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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Voice-to-text app Wrappup does away with mundane note-taking

Co-founders of Dubai start-up used artificial intelligence to develop their product

The Wrappup team. From left, co-founders Ayush Chordia, Rami Salman and Rishav Jalan. [Courtesy: Wrappup]
The Wrappup team. From left, co-founders Ayush Chordia, Rami Salman and Rishav Jalan. [Courtesy: Wrappup]

Bored of having to take notes at company meetings as a consultant, Rami Salman wondered if he could build an app that would do the task for him and free up his time to pursue more constructive work.

“I had terrible handwriting,” says the 28-year-old co-founder of Wrappup, a Dubai-based voice-to-text app that allows users to record and transcribe meetings instantaneously.

“So I came up with the basic idea of recording, tapping [the screen to highlight] anytime something important was said, and playing back those moments so I can write up my notes and send it out,” he adds.

Today, Wrappup is in pre-revenue stage, with 100,000 downloads from around the world and has secured US$800,000 capital from an assortment of venture capital investors led by Beco Capital. The company has plans to tap more funding this year.

The team, which includes co-founders Rishav Jalan, 23, and Ayush Chordia, 24, operate their global business from a swanky co-working space at In5 Tech in Dubai Knowledge Village.

“We moved here in December 2015,” says Mr Jalan, who grew up in a small-town in West Bengal, India and went on to build cricket stat and railway apps that received millions of downloads and to top Play Store charts in his home country.

“In a year, I earned around $40,000, which was good for a 17 year old,” says the developer who graduated from Bits Pilani Dubai Campus earlier in 2017.

“The money that I earned from this went into my brother’s account because I was not eligible to have a bank account [then],” he recalls.

A collaboration with Mr Chordia, a university senior on a location-based social networking app, eventually led the duo to a hackathon in Dubai, where they met Mr Salman, who had already decided by then to pursue his entrepreneurial instincts.

“I had been to one hackathon before and been working on an idea for two years, actually pretty close to Snapchat and Periscope but with better interface. I built work plans and screens,” says Mr Salman.

However, the idea never took off and at the behest of his wife, herself an entrepreneur, he decided to take the plunge and make his earlier idea for a voice-to-text app materialise.

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Finding common ground with Mr Jalan and Mr Chordia’s work on a location-based app, Mr Salman decided to test their coding skills at AngelHack Dubai.

“I just wanted something simple enough that can be built in 24 hours. And they built it in 24 hours,” he says.

Mr Jalan and Mr Chordia took up the challenge and Mr Salman was able to use the prototype to transcribe his way out of long-drawn meetings the very next day.

Using his savings from his stint as a consultant, Mr Salman then boot-strapped the first year of Wrappup’s operations while the start-up went through its accelerator phase perfecting their business skills and fine-tuning their product.

Today, Wrappup is available to download for free as a voice-to-text transcribing app and uses the same technology at an enterprise-level for conferencing solutions.

“We [can] record webex calls and find all the important moments. We’re more of a platform and have ourselves available in all the different ways we can,” says Mr Jalan.

The majority of Wrappup users are from the United States, with 10 per cent from the Middle East with a “well-distributed” base that counts users from Taiwan, Spain and Morocco, says

Mr Salman.

While the UAE and some regional markets remain off limits for voice over internet protocol, Wrappup is available for integration with direct calls in other markets such as the US. The start-up, which is also integrated with producitivity app, Slack, is currently targeting sales segments of companies – helping executives free up the time spent in note-taking and channelling their energies into actually generating sales for their companies.

Amir Farha, managing partner at Dubai’s Beco Capital, one of Wrappup’s investors sees a promising trajectory of growth as the company targets more enterprise-level segments.

“Ideally, their growth over the next five years would be exponential as they get larger customers,” he says.

“There are different customer segments that Wrappup is tackling such as IBM, Citigroup that require customisation within the existing infrastructure of those companies.”

The engine behind Wrappup’s growth is the successful deployment of artificial intelligence in an easy-to-use, constantly-learning interface.

A recent report by consulting firm McKinsey estimates AI to be the next frontier for venture capitalists to invest over the coming decade.

Around $20 billion to $30bn is estimated to have been invested in 2016 by tech majors such as Google and Baidu in AI, with private investors committing $4bn to $5bn during the same period.

Private equity invested $1bn to $3bn, while an additional billion dollars of investment came from grants and seed funding, according to the report.

“They [Wrappup] can automate a lot of tasks that are mundane. What’s exciting is the applicability of the technology across various use cases leveraging artificial intelligence’s value proposition,” adds Mr Farha.

Wrappup has evolved its app – available in Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store since October – to identify action items during speech as well as segment the transcription by speaker.

“Ayush has developed mechanisms to identify action items automatically. I don’t have to say ‘I’ll send you this after a meeting’, AI is able to contextualise the words

you’ve just said as directed towards a follow-up or some sort of activity you need to follow up on and push those notes automatically back to you and into your sales force,” says Mr Salman.

Wrappup is currently “in discussions” to raise its next round of financing, he adds without divulging more details. The app will have paywalls phased in by the first quarter of 2018, as the company targets more enterprise users.

“We want to make it ubiquitous and about transferring voice into notes, into sales force notes, Slack notes, anywhere you need this information. In a way that email and tech work together, we want voice and Wrappup to work together,” says Mr Salman.

PROFILE BOX:

Company/date started: 2015

Founder/CEO: Rami Salman, Rishav Jalan, Ayush Chordia

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Technology, Sales, Voice, Artificial Intelligence

Size: (employees/revenue) 10/ 100,000 downloads

Stage: 1 ($800,000)

Investors: Eight first-round investors including, Beco Capital, 500 Startups, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Hala Fadel, Odin Financial Services, Dubai Angel Investors, Womena, Arzan VC