Ad Auris selected for Google’s Cloud Accelerator Canada program
The audio creation platform joins 10 other Canadian startups in Google’s second inaugural cohort.
The rise of podcast listening has brought with it an explosion of audio creation tools, led by the likes of Spotify and its suite of creator tools. And three recent university graduates from Vancouver are looking to capitalize on that wave.
Google recently announced the 2022 cohort for its Cloud Accelerator Canada program. Among the batch is Vancouver’s Ad Auris, a platform that helps digital publications to convert their written work into high-quality audio. Tiggy, a local startup offering 15-minute grocery delivery throughout Vancouver, was also selected.
Ad Auris was founded by three recent university graduates: Logan Underwood, Tina Haertel, and Varun Sharma, who all hail from Vancouver. They’ll be joining Google’s cloud accelerator starting on April 11.
Google says the program offers “cloud mentorship and technical project support, along with deep dives and workshops on product design, customer acquisition and leadership development for cloud startup founders and leaders.”
We spoke to the three co-founders of Ad Auris to hear more about their journey, and why they’re excited to be part of Google’s prestigious program.
The origin story
Underwood was studying International Relations and Affairs at Sciences Po in France when he began working with the university’s journalism faculty. There, he got exposure to how some of the world’s major publications were operating.
Underwood observed a gap between how publications were producing content and how their audiences liked to consume content. He even resonated with the problem himself. “Commuting 40 minutes to school every day, I would start reading long articles on the bus, but I’d eventually switch over to podcasting because it was easier to consume,” says Underwood.
“People spend an hour a day listening to spoken word content, but only 16 minutes a day reading.” He saw a disconnect; traditional print media was under-engaged with, simply because of the medium its publishers were locked into.
Underwood also learned that many publications would try to create their own audio content in-house, doing the recording and editing themselves. But those barriers remained high, and smaller- and medium-sized publishers couldn’t afford to do that.
Some high-profile podcasts, he explains, have dozens of individuals on the production and editing side. But he knew that luxury wasn’t accessible to the masses.
Itching to solve this problem, Underwood joined the NEXT 36 program in late 2019, and eventually teamed up with fellow Vancouverite Tina Haertel, whom he met while in France. Underwood also brought on high school friend Varun Sharma as CTO.
How it works
The product is simple to use: brands create a custom narration sound and add one line of code to their website. Rather than having to manually narrate their articles, Ad Auris instantly converts their written content into an audio narration.
Ad Auris even shows the brands analytics to identify areas of engagement and drop-off points, and integrates with their advertising campaigns.
The company’s differentiator is that it layers in a post-production aspect to make the narrations sound more like a podcast. That’s more engaging for consumers than a generic synthetic audio recording. “We clean up the text to make it suitable for audio,” Underwood explains.
They also take care of distribution, automatically porting over the episodes to the likes of Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
By handling the end-to-end creation and distribution, Ad Auris allows the publishers to focus on their core competency: producing great written content.
The company charges a monthly subscription to the publishers, starting at $35/month. For consumers, accessing the audio content is completely free.
Underwood says its initial core segment is digital news publishers because their high cadence of content creation allows Ad Auris to get a high volume of experimental data, helping optimize their audio.
With customers all around the world, the company has even begun offering narrations in multiple languages.
The Google Cloud Accelerator Canada program kicks off in mid-April and will be held remotely. It runs for 10 weeks and is capped off with a demo day at the end.
Underwood explained that they’re looking forward to participating because Google’s program is one of the few accelerators that skews more on the technical side. Most traditional accelerators, he says, over-index on the business side.
The company is looking to incorporate machine learning into its product (to help automate the post-production layer), so they’re excited to be mentored by experts in the ML and cloud architecture space.
Ad Auris recently closed a USD $1 million funding round, backed by funds such as Singapore-based Antler.
And while news publishers are the focus for now, Ad Auris says it has its sights on academic institutions in the near future, as well as long-form blogs.
“The publishers of the future who are going to win will be the ones who can seamlessly provide information across all mediums,” Underwood tells us. To date, the company says it has narrated over 50,000 articles, and seems to be well on its way to helping more publishers achieve that mission.