SoapBox Labs accelerates expansion into US market

Dr Patricia Scanlon’s fast-scaling Irish tech business SoapBox Labs – dubbed ‘Siri for Kids’ – is ramping up for a big US expansion.

Dublin voice tech company SoapBox Labs is beginning its expansion into the United States with the appointment of three employees to its leadership team.

CEO Dr Patricia Scanlon said the expansion signals growing demand for the company’s kid-specific voice technology in the global education technology market.

“In order to meet the increasing need for voice-enabled solutions that actually work in kids’ play and learning, we’re now scaling our diverse, committed, and world-class team — at home and abroad”

As well as bulking up its leadership team, the company has made 10 key hires — the majority speech engineers and scientists — and continues to add new roles to the team.

“A decade after the introduction of voice assistants like Siri and Google, brands and companies are realising what SoapBox Labs has long known to be true: voice technology built using adult voices does not work for children,” said Scanlon.

“In order to meet the increasing need for voice-enabled solutions that actually work in kids’ play and learning, we’re now scaling our diverse, committed, and world-class team—at home and abroad.”

Scaling for success

The company has appointed Jonathan Hume to the role of vice-president of Global Edtech Sales, Fullbright TechImpact Scholar Dr Amelia Kelly will become vice-president of Speech Technology, and tech industry veteran Robert O’Regan will become vice-president of Engineering.

According to education research firm HolonIQ, this market is growing at a rate of 16.3pc per annum and will have more than doubled in size by 2025, reaching $404bn in total global expenditure.

Soapbox has been steadily making inroads into the pivotal US market in the past two years. In 2019 the company secured a deal to supply its technology to the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR)v – part of Florida University – to develop next generation literacy assessments for students. The $30m programme is backed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to boost literacy among children.

Last August, Soapbox scored a major coup by having its technology deployed by US edtech publishing giant Amplify.

Named one of Europe’s hottest startups by Wired UK in 2019, SoapBox Labs was founded by Dr. Patricia Scanlon, whose popular TEDx talk explains the ways in which technology can “transform a child’s reading journey.” In 2018, Scanlon was named to the Forbes list of Top 50 Women in Tech globally.

Almost a year ago SoapBox Labs raised €5.8m in funding from international venture capital firm Astia Angels and Dublin-based Elkstone Capital.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 18 March 2021