- Founders: Xander Kanon and Milan Kokir
- Founded in: 2021
- Employees: 10-15
- Money raised: €1,200,000
- Ultimate goal: That Voicy becomes part of everyday means of communication
Memes are very popular among young people. This often involves a joke posted on the internet in the form of an image or a video. Yet such forms of expression do not always have to be images. They can also be expressed via audio clips, which is something that Xander Kanon and Milan Kokir came to realize in conversation with each other. So, they founded Voicy: an audio platform where you can share audio clips and memes. Their app will also be launched before the end of the year. In this instalment of Start-up of the day, Xander Kanon (27) talks about their platform and the ambition to become the biggest audio platform in the world.
What is Voicy?
“Voicy is a huge online library where users can download and upload funny sound clips. We want to change the way we communicate in social media. At the moment, everything is focused on images. We want to move to audio. Online communications are becoming increasingly shorter and more expressive. Emojis and gifs are replacing text, instagram reels are basically shortening the length of your videos. But what about audio? We want to jump into that gap with Voicy. Contrary to what people tend to think, audio is gaining in popularity. You can see this in the number of voice messages on WhatsApp. Per day, around seven billion voice messages are sent. In the meantime, more and more apps have voice functionality.”
Do you think that audio could completely replace video?
“Not in all respects. Some things simply cannot be replaced by audio. However, audio does have a bigger element of surprise. Also, it has a greater range of uses. For example, a gif can only be used on WhatsApp, while an audio clip could also be used in a game or underneath a TikTok video. Gamers often communicate with each other online while gaming either by chatting or talking. Sending memes in images is not so easy since your image is already full of other images, i.e., the game itself. This would create a lot of friction, while often gamers like to share memes among themselves. The memes can be based on the game. In fact, two major gaming parties have already come to us seeking to buy us out.”
Who is your target group?
“Many of our users are hardcore gamers and creators, but it is a niche market. So we are focusing on young people in general. We know from in-house research that most of our users are teenagers under the age of 18. The TikTok generation, in other words. In the future, we hope to partner up with all the major communication platforms they use, such as Instagram, Twitch and WhatsApp. Our aim is to become the audio platform for social media. But those are lengthy processes. In any case, we are already working with Viber, a call and chat app.”
You raised €1.2 million from investors who are also associated with Snapchat, Spotify, Reddit and Uber. How did that go?
“It took a total of something like five to six months to secure that financing. I think it’s really super cool that it worked out, but it was incredibly difficult. I started looking around in my network more than a year ago. Who would potentially be interested in our story? Of the hundreds of messages I sent, I got maybe just a couple of responses. However, another introductions came out of those few responses. So, the start-up was kind of slow, but eventually the ball started rolling. Investors from abroad were especially enthusiastic. They are very open-minded in England, Germany and America. The Netherlands has a lot of good entrepreneurs, but they nevertheless often have their feet on the brakes. So, now I regularly spend time abroad to cultivate those ties with our investors. They help us out and offer their opinions. Sometimes we do something with them and sometimes we don’t.”
What have you learned over the past 1 ½ years that Voicy has been around?
“I’ve learned a lot. One of the things I’ve learned, is that working with investors is a lot like dating. You just have to come across the right one that suits you. Just as it is with dating, it’s all about timing, the build-up, and making appointments in the time that you have. You consider the things you will and won’t say and from what perspective. So those dynamics are the same. ‘ Jealousy is also a factor: if you team up with a company, sometimes another party can look at you n a weird way and resent that.”
What is it that makes you unique as an audio platform?
“Our strongest asset is our community. It’s really active. They upload and share a lot. Right in the beginning, we were still uploading content ourselves, but we don’t have to do that anymore. Lots of companies want to reach the young audience that we have. Spotify said to us: ‘How come you manage to reach them and we don’t?’ Why we manage to do that is still a mystery to us as well. It’s something that is unfathomable and a bit magical. We do research on why that is. What we generally do see is that new users come into contact with Voicy via existing users. So they drag each other into it.”
“That all started when some inappropriate clips ended up on Voicy one day. We try to make sure that those kind of clips don’t end up on our platform, but sometimes that is difficult because we have a lot of users. That led to teenagers playing those clips in class. One way or another, that created a lot of new users. Obviously, that’s not really the intention. On the one hand, you want to let the community do its own thing. Yet on the other, there are limits, of course. If you impose too many of these limits, you could lose the community. All the same, we do want to build up a good image as a company.”
What is your biggest dream?
“I want everybody to start using our sound clips and, by doing that, radically change the ways in which we communicate on social media. It would be fantastic if a major company like Google or Spotify would eventually want to take us over. I’m working as much as 80 to 100 hours a week to achieve that. Whenever I’m at the club on a Friday night, I’m thinking: I actually just want to work. Continuing to build Voicy up is really an addiction for me and the rest of the team.”