Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great UK Voice-To-Money Business

Frustrated with the process of scrabbling around for a scrap of paper to write down details from voicemails, Christina Domecq decided there had to be an easier way to access her messages. With the help of her long-term business partner Daniel Doulton, she turned her voice-to-text idea into Spinvox – an award-winning multinational business currently turning over more than £2m a year.

After Domecq’s initial idea in 2003, the next 12 months were spent gathering funding for the project, putting the team together, and developing the patented technology that allows Spinvox to convert speech into written word.

Daulton led the team that built the first prototype using open standard network telephony protocols and a customised conversion system, which he developed himself. The pair had the proof the concept could work even before they started looking for external funding, which meant they had an actual product to market. Their investors could see how it worked and try it for themselves.

Domecq then set about devising her business strategy, which included getting some well-known high street retailers on board. Having established partnerships with big names such as 3G, the Carphone Warehouse and The Link, Spinvox used their brands and customer relationships rather than try to compete against them. In 2005, Spinvox’s Voicemail-to-text service was launched through the high street retailers.

Initially the company was funded by Domecq and Doulton, but angel investors soon followed as the company proved to be more and more successful. Domecq says the idea was to raise finance in instalments, as the company grew.

Spinvox was not the first successful business Domecq founded. At the age of 20 she set up her own IT services consultancy, which employed 140 members of staff. It’s no surprise then that she was able to find investors for Spinvox – although the reported £25m raised is still extremely impressive for any start-up business.

Domecq says the company’s biggest success to date has been securing deals in three languages with companies across four continents for the Spinvox technology to be used with mobiles and internet calls.

However, if she could do it all again from scratch, Domecq says she would have tried to gain a stronger presence in North America. “It’s a different market, with extraordinary potential,” she says. “The American market has the potential to fast track our service into new areas, such as internet based messaging.”

But despite the fact that the company did not focus on the American market from the beginning, Spinvox’s growth has been rapid, increasing to a current team of around 130 members of staff.

Based in Maidenhead the company currently operates in the UK, U.S, Germany, France and Spain. Domecq has high hopes for Spinvox, with the aim of getting the service operating on every mobile handset in Europe by 2008.

Current turnover is over £2m per year, but Domecq has big expectations, forecasting turnover to be breaking the £100m mark within a few years. Domecq says the speed of growth has vastly improved her decision-making ability and clarity of leadership. She says she used to climb mountains for a challenge, but now she has a whole industry to climb.

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