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In Spotlight: Whispp, Dutch AI startup dedicated to giving millions their voices back

Whispp founders Akash Raj, Joris Castermans,

If you’re lucky, your voice is probably something you take for granted. But imagine the difficulties you would encounter if illness or accident took away your ability to talk normally. Being able to articulate effectively is an advantage a surprising number of people lack. This can often be detrimental to not just their careers but also every-day life, causing hardship with social interactions, self-confidence, prejudice, and can ultimately negatively impact mental health.

Whispp, a pioneering AI startup based in the Netherlands, is developing assistive voice technology which offers a transformative solution for individuals affected by vocal cord impairment and whispered speech, potentially impacting the lives of an estimated 300 million people worldwide. The startup recently announced the successful acquisition of a €750,000 seed investment led by prominent investor LUMO Labs. Complemented by follow-on funding from Leiden University’s Libertatis Ergo Holding BV (LEH) and other angel investors, this funding round aims to bolster Whispp’s mission to revolutionise voice technology.

Innovating to empower lives

Whispp utilises AI to provide a voice to those impacted by speech disorders. The startup’s real-time assistive voice technology and calling app are designed to convert speech affected by various impediments – such as stuttering, throat cancer, vocal cord paralysis, and ALS – into the individual’s natural, original voice. The technology aims to address neurological changes in the speech mechanism, offering a solution to individuals facing challenges in vocal expression.

Founders’ vision and inspiration

The brainchild of Joris Castermans and Akash Raj Komarlu, Whispp embodies a vision deeply rooted in personal experiences and technical expertise. Joris Castermans, originally trained as an industrial designer, channelled his personal struggles with stuttering into a mission to empower individuals facing similar challenges. Akash Raj Komarlu, with a background in software engineering and a passion for AI, joined forces with Joris during his master’s thesis at Whispp, driven by the vision of using technology to enhance users’ quality of life.

“Our big bold dream is to have Whispp’s assistive voice technology available on every smartphone and laptop worldwide to create a more inclusive world,” said Whispp Founder and CEO Joris Castermans. “To make this happen, we need and want to partner with mobile network operators and the largest technology companies in the world. We are confident that LUMO’s vast experience and valuable network will boost our growth.”

Addressing a global need

With over 300 million individuals worldwide grappling with severe speech disabilities, Whispp’s technology strives to mitigate the significant impact on their daily lives, work, and overall sense of well-being. Beyond converting impaired speech into a natural voice, the platform enables silent and confidential phone and video calls, ensuring inclusive communication experiences.

Path to expansion and impact

The recent infusion of capital will enable Whispp to further its technological advancements and introduce its first paid and subscription-based calling app. LUMO Labs’ investment aims to bolster the refinement of AI technology and product enhancement, facilitating expansion into European and U.S. markets through strategic collaborations with industry leaders.

LUMO Labs’ investment strategy

LUMO Labs, known for backing impact-driven software and smart hardware startups including Enliven, Autoscriber, and, sees Whispp as a beacon of hope for social impact and financial viability. The startup aligns with LUMO Labs’ focus on supporting ventures that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the domains of Good Health & Well-Being and Quality Education. Founding partners of LUMO Labs, Andy Lürling and Sven Bakkes, emphasise Whispp’s potential to drive societal change and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion by amplifying the voices of those marginalised due to speech impediments.

“It is always special to meet a founder who has turned their own struggles and obstacles into innovative and groundbreaking solutions for others,” said Sven Bakkes, Founding Partner at LUMO Labs. “We are deeply impressed with the tenacity, creativity and positive mindset of Joris and his co-founder Akash and are much looking forward to working with them going forward.”

Future projections

Whispp sets its sights on the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it intends to unveil its latest innovation – a phone-calling feature seamlessly converting whispered and vocal cord-impaired speech into the user’s healthy, natural voice in real-time. Acknowledged as a 2024 CES Innovation Award honouree in the Accessibility and Aging Tech category, Whispp aims to redefine speech accessibility on a global scale.

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