LAVCA touched base with serial entrepreneur Alex Torrenegra to learn about his ‘CrowdVoicing’ startup VoiceBunny and how he and the teams at Torrenegra Labs are working to disrupt traditional marketplaces.
<rel=”attachment wp-att-10328″>LAVCA: Please summarize your business.
Torrenegra: Our company is VoiceBunny and we are in the business of voices. Think about all the professional voices you listen to on a single day. In traditional media you have TV, radio, corporate videos, phone systems and toys. In new media you have online TV, YouTube, online radio, podcasting, advertising, videogames, ebooks, audiobooks, audio guides, mobile apps, elearning, translations, research, etc.
There used to be a lot of inefficiencies in the way voiceovers were found and fulfilled, and that was the inspiration for our business. We are building the best and largest set of global services and communities for the creation and consumption of spoken content while expanding the voiceover industry to verticals where it wasn’t previously accessible.
LAVCA: Prior to VoiceBunny you co-founded Voice123. What drew you to the voice over market? How does your background help you to succeed in managing this new venture?
Torrenegra: My co-founder and wife Tania Zapata is a voice actress. Early in her career she was taken advantage of by a few people claiming to be talent agents. So I hacked together Voice123, the first online voice casting service, in order to help her get work. Without venture capital, we grew it to over 100,000 talents and over 3 million auditions.
Clients and talent no longer had to deal with agents and casting directors. Now with VoiceBunny, we are trying to shorten the process of getting a great voice recording to just minutes by providing the option to skip auditioning talents and providing an Application Programming Interface (API). We’ve learned a lot from managing a creative crowdsourcing space. It can be a very delicate balancing act between keeping both the talent and the clients happy.
LAVCA: How did you come up with the idea for VoiceBunny?
Torrenegra: The idea came from companies interested in obtaining voiceovers in bulk via an API. Traditionally, getting a professional voiceover could involve talent agents, casting directors, producers, and many others. With Voice123, clients can hear auditions and then negotiate, hire and pay voice actors directly. But for many clients and industries that method is still too inefficient for their needs. They wanted one place to find, pay for and obtain voiceovers quickly and easily. With VoiceBunny, they can obtain thousands of voices via the web or API without all the other steps.
LAVCA: You’ve described VoiceBunny as a ‘CrowdVoicing’ platform. How does VoiceBunny use crowdsourcing to ensure the best talent is found for each job?
Torrenegra: Our core service is our CrowdVoicing API (the Amazon Mechanical Turk of voiceovers) where you give us a script and we find a professional voice in just minutes. The VoiceBunny algorithm notifies the voice actors that match your requirements of your project, and available actors can voice your script right away.
We crowdsource quality control as well, to ensure you get a native speaker of your selected language and that only high quality, professional audio is submitted. We also offer online casting, where you receive dozens of auditions for your project (the Getty Images of spoken audio).
LAVCA: Where are the majority of your users based? What type of presence do you have in international markets? Are you generating revenue outside of the U.S.?
Torrenegra: Over 60% of our revenue comes from clients in the U.S. and Canada, but we have clients in 41 other countries, with the majority coming from Australia, Thailand, U.K., South America, Germany, China and Japan.
LAVCA: What sort of financing have you received thus far? From whom?
Torrenegra: We’ve chosen to turn down investor money and continue bootstrapping for now. We passed on investment capital as we built a business with a monetization strategy that allowed us to grow organically early on. The unsolicited offers that we received, particularly from early-stage investors, weren’t attractive.
LAVCA: What is your most pressing strategic challenge right now?
Torrenegra: VoiceBunny is only a year old and in that time we’ve experienced tremendous growth. Maintaining the levels of momentum and growth we have experienced in the past year is going to be challenging.
LAVCA: Does VoiceBunny intend to raise any additional funding? If so when? What types of investors are you targeting?
Torrenegra: Although we are cash-positive, we are considering raising some capital with the objective of expanding internationally, investing more in Research & Development and accelerating our growth by expanding our sales and business development team. We are likely to partner with investors that a) have experience with growth-stage investments, b) are marketplace-savvy and c) have a global footprint.
LAVCA: You maintain a development team based in Colombia. How has that worked out for you? What have been the pluses and minuses?
Torrenegra: We’ve assembled an extremely talented and passionate team of developers in Bogota. The distance presents some challenges, but the team is very close knit and has learned how to be expert communicators. Everyone stays connected via Skype and posts frequent updates on Yammer. We have just started a webcam stream between the U.S. and Bogota offices so we can see each other. I travel to Bogota quite frequently and our Head of Development Operations, Henry, travels to the U.S. offices frequently.
LAVCA: In addition to VoiceBunny, you’re also a Partner with Torrenegra Labs, a Bogota based incubator focused on online marketplaces that includes companies like VivaReal and WeHostels in its portfolio. Tell us a little about that project. Why the focus on marketplaces?
Torrenegra: We see a lot potential in marketplaces, crowdsourcing and Latin America. We wanted to execute some of our own ideas, while also helping other entrepreneurs execute theirs, and so Torrenegra Labs was born. We help early-stage entrepreneurs in multiple ways, depending on their needs: we invest time (as advisors), capital (as angel investors) and/or connections (by introducing entrepreneurs to our recently-launched angel network).
In regards to the focus on marketplaces, we’ve found that marketplaces and crowdsourcing platforms tend to have a clear business model behind them. Some can even monetize in multiple ways. It’s relatively easy to measure the value that a marketplace startup is bringing to its industry and, as such, whether it will be highly successful. At Torrenegra Labs we like that type of investment.
LAVCA: Where do you see your companies five years from now?
Torrenegra: I’ve learned to avoid predicting the future of my companies and professional career more than three months ahead. It’s very difficult to predict what will happen. Nevertheless, our goals are to IPO VoiceBunny and increase the portfolio of Torrenegra Labs to 100+ investments.