Holler wants to be the voice layer of your apps

By Erin Griffith , written on March 27, 2013

From The News Desk

OneTok, the voice recognition software platform founded by the people behind Vapps, has pivoted to Holler, a consumer-facing voice message app. The app facilitates short voice messages between contacts. But behind the scenes, the company will use the technology powering Holler to help app developers and telecom companies integrate voice messaging into their offerings. Just a few weeks after the pivot, several customers have already signed on to use the service, founder Ben Lilienthal says.

OneTok originally launched to allow app developers to integrate speech recognition. It turned out that problem was too difficult for a startup to tackle, says Lilienthal. The company acknowledged that it was good at doing audio on the web, and that people wanted to talk to each other asynchronously. "The art of the phone call is slowly dying, but there is this concept of sending instant short voice messages," Lilienthal says. He noticed the success of data-delivered voice messaging apps like Voxer and HeyTel and realized that a consumer-facing app with those functions could also be beneficial. Thus, Holler.

The app, like Voxer and HeyTel, allows users to send a quick voice message to anyone or any group in your contacts with a simple "press and record" function. Holler's app is already generating revenue through premium services.

But the ultimate plan is to license the software to corporations looking to replace their "push to talk" functions. That service is being phased out by the carriers, and soon, short, data-delivered voice messages will be common built-in services on phones, Lilienthal says. Holler wants to be the company to provide it. It won't ever be as big as text messaging, he notes, because it is mostly just a derivative of text messaging. But there are plenty of use cases. Why not speak your Yelp review instead of typing it? Why not leave voice notes to yourself that become written notes?

Google Keep has a solid voice functionality; the problem is that Google doesn't share that solid voice functionality. The point of Holler is to make that widely available to more app developers beyond Google.

"There is a real opportunity for telephony and carriers," Lilienthal says. "In a year or two, you'll be able to push a button and send a voice message to everyone in your contact list."

OneTok spent a year on voice recognition and audio transport, Lilienthal says, meaning it has all the pieces to put together a useful voice tool. The company also has the money to do so: last year, as we first reported, OneTok raised $1.5 million in seed funding from RRE Ventures and friends and family to launch the company. The raise came easy on the back of the success of Vapps, Lilienthal's VoIP conferencing technology company which sold to Citrix in 2008 for $26.6 million. The technology is now a part of the GoToMeeting suite of products.

I expressed to Lilienthal the fact that some of us that view voicemails as a form of hate crime. Surprisingly, he agreed. "The absolute best implementation is that you speak the message and that a transcription of it gets sent to the person on the other end," he says. "That is the home run slam dunk kind of thing." So there's hope for us all.

[Image courtesy Mr. Beaverhousen]