Hey, Bro. I see you looking in the mirror wondering what you should wear for your date tonight. You should probably just ask Esquire Magazine‘s Fashion Director, Nick Sullivan. No, seriously. Pick up your phone and talk to him. He’ll give you personal fashion advice so you look snazzy tonight. No, I’m not crazy. I’m talking about Volio, the amazing new interactive app that is guided by your voice.
We caught up with Founder and CEO Ron Croen to get the Volio lowdown and find out how he landed some serious backing for the interactive app.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what inspired Volio?
I founded Nuance Communications, which dominates in the technology of speech recognition. I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a computer showing a human image ever since I first saw Apple’s 1987 concept video called “Knowledge Navigator” which showed what its like to have a human face on a personal assistant. As video became broadly available on personal (mobile) devices, and SIRI emerged, I became interested in how video can be combined with speech recognition and language understanding and used to enable real personalities to address millions of people, one on one.
Not necessarily for the personal assistant need, but for deeper engagement by brands, media and the personalities themselves. I saw that happening with Twitter but without the richness of the human face or the real-time engagement we feel in a conversation. That’s the opportunity we are addressing at Volio.
It sounds like you’ve got some great backing for this. What’s your advice on preparing for and raising initial rounds of funding?
Keep your expenses low you never know how it’s going to go! Be clear and strongly committed to your story but be ready to tune it as you get input. The process of talking to investors is the second best way to get such input. The first is by talking to customers or prospects.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far with Volio, and how have you overcome it?
We’re inventing a new media type. Understanding the relationship between the media form and content is actually key. Ultimately, users or consumers value content and look past the technology unless the technology doesn’t work well and gets in the way. So the “magic” is to perfect the technology and find ways to deliver winning content.
What’s your near future vision/plans for Volio? How do you measure success?
In the future, we’ll see Volio™ digital media experiences in every imaginable use case advertising and media for sure, but also customer service, personal care, product tours, education and so forth. We’ll come to understand that nothing beats engaging with a real human even if not actually realtime.
How do you keep the good vibes going in the office? Any interesting team motivating tips?
It’s simple, but hard to achieve. People want to understand how what they are doing can make a difference, how their contribution matters. To support that, people need information, so that they can understand the context, the broader purpose. And they want to feel that goals are being achieved, that their effort is actually producing results. So the team-motivating tip is to share as much as possible, include people in the information flow, set goals and celebrate results.
What would you be doing if the Internet didn’t exist?
I’d watch a lot more TV.
Best business advice you’ve ever received?
I like to think of my business experience in terms of leadership and management, which are not the same thing. I’ve taught a college course on Entreprenurial Leadership when I was Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Tufts University that’s a big topic. Some people believe it can’t be taught, by the way. It can.
But on management, the best advice I ever received is about decision-making: most decisions we are faced with should not be looked at as leading to a right outcome versus a wrong outcome. Rather, a decision will take you down one path or another, either of which can lead to success. So don’t be afraid to make decisions, as many as you can as fast as you can.