A Dragon’s Den investor who is one of SpinVox‘s key advisers has come out batting for the under-fire voice-to-text firm. Asked about outcry over the company’s financial issues and off-shoring of voicemail transcription, Julie Meyer, whose Ariadne Capital holds an equity stake in return for advising the firm, told paidContent:UK: “In a way, it’s a nice problem to have. I’d much rather be in this situation than a company with no market traction that is going nowhere fast. They’re managing very rapid growth in a difficult market.”
— Diligence then: Meyer told Newsnight in 2007 CEO Christina Domecq “has not slowed down even for due diligence cycles and venture capitalists she wants to work with … some of the people who’ve backed her have been willing to buy in to her, do fairly minimal due diligence and realise they’re backing her and her judgment on the team and the market opportunities”.
— Diligence now: With $200 million funding now under SpinVox’s belt, Meyer told me Friday: “I’ve seen a lot of companies get funded; the documentation that was given to (SpinVox) investors in terms of due diligence was world-class, has been first rate. The likes of a Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) and the business case that’s been put to them, it simply would not work if it was all human transcription.”
Referring back to Newsnight: “I said investors backed Christina’s vision of the market and that’s different from saying there’s little due diligence or little that’s on offer;” it was a brief clip from a longer interview, two years ago. “The point I was making is that I believe most investors have been fascinated with the innovation and the vision of the market. They are executing on that vision, otherwise they simply would not have found the customers they have. I think it all stacks up, I really do.”
Meyer, who also judges Dragon’s Den online pitches and co-founded First Tuesday, added: “I’ve seen so many mobile companies fail to get in to the operators – finally, we’ve got a UK success story. These guys have sold in to the likes of Telefonica, who are deploying SpinVox in 13 countries; I can’t even fathom how somebody would call that a failure. These guys have been over-the-top successful.
“It’s hard to build businesses. This is an extremely well-managed business, world-class people that are absolutely working their butts off.” That doesn’t ring true with comments coming from employees past and present, some of whom claim unpaid salary and expenses: “I do believe all SpinVox employees were paid their payrolls today, a couple of days early. Human behaviour is that, when you’re let go, sometimes people tend to squawk.”
Some of the hoo-hah is coming from users who were, until the recent reports, under the impression the voicemail-to-text conversion was 100 percent automated. Meyer: “How they could be under that impression, I don’t know, I don’t believe they’ve ever suggested or put in writing that it was 100 percent automation. I cannot imagine they would have said that in any situation.” Were investors aware SpinVox was part-human transcription?: “Yeah, of course. Investors are fascinated with the innovation at this company.”
While the notion SpinVox is not 100 percent automated has surprised some now the BBC has taken up the subject, some industry analysts say it’s never been a secret; SpinVox’s terms and conditions say voicemails may undergo “single or multiple human review”.