‘Siri for kids’ start-up Soapbox Labs raises €5.8m

Dr Patricia Scanlon’s Soapbox Labs is powering ahead with its mission to address a global education problem using speech recognition.

Dublin-based tech start-up Soapbox Labs has raised €5.8m in funding from international venture capital firm Astia Angels and Dublin-based Elkstone Capital.

Identified in 2018 by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s “top 50 women in tech”, Soapbox Labs CEO Dr Patricia Scanlon is one of a number of Irish women shaping the future of technology and is addressing a global education problem using speech recognition.

“There are 620m kids in the world who can’t read a sentence and two-thirds of them are already in school”

Dr Scanlon, a former researcher at Bell Labs, started Soapbox in 2013 and the company’s technology uses AI to help children between the ages of three and 12 develop their literacy skills.

Voicing the revolution

Woman in black dress talking on a stage at a TED talk.

Dr Patricia Scanlon, CEO and founder of Soapbox Labs.

Unlike the speech recognition technology found in mainstream voice assistants, SoapBox Labs’ speech recognition technology was built specifically for kids and their early literacy needs and has been popularly dubbed ‘Siri for kids’.

The latest funding round brings the total funding raised by Soapbox to €10.2m.

In November ThinkBusiness reported how Soapbox scooped a major deal to supply its technology to the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) – part of Florida University – to develop next generation literacy assessments for students.

Also last year, it emerged the chief financial officer of Shazam Colm O’Carroll had left Apple to join the Soapbox Labs team.

Speaking with Thinkbusiness last year, Dr Scanlon said: “There are 620m kids in the world who can’t read a sentence and two-thirds of them are already in school. What Soapbox envisages is a way to alleviate real pains in the classrooms where teachers don’t have the resources to address every child in the room and by using our technology prevent kids from failing and dropping out of school. It is a cost-effective way of addressing known problems in the system and it isn’t possible unless you have a high-accuracy speech recognition.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 20 April, 2020