Editor’s note: Startland News selected the top Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2018’s companies. To view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch, click here.
The in-house, top-tier technology at Mycroft speaks volumes about the competitiveness of the Kansas City company’s open-source voice assistant, said co-founder Joshua Montgomery.
Mycroft’s Mark II device, which is expected to launch on Kickstarter Jan. 25, sets a new standard for the startup, as well as an industry that includes such market heavyweights as Amazon and Google, he said.
“Amazon’s Echo development process for Alexa actually involved a total of three acquisitions and four years of work,” Montgomery said. “Our company is about to be on par with them, and in our case, we’ve developed the wake word spotting, the speech recognition (in partnership with Mozilla), the natural language understanding engine that figures out what you’re trying to say, and then the speech synthesis engine mimic, which is kind of robotic — and we have a new one coming out that is really, really natural sounding.”
The Mark II — built on all the lessons learned from launching Mycroft’s original Mark I technology, Montgomery said — should arrive to backers in early December. The device will feature a new screen and an array microphone for improved sound quality, he said.
“So, by the end of this year, the user experience will be very similar to what Alexa and Google are providing, but with all of the technology under one roof,” Montgomery said. “There are only a few companies that can do that.”
Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and a handful of others have that capability, he said, even if they don’t all choose to do so.
“And then there’s Mycroft,” Montgomery said. “That puts us in pretty good company.”
Mycroft announced Friday it raised $1.75 million in an oversubscribed round, exceeding the firm’s goal by more than $1 million, Montgomery said. Those joining the seed round included the Missouri Technology Corporation, Kansas City-based Northland Angels, Deep Space Ventures, TechNexus and Social Starts.
Montgomery credits the company’s ongoing success to the talent of his team, he said.
“We got lucky with one of our original hires. He was the first hire a Siri and the second engineer assigned to Echo,” he said. “And even though we’ve only got 20 employees, we have 1,500 developers in our community that are making contributions every day.”