Archive for the ‘voice’ tag
Google CEO Larry Page shared today on his Google+ page that he has funded a research project for the Voice Health Institute, mostly due to the journey he’s undergone over the last 14 years in losing first one, and then a second vocal cord to paralysis.
But, he adds, Google co-founder Sergei Brin tells him he’s a better CEO because he says less.
Page lost his left vocal cord over a decade ago after a bad cold and a hoarse voice that never really recovered. Doctors couldn’t explain the problem, never identifying a cause, and assured him that losing the other vocal cord was a virtual impossibility. Fast forward to last year, and again after a cold and a hoarse voice, Page learned that his right vocal cord now had limited movement also.
Both injuries resulted in vocal issues — the first in a slightly weaker voice than normal, and the second with even more impact — but Page says he’s been able to recover, at least partially:
Thankfully, after some initial recovery I’m fully able to do all I need to at home and at work, though my voice is softer than before. And giving long monologues is more tedious for me and probably the audience. But overall over the last year there has been some improvement with people telling me they think I sound better.
But Page, who says he’s actually feeling quite lucky overall, also says that having paralyzed vocal cords may have made him a better CEO. Why? As co-founder Brin told him, Page is forced to choose his words more carefully … which probably gives him the time to think through what he wants to say before saying it, and also reduces the number of occasions in which thoughtless words cause damage.
I’ve heard that personally on Google earnings calls — Page speaks a little slowly, a lot softly, and with carefully-selected, well-chosen words.
As a result of these challenges, Page came into contact with a Harvard doctor, Steven Zeitels, who is leading a research project on vocal cord paralysis. The problem is relatively rare, he says, and there’s not enough information currently to help doctors learn more about it, and to treat it.
The project is starting with a patient survey to “gather information about the prevalence and extent of vocal paralysis and paresis” from people who have similar problems.
Page’s journey surfaces the question: would every CEO be better by saying less?
Image credit: Google Zeitgeist video
In a post on Google+ today, Google CEO Larry Page discussed for the first time publicly the voice problems he’s been experiencing. It doesn’t sound like Page is experiencing life-threatening medical problems, but it has become a topic of interest every time he speaks publicly. During the last earnings call, Page actually spoke for a long time, albeit a bit labored, and answered questions at the end of the call.
He’s addressed his fellow Googlers over the years, letting them know that nothing was “seriously wrong.” He had to skip I/O last year because of these issues, and then skipp the next few earnings calls.
Here’s his post, where he says that his problems started some 14 years ago:
About 14 years ago, I got a bad cold, and my voice became hoarse. At the time I didn’t think much about it. But my voice never fully recovered. So I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with left vocal cord paralysis. This is a nerve problem that causes your left vocal cord to not move properly. Despite extensive examination, the doctors never identified a cause — though there was speculation of virus-based damage from my cold. It is quite common in cases like these that a definitive cause is not found.
While this condition never really affected me — other than having a slightly weaker voice than normal which some people think sounded a little funny — it naturally raised questions in my mind about my second vocal cord. But I was told that sequential paralysis of one vocal cord following another is extremely rare.
Fast forward to last summer, when the same pattern repeated itself — a cold followed by a hoarse voice. Once again things didn’t fully improve, so I went in for a check-up and was told that my second vocal cord now had limited movement as well. Again, after a thorough examination, the doctors weren’t able to identify a cause.
Thankfully, after some initial recovery I’m fully able to do all I need to at home and at work, though my voice is softer than before. And giving long monologues is more tedious for me and probably the audience. But overall over the last year there has been some improvement with people telling me they think I sound better. Vocal cord nerve issues can also affect your breathing, so my ability to exercise at peak aerobic capacity is somewhat reduced. That said, my friends still think I have way more stamina than them when we go kitesurfing! And Sergey says I’m probably a better CEO because I choose my words more carefully. So surprisingly, overall I am feeling very lucky.
