Synthetic speech tech startup Murf literally gives voice to content creators of all sizes. Murf, which now has a library of over 120 human-parity AI voices in 20 languages, today announced it has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Matrix partners. Participation came from returning investors Elevation Capital and several high-profile angel investors like Ola founder Ankit Bhai; Disney Streaming Product SVP; Ashwini Asokan, founder of Mad Street Dap; and Pushkar Mukewar, founder of Drip Capital
Founded in October 2020 by IIT-Kharagpur school friends Sneha Roy, Ankur Edkie and Divyanshu Pandey, Murf’s previous funding announcement was a $1.5 million seed led by Elevation Capital and angel investors who helped recruit talent, invest in product innovation and user acquisition. Murf says that since his seed round, he’s increased 26x in ARR and synthesized over a million voiceover projects, in a wide variety of speaking styles and tones.
Some examples of how Murf’s technology has been used include a tech entrepreneur and artist creating an entire movie using AI art models, fake deep programs and AI Voices from the Murf studio; an entertainment animation agency that created a television series using a collection of Murf’s voices; authors creating fantasy fiction audiobooks with the voices of Murf’s AI; and a YouTube influencer who used Murf’s AI voice to create a rap video.
Edkie, the CEO of Murf, told TechCrunch that even though the founding team of Murf has worked in different fields in the past, they have all encountered the challenges of creating high-quality voiceovers. This included creating and updating product demos and recording radio and video commercials. He added that the pandemic “has given multimedia creation a boost and the demand for scalable audio content is growing rapidly.”
Murf’s clients have used it in a variety of ways, including advertising, audiobooks, explainer videos, and e-learning. Murf.ai, its SaaS platform, was developed to make it easier for customers to create high-quality, natural-sounding voiceovers for commercial purposes. The company’s customers range in size from individual content creators to SMBs and enterprises, and work in industries including education, corporate, healthcare, media and entertainment, marketing, advertising, podcasting, customer support and more.
Edkie told TechCrunch that content creators and marketing teams often record voiceovers themselves or outsource the entire process, both of which are “heavy, expensive, and time-consuming.” Murf, on the other hand, allows users to generate “human” voiceovers without the need to purchase recording equipment or hire a voice artist.
The company also wants to remove limitations on what text-to-speech can do. “Although TTS has been around for a while now, voice quality limitations have limited its use. By leveraging recent advances in AI and deep learning, we enable high fidelity that mimics the natural prosody and pronunciation of human speech.
Murf’s platform includes an AI-enabled SaaS tool that helps users generate “human” voices, typically for use in videos or presentations, without having to purchase complex and expensive recoding equipment or to hire a voice artist. Content creators can use an online voice recording booth, where they can sample a wide range of speaking styles. Murf wants to bridge the diversity gap in traditional text-to-speech platforms by including voices across accents, such as African Americans, British, Australians and others.
According to market reports used by the founders of Murf, the global text-to-speech market is expected to reach $7.06 billion by 2028, growing at 14.6% CAG. Meanwhile, the voiceover and dubbing markets are expected to generate a total of $8 billion per year by 2027.
Text-to-speech has been around for years, but quality limitations meant it was mostly used by voice assistants and chatbots. But recent developments in AI and deep learning now mean it’s possible to create synthetic voices that have the prosody and pronunciation of human speech. Murf’s AI engine is trained on hours of real human speech and Murf Studios offers over 120 human variety AI voices, which can speak in 20 languages. Murf also strives to bring more diverse accents by partnering with voice actors to bring voices like African American, British, and Australian English overseas.
Murf’s AI-powered text-to-speech can also learn from contextual information to return the correct answers. The founders describe Murf as an “all-in-one voice solution” that lets users add images, videos, and background music. It also has pronunciation features using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), voice customizations that change users’ pitch, pause, emphasis, and speed.
Murf makes money through a subscription plan for his services. It came out of beta testing in January 2021 and over the past 18 months has grown 22x in ARR and synthesized over 1 million voiceover projects to date.
Edkie said Murf’s main competitors are big tech and cloud companies, like Google, Amazon, Polly and Microsoft, which own the market’s leading text-to-speech platforms. Murf stands out with natural-sounding AI voices that also support multiple accents and styles.
“Going beyond a simple text-to-speech tool, our platform offers the ability for users to add images, videos, presentations and voice-over, include background music and sync them to create compelling content,” Edkie said. Murf’s AI-powered TTS can also learn from large amounts of contextual information to create contextual speech. For example, it has built-in context sensitivity that can recognize commonly used entity formats like numbers, currencies, percentages, addresses, dates and times, reducing their randomness and bringing them closer to a standard predefined, added Edkie.
In a prepared statement, Mukul Arora, co-manager of Elevation Capital, said, “Realistic, AI-driven voiceovers are the next frontier in the text-to-speech market. Murf, with its stellar founding team and unique intellectual property, is perfectly positioned to gain a leadership position in this space. Their execution prowess and focus on technology is evident in the strong traction and growth they have shown so far. We are really excited to double down on our partnership with Murf.
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