Papercup, a UK artificial intelligence startup, has developed pioneering speech technology which translates people’s voices into other languages. The technology is already being used to translate video content at scale, helping creators, media companies, and brands drastically expand their reach into previously inaccessible international audiences. The company has secured £8 million ($10.5 million for US audiences) in funding in order to make high-quality dubbing accessible to every kind of creator in the world.
The round was led by LocalGlobe and Sands Capital Ventures, alongside Sky, GMG Ventures, Entrepreneur First, and BDMI. The company’s existing angel investors include William Tunstell-Pedoe, the founder of Evi Technologies (acquired by Amazon to create Alexa) and Zoubin Ghahramani, Former Chief Scientist and VP of AI at Uber, and now part of the Google Brain leadership team. Armed with this new support, the company will invest further into machine learning research and will expand its human-in-the-loop quality control function, which is used to improve and customise the quality of the AI-translated videos.
Founded in 2017 by Jesse Shemen and Jiameng Gao, Papercup has created an AI and machine learning-based system capable of translating people’s voices and ways of expression into other languages. The result is indistinguishable from human speech and can retain unique characteristics of the speaker’s voice. The product is simple, yet powerful: video content producers upload their videos, specify the target language, and receive a translated version with a synthetic voiceover identical to human voices.
This revolutionary technology is enabling media giants such as Sky News, Discovery, and YouTube stars Yoga with Adriene and DIY Creators to expand their audience globally. Over the last 12 months alone, over 80 million people have watched videos translated with Papercup’s synthetic voices.
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Jesse Shemen, Co-Founder and CEO of Papercup, said, “Most of the world’s videos, billions of hours of content are shackled to a single language. And that’s for a simple reason; quality dubbing is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, so current solutions only work for a select group of deep-pocketed content owners. Speech translation technology fundamentally changes the dynamics of how content is distributed and monetised. The technology we created will level the playing field, allowing all forms of video and audio to be consumed in any language, therefore vastly multiplying the potential reach for all content creators.”
Mish Mashkautsan, partner at LocalGlobe, said, “Papercup and its founders have developed a truly disruptive technology. Not only have they identified a huge potential market within the global media industry, giving a wide variety of creators access to the sort of capabilities that have previously been the preserve of only the biggest conglomerates; but they have created a new market related to the future of human interaction. Looking ahead, this next generation technology will have an impact by breaking down language barriers and changing the way in which we are able to interact beyond our own native languages.”
James McClurg, Director of Investments & Partnerships at Sky (part of the Comcast Group) said “As Europe’s leading media company we place the highest importance in developing the best content for our customers and content that speaks directly to our local audiences. As a first step in this journey with Papercup, Papercup has enabled us to push our Sky News stories to new audiences, helping us to dramatically expand our reach within just a few months. During the first 12 months of engagement we developed a Spanish language Sky News channel using Papercup’s technology, to automatically translate our English speaking news content, with 26 million views and 98,000 new subscribers. Working with more of our content areas in the coming years, as Papercup’s technology develops, will be an exciting journey for us, both as a business and for our customers who speak a variety of languages in our different markets”
Michael Graninger, Partner at Sands Capital Ventures, said, “When we invest in a company, we look for sustainable growth, leadership in a promising business space, and businesses with a significant competitive advantage. Papercup and its founders meet all these points and more. We have immense confidence in the work they are doing, as underlined by our continued commitment and support of their extraordinary work.”
As part of this investment, Papercup has also secured investment from The Future Fund – a UK Government initiative focused on investing in innovative businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This funding takes the total Papercup has raised to more than £10 million, including two Innovate UK grants.