Interestingly, while the nerves for your vocal cords take quite different routes through your body, they both pass your thyroid. So in searching for a cause for both nerves that was an obvious place to look. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2003. This is a fairly common benign inflammatory condition of the thyroid which causes me no problems. It is unclear if this is a factor in the vocal cord condition, or whether both conditions were triggered by a virus.
In this journey I have learned a lot more about voice issues. Though my condition seems to be very rare, there are a significant number of people who develop issues with one vocal nerve. In seeing different specialists, I met one doctor — Dr. Steven Zeitels from the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center — who is really excited about the potential to improve vocal cord nerve function. So I’ve arranged to fund a significant research program through the Voice Health Institute, which he will lead. Thanks a bunch to my amazing wife Lucy, for her companionship through this journey and for helping oversee this project and get it off the ground. Also, thanks to the many people who have helped with advice and information many of whom I have not had a chance to thank yet.
Finally, we’ve put together a patient survey to gather information about other people with similar conditions. As it’s fairly rare, there’s little data available today — and the team hopes that with more information they can make faster progress. If you have similar symptoms you can fill it out here: voicehealth.org/ip
The medical condition that Page mentions in his post, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is dangerous if it goes untreated, but as Page points out, he was diagnosed in 2003.
With Page missing public appearances and earnings calls, some pundits and shareholders wondered if this was a situation similar to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. During Jobs’ final years at Apple, his physical condition was a constant target of speculation, leading people to wonder if Apple could maintain its forward progress without him. It’s unknown if he’ll be keynoting tomorrow’s I/O conference, but this is definitely a calculated announcement ahead of the event.
In typical Page and Google fashion, he will be setting up a fund to aid research for the Voice Health Institute.
Tumblr released an update for iOS today that allows users to share a post using other social media without leaving the app.
“Now you can do more than just reblog when you find something you love on Tumblr for iPhone and iPad,” the company said in a blog post.
The update allows users to share a Tumblr post to Facebook or Twitter or save it for later using Instapaper or Pocket. They can also email an entire formatted post.
The new features give the blogging platform new tools with which to virally expand its audience.
The update also includes a few improvements to the mobile user experience. Users can search the list of those they follow alphabetically. And animated GIFs, embraced by Tumblr, also cycle through as the user scrolls.
Yesterday, Tumblr launched its first app for Windows Phone; it allows users to create posts using voice commands.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
In this video I interview Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income.
Pat tells the story behind his successful online business and shares the importance of the role podcasting plays in connecting with his blog audience. You’ll also discover why podcasting adds value to your online presence.
Be sure to check out the takeaways below after you watch the video.
Here are some of the things you’ll learn in this video:
- How Pat expands his business with passive income streams
- Discover how to combine podcasting with blogging
- How podcasts differ from blogs
- The value of your voice on podcasts
- How to provide intimacy for your audience
- The challenges of getting started with podcasting
- How people discover your blog through your podcasts
- What’s a good strategy to find people to interview for your show
- Why you should interview regular people in addition to well-known experts
What do you think? Do you have a following with podcasting? What tips do you have to share about growing your audience with podcasting? Please leave them below.
Some consolidation up in the clouds: Colt Technology Services has bought ThinkGrid, an enterprise cloud startup that has created a platform for channel partners and small and medium businesses for them in turn to become cloud service providers.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it looks like it was a decent one for ThinkGrid’s investors: a spokesperson for Runa Capital, a VC backer of ThinkGrid, tells TechCrunch that it has made back 4.5 times what it invested in the company in October 2011 (that investment itself was for an undisclosed amount). The RNS statement for the deal notes that Fidelity Telecom (the non-trading name for ThinkGrid) had unaudited gross assets of £600,000, although this “does not reflect the transactional value of the acquisition,” a Colt spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The deal underscores the potential strength of the cloud and managed services business specifically in the area of SMBs, but also how Colt needs to focus more on that area to try to capitalize on it. Colt says this market is set to grow “15% annually during the coming years.” But in its last earnings statement, Colt also noted that “economic headwinds” were leading to lots of churn in data and voice services among its small business customers.
