In 2017, Netflix debuted a Spanish drama titled Money Heist and by 2018, the show became the most watched non-English language programme on the platform. In addition to the ensemble cast and gripping storyline, Money Heist was greatly helped by Netflix’s high standard for subtitles and dubbing. The effect of Netflix on the standard for
In 2017, Netflix debuted a Spanish drama titled Money Heist and by 2018, the show became the most watched non-English language programme on the platform. In addition to the ensemble cast and gripping storyline, Money Heist was greatly helped by Netflix’s high standard for subtitles and dubbing.
The effect of Netflix on the standard for subtitling can be seen across the over-the-top (OTT) streaming industry. However, if you are a smaller outfit with a smaller budget, then there are a number of options to match that same quality. If you are looking for startups turning audio and video into text and subtitles, then Amberscript should be right on top of your list.
Founded in December 2017 in Amsterdam, the Dutch startup is on a mission to make audio accessible. “We started [Amberscript] with a realisation that speech-to-text was going to be the next big thing and transform the world,” says Peter-Paul de Leeuw, who co-founded Amberscript with Thomas Dieste and Timo Behrens.
Speech-to-text gains momentum
Speech-to-text has been around for 30 to 40 years but has become good enough for commercial use in recent times. Peter-Paul de Leeuw says they saw this momentum and also that most companies in this field were either in the US or in China. They saw the need for a European company in this field and began Amberscript.
He says Amberscript focusses on transcription and subtitling service for two reasons. The first being to help the deaf and hard of hearing community consume video. The second being the commercial opportunity:currently 80 percent of internet traffic is attributed to video.
“In terms of technology, we are combining the power of AI and humans to offer our transcription and subtitle services in a faster and cheaper way,” says Timo Behrens.
He says, “Our goal is always to optimise the turnaround time and the speed in which we can deliver our products and services to our customers.”
Thomas Dieste says while AI is a useful tool to speed up the process of creating captions for deaf and hard of hearing, it is not a full solution. He says this is because human language is super complex involving special names, background noise, particular vocabulary, and different accents. As a result, Amberscript combines the speed and accuracy of AI with the reliability and accuracy of humans.
“AI is getting better at these things, but it’s really nowhere close to human accuracy. And that’s why we always believe in this combination of AI and humans,” Diete adds.
The demand for subtitles is not just restricted to major media companies like Netflix or Disney+. Even YouTubers have realised how adding subtitles can broaden their reach and allow them to engage with audiences from other parts of the world.
Amberscript aids such creators by working with agencies that help these creators internationalise their content. From adding subtitles to assisting with internationalise by translating the content to other languages, the Dutch startup says it adds value for creators by creating high quality content.
In order to increase the accuracy of the automatic speech-to-text conversion, Behrens says Amberscript specialises in the design of custom speech-to-text models for specific domains and customers, next to their generic models. He says their generic Dutch and English models outperform models from Google.
“We have developed a platform in which we collect human feedback in a really structured way,” says Dieste. “Whenever our humans make corrections to the AI output, that’s something we can use to train our language to make them customer specific,” he adds.
Focus on accessibility and European market
Peter-Paul de Leeuw says their focus market is Europe with efforts being made on outbound and inbound sales. They do, however, serve the worldwide market with its speech-to-text product. Like other similar services, users can sign up to the platform and order its services from there.
While some competitors offer free accounts with their service and allow them to transcribe up to 30 minutes for free, Amberscript offers only ten minutes of free transcription. The co-founders of Amberscript say they limited that free time to ten minutes because that is good enough to prove how good their software is.
“We think that with ten minutes of audio, you have a long enough period to have a variance in that audio file to determine the accuracy,” says Behrens.
Accessibility is another key focus for Amberscript and it shows in the company slogan. By making audio accessible, Dieste says they actually transform speech into text, which can be useful for a lot of purposes.
“We do that for the target group of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. And what we actually do there is help companies to more easily make video content accessible. We make it easier to order captions, we give companies easy access to a huge crowd of qualified captioners. We also make it faster and we always deliver good accuracy,” Dieste explains.
Rise is an opportunity to network
Behrens says Techleap.nl’s Rise programme served as an opportunity for them to network with other startups and scaleups. He says the primary reason for them to join the Rise programme was to gain the network and engage with the Techleap community.
When asked about their key takeaway, Peter-Paul de Leeuw is quick to point out that it was hiring. He says Techleap.nl’s Rise programme helped them build the culture and focus on internationalisation of their startup.
Dieste says engaging with other entrepreneurs proved beneficial for him personally. He says the Rise programme sessions allowed him to meet other people in similar functions or facing similar challenges. He says the programme also served as an opportunity to broaden networking and brainstorm challenges faced by his company.
Aims to become market leader in Europe
Peter-Paul de Leeuw says Rise has made them set a goal to become the leading player for speech-to-text services in Europe in the next two to three years. In that time space, the startup seeks to internationalise and expand to markets like Germany, France, Scandinavia, Spain, and Italy.
Closing its latest funding round in October 2021, Peter-Paul de Leeuw says they are not actively fundraising at this moment. To become market leader in Europe, he says they are hiring for commercial positions across sales and marketing. He says this opportunity would be ideal for students as well as young professionals.
In addition to these commercial roles, Amberscript is also looking to strengthen its team across operational and technical departments. “Our goal is to offer people a platform where they can just easily go to and then within a day have their audio translated or transcribed,” says Peter-Paul de Leeuw.