There’re plenty of tools out there competing to help people make their video calls breezier. Some, like voice transcription service Otter.ai, have been getting a boost from the COVID-19 pandemic and pulling in handsome investments. Now a brave new player called Airgram is charging into the race.
Aside from transcribing Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams calls into sharable and editable text, Airgram also wants to help people keep their meetings on track by letting users project their meeting agenda onto the screen with a timer that reminds them not to run over time.
“Bosses don’t realize how much more costs they incur by having long meetings,” said Airgram’s co-founder and CEO Zhang Yan, previously an early employee at China’s ridesharing giant Didi and bike-sharing pioneer Mobike.
The founder is a true productivity geek. When we chatted, he showed me a suite of utility tools that he uses and admires, from the work collaboration platform Notion, which hit $2 billion in valuation in 2020, to the no-code relational database tool Airtable, which was valued at $5.77 billion last year.
Airgram has just closed its Series A funding round of $10 million as it gears up for an entry into North America. A year after launching in Japan, the company has amassed 500,000 unique users, including both free and paid, in the country where it brands itself as Notta, the Japanese transliteration of “note”.
Customers from all facets of society are using Notta, including tech companies, airlines, universities, hospitals, insurers, law firms and some “unexpected” customers like religious organizations, according to Zhang.
Airgram, which is targeting English-speaking countries, is like a souped-up version of Notta. It has a convenient Chrome extension that lets users start capturing and transcribing whatever audio output from the browser with one click. Like most transcription tools, Airgram also works by sending an audio recording bot into meetings as a participant.
The company keeps a development force in Shenzhen and is headquartered in Singapore. Its platform hosts customer data in their destination countries and “strictly follows compliance rules,” as the founder is well aware that privacy is key to getting users to trust a voice transcription service.
Airgram’s latest round was led by GL Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Asia-focused investment giant Hillhouse, with participation from Linear Capital, CDH Capital and PKSHA SPARX Algorithm Fund, which was founded by publicly traded Japanese AI firm PKSHA and asset management company SPARX Group.