Israeli transcribing startup raises first $11 million in seed funding

One-year-old Verbit combines software with human transcribers to improve quality, speed and price of service

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Verbit team (Courtesy)
The Verbit team (Courtesy)

People who have had to transcribe recorded conversations — doctors, legal practitioners, journalists — know how time-consuming the process can be. The software available is never completely accurate, and employing a person to do it is expensive.

Enter Verbit, an Israeli startup that said on Thursday it had raised its first $11 million in seed money. The company has developed a service that combines artificial intelligence and human input to provide a more accurate, fast and cheaper transcription offering.

Founded a year ago by Tom Livne , who is also its CEO, Eric Shellef, its chief technology officer, and Kobi Ben-Tzvi, VP of Engineering, the company has raised its seed round led by Vertex ventures, Oryzn Capital and HV ventures.

The year-old startup says it already has millions of dollars in revenues, from customers including California’s Coursera — which offers online courses — the telecommunication conglomerate Comcast, and the London Business School.

“We are cash flow positive,” said Verbit’s Livne in a phone interview.

The main focus of the company at the moment is in the education field; there is a lot of demand for courses to be made available to people with impaired hearing, for example. The medical and legal fields are also in the company’s sights.

The professional transcription market has an estimated worth of tens of billions of dollars a year in a range of sectors.

Illustrative photo of a Mac laptop. (Sophie Gordon/Flash90)

Traditional transcription companies rely on manual work, resulting in high costs and long turnaround times, the company said in a statement. At the same time, fully automatic transcription only reaches an average accuracy rate of 70 percent, while customers usually need a high quality transcription.

Verbit’s solution integrates automatic speech recognition algorithms with the human touch. Not only do humans go over the transcription and make the necessary corrections, but all corrections made by human transcribers contribute to and improve the Verbit algorithm through machine learning technologies. The company works with thousands of freelancers in over 20 countries, the statement said.

All of the freelancers work on the Verbit platform and they have all signed nondisclosure agreements and secrecy contracts. “Nothing can be taken out of our platform,” Livne said, and all of the information is secured.

Because most of their transcription process takes place automatically, Verbit has a very competitive cost structure, Livne said. Prices vary depending on the amount of audio and the urgency of the work, he explained. The company has connected with more than 50 customers globally. All Verbit clients must make a minimum commitment of $10,000 worth of work.

The company plans in the coming weeks to launch Verbit Express, in which clients can drab an audio file or link to a Verbit folder on their computer’s desktop, where the company will pick it up and process it.

A solution for smaller businesses is to be made available at a later date, allowing individuals to use the transcribing software and editing tool, which highlights possible errors in translation — but without the human transcriber, making the offering cheaper.

”One of our greatest achievements as a company is that we have created thousands of jobs that enable people to work from home in their own language,” said Livne in the statement. “Even if they are physically located in third world countries, all that is needed in order to work with us is an internet connection, a computer and the passing of a transcription test accessible to everyone on our site.”

The financing round will enable Verbit to double the number of its workers in Israel in the coming year from its current 32. It will be looking for sales and marketing staff, machine-learning engineers and infrastructure engineers (DevOps) among others.

“Verbit’s offering to its customers is very simple — 100% accurate transcription service at a very competitive cost with the fastest turnaround in the market,” said Yanai Oron, general partner at Vertex Ventures in a statement. “The funding should allow the company to expand to a number of new verticals while scaling its business in the existing verticals.”

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