Sonos announces the acquisition of Snips, a French speech recognition specialist, for $37.5 million. If the operation allows the American group to equip itself with a Parisian R&D team !
"This acquisition is important proof that privacy and voice are here to stay. But it also shows that the impact of the French Tech ecosystem is not limited to France. By keeping the Snips team in Paris and integrating technology into their products, Sonos is demonstrating that French technology can be deployed globally," Snips founder Rand Hindi proudly announced yesterday in a post Medium.
The Parisian start-up, a specialist in privacy in speech recognition technologies, has just been taken over by Sonos for $37.5 million. An operation that allows Sonos to equip itself with a team of 50 French employees, including machine learning engineers, gathered in an R&D office that will remain in Paris, to "create an even more differentiated and immersive experience for customers, both inside and outside the house," said Patrick Spence, Sonos' CEO, in a statement.
The technology developed by Snips could help the American company improve its portable speakers, such as the Sonos Move, which made its debut in September. Snips' CTO, Joseph Dureau, and his CPO, SĂ©bastien Maury, will lead the team in the future, while its founder, Rand Hindi, announces leaving the ship to "focus on new privacy projects". New projects concentrated in a new company: Zama.
But was the new direction Snips is taking part of the plan?
Founded in 2013 and based in Paris, Snips has developed a state-of-the-art platform and tools dedicated to creating customized voice experiences. Its technology maximizes accuracy, efficiency and confidentiality while minimizing dependence on the cloud. A project whose exponential growth will have quickly attracted investors.
One pivot and two fundraising events (total of â‚¬22 million) later, Snips announced in May 2018 that it would launch an ICO for a minimum amount of â‚¬30 million. Its founder quickly revised its objective downwards, seeking only to raise 13 million euros, even going so far as to announce that if they "fail to raise 13 million euros by February, we will give up".
And he had a nose. In December 2018, he announced the failure of his ICO. This was due to poor timing, an overly ambitious objective, and the project's premature response to the operation: "In May, when we announced the ICO, we had very little to launch (...) Despite this, we had a lot of media coverage. We have spoken at dozens of conferences and meetings. This has aroused the enthusiasm of many people and we received millions of euros in commitments during the first month. But we could not honour these commitments and, although we deployed the sale in record time, we had lost momentum. People started to get nervous, the market dropped, the summer holidays came. And when we were ready, people were no longer excited," says Rand Hindi, still in a Medium post.
The founder of Snips wants to be reassuring: major contracts have been signed, a new product, a DIY smart speaker, will soon be unveiled, and above all, a traditional B series is being prepared for 2019. The latter will never see the light of day since Sonos has, in the meantime, been there.