For the last six months ended June 30, Colt noted that its enterprise services revenues declined by €3.2m (1.1%) to €298.8m, “with declines in legacy Data and Voice services, particularly more commoditised offerings to smaller enterprise customers.” That was in turn offset by strong growth in Managed Service revenue, it said.
Services covered by the ThinkGrid platform include hosted virtual desktops, email, file sharing, cloud backup and voice services. ThinkGrid’s partner ecosystem already has 300 partners delivering public, private and hybrid cloud services and solutions for over 35,000 users. The deal will help ThinkGrid grow its business further. Publicly-traded Colt operates some 20 data centers and a business network across 22 countries in Europe, and has been around since 1992.
UK-based Colt has bought ThinkGrid to strengthen not only its cloud-services portfolio but the professional services it offers around it, specifically in the area of small and medium businesses.
Colt says ThinkGrid’s training programme, which helps develop resellers’ cloud capabilities, will be rolled out to Colt’s indirect sales team and channel partners. Colt says the deal will add 200 resellers and software vendors to its network in the UK.
“The acquisition of ThinkGrid further strengthens our position with the addition of a complementary range of cloud-based services,” noted François Eloy, EVP at Colt, in a statement announcing the deal. “We also gain a reseller-oriented management platform and portal which will reduce our time to market across our European markets. This acquisition allows us to extend our channel community to include skilled managed services resellers who will help us to accelerate our growth.”
Today was graduation time for the tech stars of Boulder, Colorado. These 11 startups pitched to a roomful of investors at the Colorado Theater, which included Morris Wheeler, founder and CEO of Drummond Road Capital and Ben Siscovick, Partner at IA Ventures.
Already a higher percentage than any previous TechStars class have committed to investment. ”I’ve already made soft commitments to two groups and I’m hoping to come to an agreement with a couple more,” said Wheeler.
“Reliably out of 11 companies to present today at TechStars Boulder Demo Day, all are very investable,” Aziz Gilani, Director at DFJ Mercury, told VentureBeat.
If you’re not familiar with TechStars, it’s an accelerator founded in 2006 in Boulder, with programs in Boston, New York City and Seattle.
TechStars invests $18,000 in seed funding and provides a $100,000 convertible debt note for every startup. The calibre is typically high: 13 of the 126 companies debuted at TechStars have already been acquired.
Ubooly is a stuffed animal for kids. It’s an educational toy powered by a smart phone that brings kids on adventures, teaches them foreign language and more. Ubooly is voice activated so kids can talk to their Ubooly and make decisions.
A site that shows what the true price of a hotel room, anywhere in the world should be on any day of the year.It is not influenced by any hotel chain (like Orbitz or Travelocity or other hotel deal sites) but rather takes into account historical rates and data to show travelers if a hotel is a good deal or a total rip-off.
Verbaliziet offers travelers and businesses access to a human translator anywhere in the world. It’s available in five languages and it costs $5 for 5 minutes for a traveler to call, tell the translator what they need in a taxi, a pharmacy, a restaurant, anywhere.
PivotDesk is launching in Denver and Boulder to help increase entrepreneurial density by giving businesses a way to rent out their extra office space. It’s co-working on steroids. Entrepreneurs and founders can avoid long term office leases for a small amount of space.
Roximity allows merchants to send targeted messages to consumers as they drive by. For instance, consumers can alert the system using a hands free, voice command that they are hungry for lunch and it will locate lunch deals nearby. Read here about Roximity’s recent partnership with Ford.
A site for clothing and furniture consignment stores to go online in a highly curated way. 27Perry works with independent thrift stores across the country to feature the best items on sale. The company is raising at seed round of $350K.
Rollsale is a marketplace to take the wheeling and dealing out of selling a used car. It’s an online marketplace that connects sellers with car dealers. There are approximately 250 million used cars in the United States.
