Voice AI startup ElevenLabs gets unicorn status after landing $80m

Artificial intelligence (AI) voice generation startup ElevenLabs has secured an $80 million Series B funding round, minting them as the UK’s newest unicorn.

The venture was co-led by prominent investors including Andreessen Horowitz, former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and entrepreneur Daniel Gross, who were joined by Sequoia Capital, SV Angel, Smash Capital, BroadLight Capital and Credo Ventures. The latest funding brings ElevenLabs’ total raised to $101 million and values the company at over $1 billion after it received a $100 million valuation in June.

Mati Staniszewski, CEO and co-founder of ElevenLabs, commented that their goal remains the same, “to transform how we interact with content by breaking down language and communication barriers.” He added that the London-based voice cloning company hopes to build cutting-edge technology to make content accessible across languages and voices “to enable everyone to connect with information and stories that matter.”

thrilled to share @elevenlabsio has raised their $80m Series-B, minting them as the UK’s newest Unicorn.

Very grateful to have been on this journey, and a huge congrats to @matistanis, @dabkowski_piotr, @Carles_Reina and team on what you’ve achieved so farhttps://t.co/lA0Wty7vnP

— Oliver Kicks (@kickso) January 22, 2024

In the announcement, it also unveiled several new product developments, which are said to go live over the coming weeks including a new dubbing studio, a voice library marketplace, and an early preview of the Mobile App reader.

Who are ElevenLabs?

The AI voice company was co-founded by Piotr Dabkowski, a former Google machine learning engineer, and Staniszewski, an ex-Palantir deployment strategist, who were both raised in Poland. According to TechCrunch, the pair were inspired by the mediocre dubbing of American movies they watched growing up in Poland. As a result, they set about designing a platform that could do better.

Since its public launch in 2022, ElevenLabs claims that its users have created more than 100 years’ worth of audio. During this period, the company expanded its team from 5 to 40 members. Employees at 41% of Fortune 500 companies are utilizing ElevenLabs’ technology, reports EU-Startups.

The potential dangers of AI voice cloning

In 2023, ElevenLabs said it had found an “increasing number of voice cloning misuse cases” during its beta phase.

Motherboard discovered that 4chan members seem to have used the product to create voice simulations mimicking Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, and Emma Watson, using these to disseminate racist and various other types of offensive content.

Thank you everyone for your advice. We love what you’re creating, but a set of actors use our tech for malicious purposes. We decided to take the following steps to address the issues:

— ElevenLabs (@elevenlabsio) January 31, 2023

As a result, the company said it would introduce additional safeguards to stop the proliferation of deepfake voices. This included a $5 monthly subscription which would require a credit card to sign up, as they allege that “almost all of the malicious content was generated by free, anonymous accounts.”

There was also backlash from voice actors who claimed that users had used the software to harass people online. Trolls reportedly created voices and then had them read out the victims’ home addresses, posting the results online.

According to another Motherboard investigation, ElevenLabs acknowledged that the voice resembling Agent 47 from the Hitman games was created using the company’s system.

ElevenLabs is not the only company exploring this area of artificial intelligence in voice technology. Last June, Voice.ai, a real-time voice-changing technology, also received $6 million in funding to further develop its platform.

Featured image: DALL-E

Suswati Basu

Freelance journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award.

With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News
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Her career also includes a seven-year tenure at the leading AI company Dataminr, where she led the Europe desk and launched the company’s first employee resource group for disabilities. Before this, Suswati worked as a journalist in China for four years, investigating censorship and the Great Firewall, and acquired proficiency in several languages.

In recent years, Suswati has been nominated for six awards, including the Independent Podcast Awards, International Women’s Podcast Awards, and the Anthem Awards for her literary social affairs show.

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