How a car crash led this female founder to build an AI-based transcription startup

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Alchemy Machines CEO Dia Thanki started out on a very different career path to her present vocation. In this exclusive Q&A session with TFN she explains how a car crash many years ago led her to develop an AI powered legal transcription platform that has already been enthusiastically adopted by several law firms. 

Entrepreneurial success often starts with a chance event that sparks an idea that cannot be shaken. That is exactly what happened to Dia Thanki after a car accident several years ago. The event encouraged her to pursue her passion in music and pulled her away from her career as a technical projects manager. However, an idea that occurred to her during legal proceedings after her accident would endure. Now finally, technological and software developments have allowed her idea to become reality in the form of Alchemy Machines

Alchemy Machines is a transcription software that uses “cutting-edge Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) to informatively transcribe, analyse, and summarise legal-specific web meetings and phone calls.” Combined with a secure cloud server to store the transcriptions and a voice anonymity feature, this software mitigates the risks associated with data protection laws while saving vast amounts of time and resources for the user. 

$400K funding secured from SFC

Dia Thanki has now secured a pre-seed round fund of $400K from startup investment specialist SFC. Ed Stevenson, Investment Manager at SFC Capital, explains what was so attractive about Dia Thanki and Alchemy Machines, “Innovating in highly regulated, high-stakes industries is difficult even for well-established companies. The fact that Alchemy Machines’ technology is already being confidently used by law firms, is a sign that it is filling a much needed gap in this industry. It also speaks highly of Dia’s vision and potential as an entrepreneur.” 

He added, “Alchemy Machines has the capability to expand into other industries in need of the efficiency boost that its highly compliant next generation transcription software can provide. We are excited to be supporting Alchemy Machines at this critical stage and look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength as it scales.”

Here is the Q&A where Dia explains her journey from forming her idea to what she has planned for the future of her startup;

What was your professional background before founding Alchemy Machines?

“I studied BSc in Management & Systems at Cass Business School and I hold a Master in Innovative Manufacturing from Cranfield University. After graduation, I started working as a Technical Project Manager for various companies including BT & Bupa. In parallel, I was pursuing a career in music. I was involved in a band for a few years and in my summer vacations I would go to LA and train with some of the top vocal coaches there, one of them used to train Beyonce and Michael Jackson. “

“Everything changed when I was involved in a car accident, which triggered some existential questions around my life and what I really wanted to do. I decided to dedicate myself entirely to my passion for music and that’s when I set up a music business, with the aim to promote and manage myself as an artist but also collaborate with European music producers.”

What is “Alchemy Machines”? Who will use it the most?

“Alchemy Machines is using cutting-edge Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) to informatively transcribe, analyse, and summarise legal-specific web meetings and phone calls. Alchemy Machines’ software produces transcriptions that capture not only the words spoken but also the emotion and sentiment behind them.”

“Tailored to the requirements of UK GDPR laws, Alchemy Machines’ platform also enhances users’ data protection and privacy, providing protection from the risk of negligence claims if notes are misplaced by storing all information securely. It also offers the ability to anonymise the voices of meeting participants. The software can be integrated with web conferencing platforms and users simply need to press record to activate the transcription recording feature. By the end of the meeting, the audio file and corresponding transcript will be securely available on Alchemy Machines’ platform. “

Why did you decide to launch a startup in such a different sector to music? 

“I got the idea for Alchemy Machines many years ago, shortly after I had the car accident. I spent many hours speaking to a personal injuries lawyer and at the time, because of the whiplash and chronic back pain caused by the accident, I was looking for an app that could transcribe speech into text, but I didn’t find any. I parked the idea back then because the technology just wasn’t there yet.”

“A couple of years ago the idea came back and I decided to pursue it. I was awarded a grant from the UK government’s Innovate UK scheme, which gave me the financial support I needed to build the team and develop the technology. I leaned heavily on my LinkedIn network and their connections, speaking to Speech Recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP) experts – I went for many coffees and slowly built my team. That’s how Alchemy Machines came about.”

Did you notice any similarities between the sectors?

“Definitely, there are many skills I gained in the music industry that were incredibly useful to set up and run Alchemy Machine.”

“In my music company I got used to multitasking. I was not only an artist, I was also my own representative and director. I learned to wear many different hats: I spoke to clients and worked with other musicians/choreographers, organised events, ran the numbers… anything the business needed to succeed, I would do it.”

“Probably one of the most important skills I transferred was the knowledge I obtained of voice, tonality and pitch. As a singer, tonality is extremely important and it is also extremely important in speech to text technology like Alchemy Machines, where differences in tonality and pitch can be key markers that help the technology differentiate between voices in a conversation.”

“Finally, I also learned to keep moving forward regardless of the obstacles in business: I learned this as a martial artist when sparring as well as forward voice placement in singing!”

What was the process of pre-seed fundraising led by SFC?

“When we spoke to the SFC team via Innovate UK Edge, it was clear they were the right investor from early on. SFC is one of the UK’s leading pre-seed investors, with a great track record and reputation. Collectively, they have experience in providing value-add in addition to the capital. We closed the round in September 2021, and it was a fairly smooth process – our pitch deck was submitted, a demo meeting was arranged, and a term sheet was offered.”

What are your goals and mission for Alchemy Machines in 2022 and beyond?

“In 2022, our goal is to launch the beta version of Alchemy Machines’ platform by Q2 and gain first mover advantage in the professional services sectors. Our platform is unique in multiple ways – the combination of sector-specific transcripts, privacy-preservation, analytics and summarisation, does not currently exist. In addition, we’ve created a powerfully simple and effective user interface, which does not require a user manual! A two-minute video of our platform is enough to get started.”

“At the moment Alchemy Machines, is used mainly by law firms, and we want to expand to other professional services firms, and the insurance sectors. We are working on training the algorithm around the specific vocabulary in these sectors and are in the iterative testing phase. Our system already recognises English accents – both UK and US. We aim to expand to other languages as part of our global expansion strategy.”

“Our mission is to become the market leader for sector-agnostic, next-generation Conversational Intelligence. For the first time in the legal sector, tacit (intangible) knowledge is being transmuted and analysed through voice data. The cost and time benefits are impossible to ignore. Alchemy Machines can help employees, across the board, be more efficient, by relieving them from a huge administrative burden and allowing them to dedicate their time to more important tasks.”

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