SoundHound is one of the premiere audio recognition and cognition companies in the world. With over 300 million downloads, and offices in six cities across three countries, their founder’s goal of making the future a reality is getting closer every day.
We spoke to a few members of the SoundHound team to find out the story behind the voice and audio recognition magic, and what it’s like to work at a company on the forefront of the space.
Waiting for the Right Moment
SoundHound wasn’t founded on a spur of the moment decision, or the recognition of a niche to exploit for profit. “SoundHound was founded on the kernel of an idea and a series of serendipitous coincidences,” said Gabrielle Adams, SoundHound’s Director of Client Services and Ad Operations.
SoundHound’s co-founder, James Hom, was a student at Stanford when he first mentioned to his TA, Keyvan Mohajer, the idea of a technology that could identify music that users sing or hum.
Mohajer, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford studying vocal recognition, and SoundHound’s other co-founder was a big sci-fi fan and was inspired by shows like Star Trek in the notion of humans communicating naturally with machines. At the time though, Mohajer wasn’t sure the technology was possible, and the idea was put on pause for the pair.
A few years later, after Mohajer was convinced that the technology was now powerful enough to deploy, Hom’s germ of an idea had grown into a fully fledged business idea. Mohajer spotted Hom walking across a crosswalk and after coaxing Hom into a car, Mohajer pitched Hom the business that would become SoundHound.
“While we worked in stealth on what became Houndify for 10 years, we decided that some of the technology we were creating could be leveraged into another product,” said Andi Georgiana, SoundHound’s Director of Marketing, “Which became our music recognition product, SoundHound.”
Organic Growth & Seamless Experiences
Most apps with 300 million plus downloads place a lot of emphasis on user acquisition, but not SoundHound. SoundHound’s user base comes largely from organic, word-of-mouth growth explained Adams.
SoundHound believes the most important part of acquiring and retaining users is simple: “Our product works,” Adams said. “We receive regular feedback from users gushing about how SoundHound has helped them identify a song that’s been stuck in their head for days, weeks, even years.”
One driving force behind the top-notch user experience that leads to such phenomenal organic growth is the unique UI and smooth user experience. “We strive to provide a natural, user-friendly, intuitive UI/UX in all our products,” said Georgiana. “Our vision is to enable users to interact with things around them in the same way we interact with each other.”
The look and feel of the app itself draws some specific lines to major science fiction as well.
“Keyvan, our founder, and CEO, has always been inspired by science fiction, particularly Star Trek,” explained Georgiana. The fascination with science fiction is attributed with many of the ideas that drive the company’s mission — to make people’s lives simpler and more fulfilled through technology.
Content is also an important part of the retention and engagement equation for SoundHound.
SoundHound offers users a wealth of constantly updated content to explore, including music charts, featured artists and albums, interactive real-time maps of what users are discovering around the world, and connection to other users’ streaming playlists. Users can also stream from their connected playlists right in the app featuring LiveLyrics..
“We also keep our users engaged in new product features and editorial content to keep creating value for them,” said Georgiana.
Monetizing & Keeping Ahead of the Curve
The integration of ads to support SoundHound’s free service is also born from that ‘our product works,’ philosophy.
“In the ad-supported SoundHound app, ads will never impede a user’s ability to discover a song or explore more content,” Adams said. “Ads are often relevant through endemic targeting or the employment of sophisticated technology to ensure the users and advertisers benefit from the exchange.”
SoundHound is also staying ahead of the technological curve, keeping user experiences solid while introducing its voice recognition tools to unique new use cases.
In 2014, SoundHound was the first music discovery service to be integrated into vehicles. Partnering with Hyundai and Kia, drivers can pull up information on a song or artist with a press of the SoundHound icon. In 2015, SoundHound jumped on the wearables train, showcasing its integration with Casio’s wearable Bluetooth watches at SXSW that year.
“Now that Hound and Houndify are out in the market,” Georgiana explained, “We are focused on bringing this technology to everyone, enabling people to speak naturally to any connected device imaginable.”
At the end of 2015, SoundHound officially launched the Houndify API platform, building on the success of the SoundHound music discovery app, and the Hound voice search and assistant app. Houndify allows developers to integrate voice and conversational intelligence into their products through a constantly learning independent platform. By not having to utilize Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google’s voice recognition, companies that utilize the Houndify API can customize, innovate, and differentiate their products without diluting their brand by having to attach it to the big players.
Yelp, Uber, Onkyo, Nvidia, and more have already partnered with SoundHound on putting Houndify products into the public sphere and the service looks ready to be a great area of growth for the company.
Naturally, users can experience this groundbreaking technology within SoundHound as well, just by asking “Ok Hound, what’s that song?”
Keep in Touch with SoundHound
SoundHound, Hound, and Houndify all have Twitter accounts to interact with users and share the latest updates on the technology and apps powering them. @SoundHound, @HoundApp, and @Houndify, all maintain active presences and are a great source for learning more about the company’s goals and future.
As befits a company inspired by science fiction, SoundHound is always looking towards the future.
In addition to constantly improving SoundHound and rolling out the Houndify API, the company is planning on more to come. “We are constantly building new features and releasing new content,” Adams said.
“We just released a cool new Apple Music integration on iOS and, of course, we are always making it easier to interact with SoundHound using your voice!” Georgiana added.
We’re excited to talk more about these new features with the SoundHound app itself soon!
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