge of the needs of the market. "So that we can recognize who the client’s customers are and what they want," explains Luuk van Hoogstraten. "Market research is part of this, but that often gives very 'basic' results. So—and this is where Braventure helped us a lot—we do a lot of qualitative research. We talk to as many people as possible, especially with decision-makers within companies. In the end, they are also human beings. We make sure that we know a few people in every industry, who we can simply call with an idea and ask them why that would be interesting for them... Or why not. The latter may not be nice to hear, but it's very interesting."

"Scaling up incredibly fast..."

Now, almost two years after its foundation, Genius Voice is on the eve of an, so it seems, explosive development of Voice within all kinds of sectors.

Jason Oleana knows almost for sure that Voice is going to have a permanent place in people's daily lives: "We believe in that. Also in its value. Whether it's communicative, commercial, or... convenience. And, in the meantime, we continue to work on all the developments and new innovations. It remains important to stay involved and continue to develop, in order to eventually become a scalable business model".

"We're going to scale that up incredibly fast," Luuk van Hoogstraten reflects the ambitions. "And then in a few years' time there won't be three of us... I even wonder if we'll still be in the Netherlands.”