Jargon Co-founders Jonathan Burstein (CTO) and Milkana Brace (CEO) in front, with team members Shaun Withers and Levi Sawyers in the back.
Jargon announced today that it has raised $1.8 million new funding led by Ubiquity Ventures and Crosslink Capital, with participation from Amazon’s Alexa Fund, and iRobot. The company says the new funding will be used to build out its Conversational Platform for Voice Applications. Sunil Nagaraj of Ubiquity Ventures has joined the board.
The company today offers language localization services for voice app publishers and a voice app content management SDK designed to help developers structure their voice application content. The Conversational Platform will be a new product that is envisioned as a full content management system (CMS) for voice apps. Jargon was founded in December 2017 and graduated in October 2018 from the Alexa Accelerator managed by TechStars. It raised $120,000 as part of that program. Voicebot caught up with Milkana Brace, Jargon CEO and co-founder to learn more about the financing.
When we last spoke, your focus was around language and country localization. This announcement suggests you have extended that value proposition. I assume you are still providing language and country localization services as that is listed on your website. Is that correct?
Milkana Brace: Yes, correct. We started with localization and believe there will be an increasing need for such services. Even when we spoke, we already had aspirations to extend to a more comprehensive conversation management solution and the funding will accelerate our ability to deliver on that vision.
Does the personalization that you are offering go beyond introducing response variety to include context from past user interactions or integration with other customer relationship management data to offer further session and user personalization?
Brace: We see it as a progression. We start with some level of response variety and targeting and provide increasing level of personalization as the market matures, data becomes available on how users are using the voice app, etc. Over time, we expect that brands would want to customize the voice experience for their customers based on everything they know about the user from other channels, and so it would make sense to integrate with existing CRMs.
You list the Jargon SDK on your website today and reference a Conversation Platform in your funding announcement. Does that mean the Conversation Platform goes beyond what you offer in the SDK or are they the same thing?
Brace: Yes. There are two parts to our offering. A free and open-source SDK that helps developers structure the content inside their voice app. The SDK is already available on Alexa, Google Assistant, and Jovo. Developers can use the SDK as a useful building block for their voice app and we don’t track any of that usage. The other component is the cloud-based Conversation Platform that the new funding will accelerate. The Platform will be a paid offering and will provide tools for customers to manage and target/personalize the content. For customers who choose to use our Conversation Platform, their voice content will no longer live inside the app, but on the platform itself and will be inserted at run time into the response that the user hears.
In the past, I understood that Jargon SDK was best viewed as a CMS. Is that correct? Does it also support workflow or only content management?
Brace: The SDK itself provides structure to the content inside a voice app. Think of it as externalizing the content from the source code, in addition to providing support for things like response variations. There is no workflow associated with the SDK itself.
Do you plan to provide your Conversation Platform as a toolset for voice developers only, or will you use it directly to build voice experiences on behalf of voice app publishers?
Brace: If your question is whether we’ll build voice apps on behalf of others, the answer is no. We’re a product company, not a services company.
You reference Google Assistant in the announcement. Have you supported any Google Actions to date? If yes, what is your breakdown of Alexa skills to Google Actions today and are there any differences in your offerings.
Brace: Yes, our SDK is available for Google Assistant. We don’t track usage. It’s free open source, non-tracked. We know that the SDK downloads on the Google Assistant platform are a small fraction of the downloads on Alexa. Fundamentally, the functionality across both SDKs is the same.
In a nutshell, this is what we see. Today, most voice apps have static content, in terms of how the responses are structured. This makes for an un-engaging and underwhelming user experience. It is inevitable that voice apps will have to become far more conversational, introducing variety and personalization in how they respond to users, both in terms of what they say and how they say it. We’re building the underlying tools that will make such experiences possible.
You can read more about Jargon’s announcement here.