As a serial entrepreneur, Dave Balter loves the journey of building companies and once he gets an idea in his head, it becomes an obsession.
It’s this obsession that has led him down the entrepreneurial path as the founder of BzzAgent (acquired by dunnhumby in 2011) and co-founder & CEO of Smarterer (acquired by Pluralsight in 2014).
Not only does he enjoy building his own companies, but he’s also an active investor. Balter is a Venture Partner at Boston Seed and he’s made his own angel investments in companies like Runkeeper, Promoboxx, Help Scout, Klout, Cuseum and many more.
What’s Balter’s latest obsession (or company)? It a consumer product called Mylestone, which makes life’s precious memories easily accessible via virtual assistants, beginning with Amazon’s Alexa.
Like most startups, Balter’s latest company has gone through an evolution. What originally started out as a tribute website for the deceased named Mylestoned (with a “d” at the end), now has a much different and broader appeal for consumers.
“We were watching what consumers were doing with our initial product and it just happened naturally for us,” said Balter. “You have to follow what the consumer wants.”
Mylestone allows consumers to upload pictures, audio, and video to create a memory. You can then have these memories served up by Alexa by voice command. It could be any special memory, whether it’s that legendary story told by grandpa or that magical moment when you proposed in Paris.
The decision to initially launch on Amazon’s Alexa platform was an easy one for Mylestone. Alexa already has a leading share in the household market, their APIs are very robust, and Alexa is learning thousands of new skills each month. The plan is to make their product available on Google Home and others as they are brought to market.
To create these memories, Mylestone will take advantage of artificial intelligence, as well as human inspection, to make sure these narratives are complete and accurate for consumers.
Today’s new product launch includes a rebranding of the company as Mylestone (dropping the “d’) and they are also announcing a $2.5M round of funding led by True Ventures (an investor in Balter’s last company, Smarterer) with participation from Boston Seed Capital, Converge Ventures, and Founder Collective.
The nine person team at Mylestone is focused on gaining adoption and evaluating the type of content people are using to create memories. “Our goal right now is to get the product right,” said Balter.
As consumers are getting more and more comfortable speaking to devices and using their voice as the interface, it seems logical that there will be a growing number of startups like Mylestone in Boston popping up.
Boston has a wealth of expertise when it comes to speech recognition technologies. For example, Siri’s voice recognition was originally powered by Nuance in Burlington and Amazon has a team working on Alexa in Cambridge which includes Rohit Prasad, its Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa Machine Learning.
It’s access to these people and resources in the speech recognition industry which allows ecosystems and companies to grow and dominate. Hopefully, Mylestone is just the beginning of what’s to come.