Reflections on 2021: Another Extraordinary Year

Posted on 15.12.2021

As we enter the heart of December, it’s naturally a time to both reflect on what has come before – and plan for the year to come. The year false-started with lockdown orders and homeschooling making an unwelcome return. Then the anniversary of the descent of Covid on the global population brought devastating accounts of loss.  

Against this bleak backdrop, however, there was hope. From the community spirit to the individuals realizing their entrepreneurial abilities. Then there’s the huge shift in the adoption of flexible working and the normalizing of mental health challenges. These positives were once again in full effect.  

For Speechmatics, 2021 has been extraordinary for other reasons too. Like many in the deep-tech ecosystem, the team and the business have flourished. In June I took part in a panel hosted by the British Business Bank as it launched its 7th Annual Small Business Equity Tracker. Among the findings, the report showed that investment in the UK deep-tech sector had grown significantly over the previous five years, rising 291% to £2.3bn. 

7th Annual Small Business Equity Tracker

Last week we also saw the findings of Atomico’s much broader State of European Tech 2021 report. This report projects total investment for 2021 will hit more than $120bn - nearly three times the amount raised last year. This means record-breaking levels of investment are flooding into the market to enable the rapid growth of incredible technological developments. I fully predict this trend will continue. 

State of European Tech 2021 Report
Looking to the Future 

The deep-tech market is at complete odds with the wider global economic outlook and indeed small businesses and innovation are expected to be the engine heaving the economy back to stability. The Speechmatics team has made huge progress this year – with our business development, our customer and partner relationships, and our core technology. 

October saw us officially launching the first iteration of our Autonomous Speech Recognition. It’s a project that has been over 12 months in the works and one that we all feel very passionately about. As we move away from relying on labeled and therefore biased data, we can now train on huge amounts of ‘unlabelled’ data from a gigantic pool of audio files including podcasts, social media content, and more. Our technology now understands more voice characteristics which are significant in terms of inclusion.  

As Marcelo Claure, CEO of Softbank tweeted on the day of the launch, ‘Today, Speechmatics is setting the standard. I see this fueling other major tech companies to do better at reducing racial bias, which is what we need. This kind of healthy competition will push #AI to gain a more accurate spectrum of diversity.’ 

There’s little doubt 2022 will bring more uncertainty. I wrote back in May how necessary it is to maintain a culture of ‘Big Thinking’ despite the risk. We have huge plans for next year, including major customer wins to announce, further developments for our technology, and some significant strategic developments.  

Big Thinking Blog

I want to take this opportunity to thank every member of the Speechmatics team for their incredible dedication to our mission this year. They have worked tirelessly in collaboration with each other to achieve extraordinary results. I also wanted to thank our investors for their unwavering support and, of course, all our partners and customers.  

Wishing you all a very happy festive season! 

Katy Wigdahl, CEO, Speechmatics

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