Ava 1.0 — 24/7 accessibility for deaf/hearing conversations

Ava (1.0) connects the smartphones of a conversation’s participants to captions who says what in real-time.

Bringing the deaf & hearing worlds closer, one conversation at a time

Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of Ava on iOS & Android, just in time for holiday gatherings.

Ava turns smartphones in a room into smart microphones, allowing the deaf/hard-of-hearing person to read the entire conversation as real-time captions- including who said what.

We hope to help make this year’s Thanksgiving a considerably more enjoyable & inclusive experience for the 15M deaf & hard-of-hearing Americans for whom group conversations are a real struggle. From this day on, they don’t have to be.

Second, we’re thrilled to announce a very important step for Ava’s future: we’ve closed a first $1.8M round of funding from amazing investors and angels. Thanks to Taylor Greene (Lerer Hippeau Ventures), Kevin Carter (SV Angel), Nicolas El Baze (Partech Ventures), Omar El-Ayat (Crosslink Capital) for believing in Ava. We’re also extremely lucky to welcome angels steve blank (4 Steps to Epiphany), Tim Draper, Xavier Niel (Iliad), Blake Mycoskie (TOMS), Pierre Valade (Sunrise), the team of FJ Labs, Seraph Group and Ian* Rountree (SoFi), in this round.

Their support means the world to us, and is tremendously helpful to making Ava’s vision of a 24/7 accessible world a reality.

It started with an immense frustration

We started Ava 2 years ago out of an immense frustration: those we loved and millions of deaf & hard-of-hearing people like them were being confronted with the difficulty of following a “simple” group conversation, every single day. Participating in groups is a right evident to those who can hear — but not for over 400M people today.

I grew up the only hearing kid in a deaf family. With Skinner, himself deaf, and Pieter who taught himself sign language, we thought that there ought to be a better way for all the moments where a $100 an hour professional interpreter or captioner is not an option. A viable way to make accessibility affordable, anytime, anywhere.

Building a technology that can help solve such a fundamental problem wasn’t an easy feat. To really be 24/7, accessibility solutions needed to be 100x less costly. Group conversations have been a notorious challenge for speech recognition since its inception. But we believed that our take on the problem was unique enough, and the issue so important and pervasive that it was worth going all-in.

And 1.0 — our first take on total accessibility

We’ve been hard at work on this problem for two years, and today’s launch of Ava 1.0 is the first big step in the direction of 24/7 accessibility. It is already a life-saver for some of our early users, like Jeanna.

While we still have a long way to go, every conversation brings us closer to our shared vision of total accessibility. Ava opens an endless world of possibilities. See for yourself:

Introducing Ava. Towards 24/7 accessible conversations between deaf & hard-of-hearing people and those who can hear.

Hearing, deaf and hard-of-hearing people of the world: Ava is an app you need to have on your phone. Ava is available here.

Together, let’s build a more accessible world.

The Ava Team,

Thibault, Pieter, Skinner, Krish, Alexandre, Chris, Shah and Jari