Salesloft is enterprise application that works in Salesforce and other CRM tools to help sales professionals to engage with their clients. By pulling in social data (like LinkedIn updates and tweets) and bio information right into a CRM, SalesLoft brings new touch-point to sales folks.
MobiPlug lets homeowners manage their devices right from their smartphone with a single application that talks to various protocols and off the shelf devices. There’s no contract unlike Xfinity, ADT and other competitors.
The world’s simplest cloud hosting service with unlimited bandwidth. Aimed at individuals and startup companies, Digital Ocean lets anyone deploy a virtual server in less than a minute. Digital Ocean already has 500 active customers and 10,000 virtual servers (5000 were added in the past 30 days).
A way to sort and manage photo’s and media posted on various networks. In addition to time, location and date a photo or video was shot, Birdbox maintains the social context of the photo and video including comments, retweets, tags and more.
Any favorites? We will keep you posted on the funding amounts raised by each of these startups.
Today, seed fund and accelerator TechStars hosted its “Demo Day” in Boulder, where it showcased its 11 newest startups. With an average funding of $1.28 million raised per TechStars-backed company so far, it was an important day for these new companies as the room was full of investors at the Boulder Theater.
TechStars was founded in 2006 in Boulder but now holds programs in Boston, New York City and Seattle as well. Last April, it debuted a new accelerator called TechStars Cloud that focuses exclusively on backing cloud computing and infrastructure startups.
Here’s a look at the 11 finalists.
Ubooly is a stuffed animal for kids ages 5-10 that wakes up when parents put their iPhone inside the plush, orange little character. It’s an educational toy powered by a smart phone that brings kids on adventures, teaches them foreign languages and more. Ubooly is voice activated so kids can talk to their Ubooly and make decisions. Updates to Ubooly are made via wifi so it’s always learning. Ubooly is launching on Thursday but its kiddo beta testers are already in love with him.
DealAngel is a site that shows what the true price of a hotel room, anywhere in the world should be on any day of the year. It takes into account when there are conferences, time of year, proximity to landmarks, etc. It is not influenced by any hotel chain (like Orbitz or Travelocity or other hotel deal sites) but rather takes into account historical rates and data to show travelers if a hotel is a good deal or a rip-off.
Verbalizeit offers travelers (and businesses) access to a human translator anywhere in the world. It’s available in five languages – Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi, and Portuguese (the language options are expanding as they grow). It costs $5 for 5 minutes for a traveler to call, tell the translator what they need in a taxi, a pharmacy, a restaurant, anywhere. There are price packages for businesses as well. They have already partnered with Skype and TripLingo.
PivotDesk is launching in Denver/Boulder to help increase entrepreneurial density by giving businesses a way to rent out their extra office space. It’s co-working on steroids. Entrepreneurs and founders can avoid long term office leases for a small amount of space.
ROXIMITY is a location based alert and deals platform. It allows merchants to send targeted messages to consumers as they pass their cars. Integrated into a vehicle’s sync system, consumers can tell ROXIMITY using hands free, voice command, that they are hungry for lunch and it will locate lunch deals nearby.
27Perry is helping clothing and furniture consignment stores to go online in a highly curated way. There is an estimated trillion dollars worth of consignment inventory and they are entering into the untapped world of consignment goods. 27Perry works with independent thrift stores across the country to feature the best items on sale. 27Perry is not in market yet and they are raising at seed round of $350K.
RollSale is the Lending Tree for used cars. It offers a marketplace for people selling their used car to market it and sell it to car dealers. It takes the wheeling and dealing out of selling a used car. There are approximately 250 million used cars in the united states which a market of $325 billion (transactions make up $3.6B slice of the pie).
SalesLoft is an enterprise application that works in Salesforce and other CRM tools to help sales professionals to engage with their clients and prospects in a deeper, more meaningful way. This tool is targeting the $400B sales industry. Good sales people do their due diligence before reaching out to a sales lead so SalesLoft helps them do that quicker. By pulling in social data (like LinkedIn updates and tweets) and bio information right into a CRM, SalesLoft enables each touch-point for sales folks to be relevant, fresh and meaningful.
