Papercup attracts £8m in funding to disrupt the global media industry

Funding | South East | Start-up | Technology

Papercup, a UK artificial intelligence startup has developed pioneering speech technology which translates people’s voices into other languages.

The technology is already being used to translate video content at scale, helping creators, media companies, and brands drastically expand their reach into previously inaccessible international audiences. The company has secured £8m in funding in order to make high-quality dubbing accessible to every kind of creator in the world.

The round was led by LocalGlobe and Sands Capital Ventures, alongside Sky, GMG Ventures, Entrepreneur First, and BDMI.

The company’s existing angel investors include William Tunstell-Pedoe, the founder of Evi Technologies (acquired by Amazon to create Alexa) and Zoubin Ghahramani, Former Chief Scientist and VP of AI at Uber, and now part of the Google Brain leadership team. Armed with this new support, the company will invest further into machine learning research and will expand its human-in-the-loop quality control function, which is used to improve and customise the quality of the AI-translated videos.

Founded in 2017 by Jesse Shemen and Jiameng Gao, Papercup has created an AI and machine learning-based system capable of translating people’s voices and ways of expression into other languages. The result is indistinguishable from human speech and can retain unique characteristics of the speaker’s voice. The product is simple, yet powerful: video content producers upload their videos, specify the target language, and receive a translated version with a synthetic voiceover identical to human voices.

This technology is enabling media giants such as Sky News, Discovery, and YouTube stars Yoga with Adriene and DIY Creators to expand their audience globally. Over the last 12 months alone, over 80 million people have watched videos translated with Papercup’s synthetic voices.

Jesse Shemen, Co-Founder and CEO of Papercup, said: “Most of the world’s videos – billions of hours of content – are shackled to a single language. And that’s for a simple reason – quality dubbing is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, so current solutions only work for a select group of deep-pocketed content owners. Speech translation technology fundamentally changes the dynamics of how content is distributed and monetised. The technology we created will level the playing field – allowing all forms of video and audio to be consumed in any language, therefore vastly multiplying the potential reach for all content creators.”

Mish Mashkautsan, partner at LocalGlobe, said: “Papercup and its founders have developed a truly disruptive technology. Not only have they identified a huge potential market within the global media industry, giving a wide variety of creators access to the sort of capabilities that have previously been the preserve of only the biggest conglomerates; but they have created a new market related to the future of human interaction. Looking ahead, this next generation technology will have an impact by breaking down language barriers and changing the way in which we are able to interact beyond our own native languages.”

This funding takes the total Papercup has raised to more than £10m, including two Innovate UK grants.

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