Montreal Fluent.ai Startup Helping with Speech Recognition

Fluent.ai is a disruptive speech recognition startup based in Montreal, Canada.

We have sat down with CEO Niraj Bhargava to get some answers.

So what are you guys all about?

We are developing cutting-edge deep-learning techniques to enable acoustic-only speech recognition technology capable of running offline on-device without requiring a cloud connection. By associating speech to intent without requiring a speech-to-text translation, Fluent.ai offers a highly accurate and robust speech recognition system that is also able to learn or be customized by the end user. This opens a wide variety of new applications and use-cases unattainable using incumbent methods.

Who started the company?

A key co-founder of the company is Vikrant Tomar. Vikrant has a PhD in machine learning and speech recognition. Apart from Vikrant, our team consists of four other machine learning experts. I am a P.Eng and serial entrepreneur with 25 years business leadership experience.

How are you being financed?

US$1.5 million (CND$2 million) from TandemLaunch Inc., a group of Angels and VCs including Business Development Bank of Canada, Maple Leaf Angels, Creative Destruction Lab, Danhua Capital (Silicon Valley), and 500 Startups Canada.

What do you think will be/is a big obstacle to overcome?

Developing top talent has been a large obstacle to overcome, especially now that a number of big companies have opened their AI research labs in Montreal. This has created intense competition in hiring.

How do you go about finding good developers/IT guys for your company?

Networking and referrals has been important for us to find top talent.

Who is your biggest competition?

Fluent.ai offers a very different technical approach to the speech recognition problem. A number of big players are active in the speech recognition market, such as Google, Amazon, Apple etc. However, we look at these as potential partners, because our technology offers features and capabilities complementary to what the other players offer.

How are you intending on taking your company to $1 million in revenues? In what markets?

Yes to $1 million in revenues, in the markets of consumer electronics, telecom and automotive.

What is the big lesson you've learned (success or failure) with this project.

While we always knew this was key, we have learned to appreciate even more the importance of having a solid plan and achieving its optimal execution. Sometimes things move at a different speed than expected—this is particularly true in a business-to-business world. Having a solid plan with multiple options has helped us to avoid tough times and maintain the company’s growth.