As we start using more and more Internet-connected gadgets that rely on voice input, the need for smart speech recognition and natural language processing services is only going to increase. Wit.ai offers developers an API for building natural language interfaces for their apps and devices and the Y Combinator alum got a major boost today thanks to a $3 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other participants in this round include Ignition Partners, NEA, A-Grade, SV Angel, Eric Hahn, Alven Capital, and TenOneTen.
We previously rated Wit.ai as one of our favorite startups from the Winter 2014 Y Combinator demo day.
The company, which was founded by Alexandre Lebrun, who previously sold another NLP startup to Nuance, takes a very different approach to its development than some of its competitors. Instead of a centralized closed approach, Wit.ai wants to be an “open, distributed, community-based network of developers,” as Lebrun writes today. This means developers who use the service can opt in to share their data with everybody on the platform.
Clearly, that approach is working for many developers. When the company first opened its alpha on Hacker News a year ago, 1,100 developers signed up and 99% of them agreed to share their training data. The service has now signed up over 4,5000 developers and powers hundreds of apps, wearables and home automation systems.
“We want Wit.ai to be the platform that developers use to build messenger-based and audio-first apps that are arriving in the next generation of wearables and smart devices,” Lebrun writes today. “We have assembled a great team of engineers specialized in natural language processing, machine learning and speech.”
To build on the platforms’ momentum, the company also today announced its first conference, Listen 2014, which will take place on November 6th in San Francisco.
You can find our more in-depth look at Wit.ai from earlier this year here.