Respeecher, a Kyiv-based startup that synthesizes voices using AI, has just received $1 million in funding to scale ethical voice cloning technology.

The company already enjoys a high profile in Hollywood. In 2021, it won an Emmy for its work on the documentary film “In Event of Moon Disaster,” for which it successfully cloned President Richard Nixon's speech, prepared in case the Apollo 11 moon landing was a failure.

Other well-known examples of the company’s work include the voices of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker for the Disney+ “Star Wars” TV series, and a Showtime documentary about basketball legend and actor Wilt Chamberlain.

Ff Venture Captal Poland, Bad Ideas, ICU, and SID Venture Partners participated in the latest round of funding, as did US businessman and social media influencer Gary Vaynerchuk. Well-known for his mentorship-based content, Vaynerchuk said he was impressed by the consistent ethical approach adopted by Respeecher.

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“Investing in an AI company is an obvious decision. It’s an investment in the creative industry - but creativity is a challenge. AI voice technology is one of many ways to solve it and scale business. I just loved that Respeecher knows how to do that with Hollywood quality and an ethical approach,” Vaynerchuk said.

Respeecher only works on a voice if they have the actor’s or family's consent to recreate it, and the company works with an ethicist on an ongoing basis. Examples abound of AI voice cloning technology being misused, ranging from innocuous pranks to Harry Potter actor Emma Watson’s voice being misappropriated to narrate Mein Kampf.

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Its strong focus on ethics helps explain why the company has become the go-to for Hollywood studios, being able to reassure them that their intellectual property won’t be misused. The company has also participated in ethical initiatives like Adobe’s Content Authenticity Initiative and Partnership on AI, along with the BBC, TikTok, and OpenAI.

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“We admire that the company that was awarded the Emmy Award… is the one that makes sure that their technology will not be used for spreading misinformation,” said Mariusz Adamski, Partner at ff Venture Capital.

“We believe that so-called real-time voice cloning will be the next big use case for voice conversion technology, and Respeecher is set up for success in this area. Lastly, we want to support more teams like Respeecher’s, which not only did not break under the Russian invasion of Ukraine but was able to expand its offerings and win new customers.”

Within the last two years, Respeecher’s technology has been streamed on Netflix, HBO, Paramount+, and Showtime. It has also been credited in AAA (major developer) games like “God of War,” “Ragnarok” and Cyberpunk Liberty.

Besides providing a B2B service for Hollywood, Respeecher has also created a tool for smaller creators – Respeecher Marketplace. The company hopes this will help to democratize AI technology.

“We aim to grow the team and improve the Respeecher platform in several directions: our unique services, our Marketplace product, and healthcare. One of the most active developments is happening in introducing our real-time voice and accent-changing solutions for a variety of communication use cases,” said Respeecher’s CEO and co-founder, Alex Serdiuk.

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“Having a long track record of records in the biggest TV, film, and videogame projects over the last six years, we used to invest a lot in the ethics of synthetic media, but this year we multiplied our effort there.”

In 2024, Respeecher plans to continue its growth sustainably and has alluded to several new projects with major media companies, including film and video game producers. The company has also identified medtech as a key growth priority.

Respeecher currently employs more than 50 people, primarily based at its central Kyiv office. Thanks to its new investment, it plans to recruit new staff by focusing on acquiring the top talent available.

The company’s success demonstrated how, despite the profound challenges posed to Ukraine’s economy by Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s tech sector continues to thrive.

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