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The Jargon team, from left to right: Jonathan Burstein, Shaun Withers, Milkana Brace and Levi Sawyers. (Jargon Photo)

Voice technology continues to proliferate. There are more than 66 million smart speaker units in the U.S., up from 36 million a year ago, and the voice recognition market is now worth $49 billion.

Seattle startup Jargon aims to tap into a growing community of voice developers. The company just raised a $1.8 million seed round, which included participation from Amazon’s Alexa Fund, to help fuel development of its voice content management service.

What Jargon does: Jargon helps engineers structure and manage voice content for services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also lets developers customize how voice apps respond to different users and enables localization for multiple languages. The company originally focused on localization services but has expanded its offering since then.

Customers: Jargon’s customers are brands, agencies, and independent developers who are building voice apps. The company sells a free and open-source SDK that helps developers structure content, and a cloud-based paid service that lets developers dynamically manage and personalize their content to individual users. “We offer a one-stop shop for brands to manage all of their voice content,” said Jargon CEO Milkana Brace.

Competition: Brace said Jargon has no direct competitors. “Brands are more likely to use an independent company to help them optimize the user experience and target content on their behalf, rather than delegating that ownership to the platforms,” she added. “We’re single-handedly focused on enabling rich and personalized conversations on voice, whereas the tech giants have a multitude of aspects to worry about to provide a fully-functioning voice service.”

The colorful Echo Dot Kids Edition. (Amazon Photo)

Founders: Brace co-founded the company in late 2017 with Jonathan Burstein, Jargon’s chief technology officer. Brace’s background includes jobs at Groupon and Expedia. Burstein has worked at Amazon, Zillow and Microsoft. The company has two other employees and expects to double headcount this year.

Investors: Bay Area-based Ubiquity Ventures and Crosslink Capital led the round. Sunil Nagaraj, managing partner of Ubiquity Ventures, helped pick Jargon as the winner of the first-ever Ubiquity-GeekWire Award in October, when Jargon pitched at the Amazon Alexa Accelerator Demo Night. Nagaraj has joined the board as a result of the new funding.

Nagaraj told GeekWire that voice computing “has so much potential.”

“In order for third party voice apps from brands and developers to deliver on the hype, they need tools like Jargon to say the right thing at the right time,” he said. “Having led the seed round of Auth0, another Seattle-based developer tool that is on its way to being a unicorn, I understand the power of well-designed developer tools to accelerate an ecosystem. Jargon is the linchpin to unlock the potential of this industry by helping voice app developers move more quickly.”

Pulse Labs CEO Abhishek Suthan; Jargon co-founders Jonathan Burstein and Milkana Brace; and Sunil Nagaraj, managing partner of Bay Area-based Ubiquity Ventures, at the Alexa Accelerator Demo Night this past October. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Amazon’s Alexa Fund, which invests in voice startups, also participated in the round, as did Curious Capital, iRobot and others.

“Jargon delivers an important service for the growing community of developers and brands building with Alexa, helping them produce richer and more localized, personalized content for customers,” Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said in a statement. “We’ve been fortunate to support Jargon through its involvement in the 2018 Alexa Accelerator, and we’re excited to continue to back them as they expand their service.”

Alexa Accelerator: Jargon graduated as part of the most recent class at Alexa Accelerator, a Seattle-based program co-led by Techstars and Amazon. Other graduates that are based in Seattle include Novel Effect, Pulse Labs, Roby, and others.

Jargon actually pivoted its business after joining the Alexa Accelerator. The original idea was to create an on-demand interpretation service, but feedback from Amazon mentors who lamented about taking Alexa to international markets helped Jargon switch gears.

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