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AI start-up Papercup raises $20m to generate humanised voices for AI Dubbing

UK artificial intelligence start-up Papercup has completed a $20 million Series A investment round.

The London-based company’s technology makes video content watchable in any language via realistic synthetic voices and AI dubbing, an estimated $100 billion future market.

Around the world, billions of hours of video content are trapped in a single language. Founded in 2017, Papercup created an AI and machine learning-based system that translates people’s voices and ways of expression into other languages. Customers upload their videos, choose a target language and then receive a translated version with a synthetic voiceover.

The technology has already been used by media giants Sky News, Discovery, and Business Insider, and was used to translate 30 seasons of Bob Ross’ iconic show ‘The Joy of Painting’. More than 300 million people have watched videos translated by Papercup over the past 12 months.

Papercup has created its own catalogue of voices that offer realistic tones and emotions that are more engaging with viewers. This creates an enjoyable and authentic experience for viewers, complete with the subtlety and nuance of the original content.

Papercup’s emotive voices are complemented by its proprietary ‘human in the loop’ system, whereby translators annotate the content which is auto transcribed, translated and dubbed by AI. By applying human expertise at this stage, the quality of the video output is improved, and Papercup collects the very data Papercup can use to semi and wholly automate the process.

Combining AI and a human layer allows Papercup to offer a service that is radically different to what has been traditionally available in the dubbing sector, with costs running to just 1/5th of standard dubbing studios, and turnaround times shrunk to hours and days rather than weeks and months. 

Papercup’s proprietary technology will for the first time make dubbing accessible to all forms of video content, allowing content to be watched by the 6.5 billion people across the globe who don’t speak English. Extending their technology to all forms of video and audio content, including e-learning, corporate training, podcasts, and audiobooks, will unlock a $100 billion dubbing opportunity ripe for disruption.

Jesse Shemen, CEO of Papercup saidPeople retain up to 70% more information when watching videos dubbed in their native language. With truly emotive cross-lingual AI dubbing, we can tackle all forms of content, making video and audio more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. This funding will allow us to double down on our promising research and break into new content categories.”

Octopus Ventures leads the investment joined by Local Globe, Sands Capital, Sky and Guardian Media Ventures, Entrepreneur First, BDMI as well as a range of angel investors, including Des Traynor, Co-founder of Intercom, and John Collison, Co-founder of Stripe.

Existing angel investors include William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of Evi (now Amazon’s Alexa) and Zoubin Ghahramani, Senior Research Director at Google Brain, and former Chief Scientist at Uber. 

Zoe Reich, investor, Octopus Ventures commented:  “Spotify has 3.2 million podcasts. Youtube 500 hours of video uploaded every minute. Discovery, 100,000 hours of documentaries. CNN 4 million video assets. The volume of video and audio produced for consumption is rising exponentially, yet, only 1% is currently dubbed into multiple languages. Papercup’s use of AI to provide affordable, high quality dubbing can unlock that content for audiences around the world and in, doing so, drive a 100 fold expansion in the video and audio translation market with Papercup at the forefront.”

Chris Eng, Principal, Sands Capital said:  “In a world that has increasingly embraced online video during the last two years, Papercup’s solutions can have a resounding impact, expanding the reach and unlocking millions of hours of video content.

“Papercup can set the standard for high quality video localization and demonstrate the immense value AI can bring to online and digital videos.”


About Papercup

Papercup was founded in 2017 by Jesse Sheman and Jiameng Gao with a mission to make all the world’s videos watchable in any language. The pioneering AI company, using state-of-the-art machine learning, Papercup has created a text-to-speech system capable of translating people’s voices into other languages with a delivery that is indistinguishable from human speech while retaining characteristics of the speaker’s voice. Papercup empowers global companies such as Sky News, Insider, Cinedigm, and Canva to reach an international audience eager to watch videos in their native language which they couldn’t access before. The London-based startup has raised over $30.5 million in funding to date, with backers including the media titan Sky (now owned by Comcast) and to VCs including Octopus Ventures, LocalGlobe, Sands Capital, and Guardian Media Group Ventures.