Interview with Bob Bova, CEO of Vangard Voice Systems

In our continuing interview with local high tech companies, we spoke with Bob Bova,CEO of Rancho Santa Margarita-based Vangard Voice Systems ( Vanguard Voice is venture-backed by Berkshire Ventures, and develops software for the voice recognition market. Ben Kuo spoke with Bob.

What does Vangard Voice provide, and what are your products?

Bob Bova: Basically we provide a voice intelligent middleware which connects voice recognition engines to data applications. So, you can use voice on mobile devices like a keyboard. When you open up an application, you can speak on that mobile device and have it fill out forms, and connect to a database.

Who are your customers for your product?

Bob Bova: Our success has primarily been in mobile inspection market, inventory and logistics management. We've also had a level of interest from the Federal government. Our partners are Symbol, Intermec, Ingram Micro, and Avnet. We have major penetration into the logistics market with them, and we have lots of interest in the medical IT, mobile medical application, nursing, home care areas, where there is lots of interest in voice enabling different form-based applications using either headsets or wireless.

Speech recognition has had a reputation of being difficult to deploy--requiring training--and not being very accurate. Where's the technology now?

Bob Bova: That's a really good point. What we've found is that companies like Nuance have done an outstanding job in improving quality of quality of recognition. The big problem is how to connect what a good recognizer can recognize, and turn it into something an application can understand. In the past, that was done with hundreds of pages of custom code. If anything changed in a form, you had to re-do your application. What our technology does is open up a drop-down tool, which allows you to build grammars, compile it, and if you need to make changes you can just go back and do it. It's easy to deploy. We've basically created a driver for speech. The key piece that was missing to speech implementation was how to connect the organic input of speech to the inorganic information which software actually needs. That's the critical integration layer we put together.

I understand you've raised some capital?

Bob Bova: The company was founded in 2001. From 2001 to 2006, the company basically ran on $1.5M in angel investments as the technology was developed. In October we closed a Series A from Berkshire Ventures for a Series A round. At that point, the technology was very, very solid, we were in beta test in customer sites, and we were ready to finish our initial product and roll out our sales and marketing strategy.

What's next for the company?

Bob Bova: Right now, we're working with Ingram, Avnet, and are very active in selling our technology to reseller channels. We're working on four contracts right now, one in the Federal Government, one with a municipality, and two private companies, who are voice enabling their applications. We have at least three dozen opportunities we are very active in putting together proposals for. People have finally realized that our technology works, with headsets, and even in a high noise industrial environment. The word gets out. We're very pleased.

Is it hard being a behind-the-scenes technology provider, rather than an application provider?

Bob Bova: It's the opposite. The applications should be with the companies who have expertise in an area. That's not our job. We want to support other technologists, and let them develop sophisticated verticals, because they know their markets, and they know their customers. It's not my job to reinvent the wheel. I don't want to build a PC, I want to be Intel, I want to be in the box.


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