When Amazon said last week that it plans to “double down” on Alexa, the company’s growing voice service, it was likely music to the ears of one Boston startup in particular.
That startup is Vesper, which is developing tiny, low-power microphones that are also dirt- and water-resistant, enabling manufacturers to create a wider array of voice-activated devices. Vesper raised capital from the Amazon Alexa Fund as a strategic investor for its $15 million Series A round from December 2016, a relationship that has made it easier for the Boston startup to work with companies using Alexa to create new kinds of devices.
While 2018 marks the first big year Vesper’s technology will appear in brand-name devices, as noted in a recent feature by BostInno, the startup has apparently attracted attention from more companies looking to invest in the space.
According to a source close to the company, Vesper is in discussions with multiple strategic investors for its next funding round. There is also some M&A interest. The source added that Vesper has already turned down a term sheet for Accomplice to return as a lead investor after the Cambridge-based venture capital firm led Vesper’s Series A.
After Matt Crowley, Vesper’s CEO, initially declined to comment on the company’s fundraising efforts, the company provided BostInno with a statement following the article’s publication.
“Vesper has received a high level of fundraising interest of late from both strategic and financial investors,” the company said. “We are continuously assessing the best capital strategy for our company given the high level of customer adoption of our proprietary piezoelectric microphones. Accomplice led Vesper’s Series A financing and remains the largest investor in the startup, and is actively providing guidance, introductions and assistance to the company on our business and capital strategy as we enter our growth stage.”
Through Vesper’s relationship with Amazon, the company has already put its microphones into third-party Alexa devices made by two companies, Synaptics and Linkplay. Synaptics’ voice development kit, in particular, could provide Vesper with an even larger opportunity because it’s meant to help manufacturers find new ways to turn products into Alexa-enabled devices.
“They partner with people like us because they want to make it extremely easy for people to implement voice in all kinds of products,” Crowley said of Amazon in a previous interview.
In an email to BostInno this week, Crowley said one of Vesper’s strategies is to become the preferred supplier for companies making Alexa Voice Service development kits. He said the company has about five more kits in development that could come out in the following months.
While the company is hoping to grow with Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem, Vesper has bigger ambitions. For instance, Crowley told BostInno in a previous interview, the company has been in talks with automotive companies about using Vesper’s microphones for predictive maintenance and road noise cancellation, among other things. The company is also working with two firms on gunshot detection technology.