MobiPlug is putting the internet into your things! Mobiplug makes home automation a reality by providing a single box (a gateway) to control all wifi enabled devices like the thermostat, door locks, lights, TVs, garage doors, home security devices/alarms. MobiPlug lets homeowners manage their devices right from their smartphone with a single application that talks to various protocols and off the shelf devices. There’s no contract unlike Xfinity, ADT and other competitors and it’s much more affordable and integrated.
Digital Ocean is the world’s simplest cloud hosting service with unlimited bandwidth. Aimed at individuals and startup companies, Digital Ocean lets anyone deploy a virtual server in less than a minute. In 2011, cloud hosting market was at $3.7B and Digital Ocean is set to focus on a $1B part of that market that represents small businesses and developers that use cloud hosting for new projects, hosting personal sites, etc. Digital Ocean already has 500 active customers and 10,000 virtual servers (5000 were added in the past 30 days).
Birdbox is a smart box for anyone’s photos and videos. Great for families, parents and couples, BirdBox organizes photos and videos in one place making them searchable anywhere. With a estimated billion new photos taken everyday and 48 hours of video updated to YouTube every minute, Birdbox is a way to sort and manage this media posted on various networks. In addition to time, location and date a photo or video was shot, Birdbox maintains the social context of the photo and video including comments, retweets, tags and more.
Chinese companies don’t view Siri in a favorable light, hence the creation of the Speech Industry Alliance of China (SIAC). They are willing to offer an alternative that is supposed to work better with Mandarin and Cantonese. In fact, iOS 6 will include a new version of Siri that understands and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. It is a threat for Chinese mobile phone manufacturers, carriers and speech recognition software developers and it needs to be addressed.
One of the key points behind that new strategy is that developing speech recognition for multi-tone oriental languages is very hard. Apparently, according to early tests of Mandarin and Cantonese support in iOS 6 beta, it is still lacking and the alliance hopes to take advantage of that.
The 19 companies that are pooling resources for speech recognition include phone manufacturers such as Lenovo and Huawei, state-owned mobile phone carriers that want to diversify their product line to minimize Apple’s bargaining power such as China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom and speech recognition software developer Anhui USTC iFlytek.
iFlytek is already the leading provider of Chinese speech recognition technology with a market share of around 70 percent. For example, they currently sell text-to-speech software for business use.
But the real question is whether it is widely used in smartphones at the moment. Huawei has already launched smartphones with a deep integration of iFlytek Voice Input technology but it is still the very beginning of that initiative.
iFlytek Voice Input is available as a standalone app on Google Play as well. It is a highly rated app with a 4.6 average rating and it has been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times according to Google.
With the Speech Industry Alliance of China, carriers could pre-install iFlytek Voice Input on Android devices and manufacturers could integrate it in their flavor of Android. Moreover, Shanghai-based voice assistant developer Zhizhen Network Technology has sued Apple over patent infringement. While the likely outcome is a multimillion-dollar compensation as in previous cases, it reminds us that if Chinese companies sue Apple, the court will tend to side with a Chinese company.
Yet, when it comes to speech recognition, many developers and manufacturers claimed to have developed similar solutions before Apple. The marketing power of Apple was superior and made speech recognition popular. Those Chinese companies are right to believe that it takes an alliance to take over Siri and offer a compelling alternative.
After Nike’s Find Your Greatness TVC, also Vitamin Water decided to celebrate everyday athletes during the Olympics. The tone of voice is completely different, there is nothing epic in this commercial, but for sure the sense of humor is fantastic.
As you can see from the video below, Vitamin Water visited a few sport facilities in Paris, bringing a hidden speaker to comment on the performance of the everyday athletes playing basketball and tennis, running, swimming etc… The result is pretty hilarious.
You can find the version with English subtitles at I Believe in Adv.
The agency is Sid Lee Paris.