Nuance is killing the SpinVox service, informing its users, which are located in the UK, via text that their accounts will expire within a week. The move — which prompted an outcry on Twitter — marks the end of a very popular voice-to-text service from a very controversial company.
SpinVox was founded in 2003 as a London-based startup aimed at transcribing voicemails into text. The company landed $200 million in funding — including $100 million at a $500 million valuation two years ago — thanks to a customer base of large carriers, which resold the service to their users. But the wheels started to fall off last year when SpinVox struggled to repay a $48.8 million loan and allegations surfaced that transcriptions were being done by call center staffers — not a speech-to-text algorithm, as the company had claimed. Nuance ended up pocketing SpinVox last December for a mere $102.5 million in an effort to better compete in the voice recognition space against Google and Microsoft.
The acquisition was largely driven by SpinVox’s list of corporate customers, which includes Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Vodafone Spain and Skype. Nuance, in explaining its decision to shut down SpinVox’s service, said its mission is to market offerings “as a standard feature in mobile service plans locally and globally.” Indeed, pulling the plug on the consumer service is logical given SpinVox’s inability to develop a viable business model. But as all those tweets indicate, investors aren’t the only ones hurting from SpinVox’s demise — so are many of its soon-to-be former users.
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