Vesper Technologies, a high-tech microphone startup trying to ride the wave of voice-controlled devices, has summoned a $23 million investment from a group of well-known tech companies, venture capitalists, and an insurance firm.
The Series B funding round was led by American Family Ventures, the venture arm of Madison, WI-based American Family Insurance. Other investors in the round included Amazon’s Alexa Fund; Baidu, the Chinese tech giant; Bose Ventures, the venture arm of headphone and speaker maker Bose; microphone maker Shure; machine interface company Synaptics; and Boston-area investment firms Accomplice and Hyperplane Venture Capital. Boston-based Vesper says it has raised $40 million in funding to date.
Vesper’s backers are betting its microphones will become a popular choice for device makers, as the number of Internet-connected, voice-enabled products grows.
“One of the biggest trends is the prevalence of voice interfaces,” says Vesper CEO Matt Crowley. “We offer a couple of specific, unique values for new generations of voice interfaces.”
One is that Vesper’s microphones can withstand a lot of abuse. The tiny silicon wafers—a fraction of the size of a dime (see top photo)—don’t have a place where unwanted particles might get stuck. Vesper has poured dust on its microphones, dunked them in the ocean, and dropped them onto hard surfaces, and they continue to work, the company has said.
The other selling point is Vesper says it has developed microphones that can extend device battery life by months or years because the microphone converts energy from sound waves into electrical energy, meaning the gadget can always be listening but require almost no electricity to do so. Click here to read more about eight-year-old Vesper’s technology, which uses what’s called piezoelectric micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). The tech is based on research conducted at the University of Michigan by Vesper co-founders Bobby Littrell, the company’s chief technology officer, who earned a PhD in mechanical engineering at the university; and Karl Grosh, a U-M professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering, and Vesper’s chief science officer.