In the latest episode of Tera VC-s Unpanel series our founding partner, Stanislav Ivanov talked to our newest portfolio company Snackable‘s founder & CEO Mari Joller. Snackable AI was launched a mere two years ago to serve a rapidly growing voice-first ecosystem. By 2022 the company will be tapping into a 40 billion dollar opportunity because half of all search queries will be voice-based. Here we’ve listed seven things you need to know about Snackable:
- Its female founder is a force to be reckoned with
Snackable AI is an Estonian-American startup founded by Estonian Mari Joller who is the first Estonian ever to graduate from Harvard Business School. Before Snackable, she has founded two companies and worked at Nokia and Virgin Mobile.
Her LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marijoller/
- It is a Google for audio
“We are with voice where we used to be with the web at the time of Yahoo, pre-Google where you had a portal with a bunch of links – but there was no opportunity to search. Audio-based ecosystems have now reached critical mass, so we figured that this is the right time to solve this problem. Think of Google search where you have all convenient links between documents in ways that you can recommend content, you can surface content in its entirety, find the parts that interest you, etc. We want to do the same for audio – helping people find relevant pieces of content in podcasts and other audio media without having to listen through them first. And the only way we can do that with scalability is to do it with AI,” says Snackable’s founder and CEO Mari Joller.
- Snackable has offices both in Tallinn, Estonia, and New York
“We need to be in the U.S. because that’s where our clients are,” elaborates Mari Joller. “But being in Estonia has also been fantastic because that’s where a lot of the technical talent is. We actually got the company started by partnering with Tartu University and TalTech. This enabled us to get some of the brightest minds in Estonia to help us get Snackable as a technology platform off the ground and introduced us to some of our current team members.”
- It has been developed based on the clients’ feedback from day 1
“I’m a huge fan of the whole customer development process as evangelized by Steve Blank,” Snackable’s CEO Mari Joller says. “You wouldn’t want to work on the wrong idea. It might turn out to be an ill-timed idea, things always come up, but at least you want to start up with full information. We started in December 2017 and by February 2018 we were already showing our demo environment to clients. It was all bubblegum and duct tape – a really bad interface – but it was just to show what we’re building and what problem it was going to solve. At the very beginning, I wrote a questionnaire of all the things I wanted answers to before I’d spend another day working on the problem. And I took this questionnaire to our top 5 potential clients and interviewed the decision-maker – making sure it was a big enough and important enough problem they were going to pay for. We did all the development very iteratively with the clients’ feedback: “Is this important now? Yes? Ok, let’s prioritize that, etc.”
- Snackable is offering engineers an interesting problem to solve
CEO & founder Mari Joller says they have plenty of interesting challenges in system engineering and machine learning. “It’s an interesting problem because it hasn’t really been solved and it’s a complex problem. Our technology pipeline has so many components that address specific problems. Nothing really works out of the box and it’s a lot of experimentation to find the right solution. We’re also operating in a market with huge potential that is revving up very, very quickly.”
- It’s being courted by American news agencies to help them fight fake news
“Context is everything and that’s where Snackable has solved something unique because we’re working on extracting meaning from audio and pulling out the most relevant pieces. We look across the entire library and identify relationships between names, concepts and places to surface the right content,” Mari Joller explains. “One of the main drivers behind building Snackable is this idea of a source of truth, which in this day and age is hard. There are many fake news, the liberal side doesn’t believe conservative news and vice-versa. Nobody believes in social media anymore. Next year there’ll be elections in the US and we’re talking to several public news agencies that are specifically interested in using Snackable to actually allow people to hear it for themselves. “What did Trump really say about immigration yesterday?” People could run a specific part of the president’s speech and hear him say it in his own words.”
- Snackable keeps raising money and has big-time investors backing it – like one of the founders of Skype, Jaan Tallinn, and a US media veteran Richard Sarnoff.
The company’s second investment round was led by Tera Ventures and joined by existing investor Superangel and one of the founders of Skype, Jaan Tallinn, who is known for his work and many investments in artificial intelligence. Since 2018, Snackable AI has raised a total of 2.3 million dollars. Snackable counts respected US business angels such as media veteran Richard Sarnoff as investors and supporters of the company.