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Virtual meeting platform Vowel today announced that it raised $13.5 million in a series A round led by Lobby Capital. The capital, which brings the company’s total raised to $17.8 million, will be put toward product development and expanding the size of Vowel’s team, CEO Andy Berman said.

According to one source, during the pandemic, videoconferencing saw a 535% rise in daily traffic. The virtual meeting software market is expected to reach $41.58 billion by 2027, but its popularity belies the challenge of coordinating meetings in an era of hybrid, flexible, and remote work. Software One found that poor meeting organization leads to a loss of over $399 billion per year.

Headquartered in New York, Vowel, which was founded in 2018 by Andrew Berman, Ben Kempe, Matthew Slotkin, and Paul Fisher, is a videoconferencing platform that offers a range of planning, hosting, transcription, search, and sharing tools. For in-person setups, it uses each meeting attendee’s microphone to capture audio, providing an ostensibly higher-quality audio signal with less noise and accidental echo. Moreover, Vowel combines multiple data sources and metadata tagging within a meeting — and across meetings in aggregate — to identify any key points and context.

“Every company is navigating new ways of working, whether people have returned to the office, are continuing to work from home, or both. Hybrid work needs new tools and so there’s more interest than ever,” Berman told VentureBeat via email. “Our goal is to make meetings more inclusive and worthwhile — before, during, and after. That means focus on the entire lifecycle of meetings — the prep before, the conversation during, and the follow up after. Our growing team is building features to facilitate this process, and we’ll be shipping quickly this fall and beyond.”

AI-powered meetings

Vowel competes against heavyweights like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Fireflies in a crowded market. But according to Berman, Vowel’s use of AI to solve common videoconferencing problems sets it apart from the rest. For example, the platform employs computer vision technologies including facial detection and optical character recognition to identify relevant points during a meeting and optimize videos to focus on participants. During hybrid meetings, Vowel intelligently coordinates devices with each other using digital signal processing techniques and beamforming to improve the accuracy of speech-to-text and speaker identification.

Vowel also says it’s working on AI-powered meeting summaries that will leverage the platform’s existing ability to analyze agenda items, user-written notes and action items, emoji reactions, comments, screen sharing content, and meeting transcripts. Currently, key points from meetings are organized into discrete topic buckets that group related concepts together. But in the future, Vowel will offer a dashboard of metrics that’ll spotlight trends across a team or particular recurring meetings, including how different discussion topics or references to projects have changed over time and spikes or lulls in meeting participation.

Vowel remains in private beta, but Berman says that it has a waitlist of over 10,000 people. The company’s near-term goal is to continue to hire in product, design, and engineering, targeting around 30 employees at the end of the year.

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